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Clogged bathtub

Discussion in 'Do It Yourself (Not Computer-Related)' started by jmf777, Oct 11, 2008.

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  1. jmf777

    jmf777 Thread Starter

    Oct 11, 2008
    So here is my problem the bathtub drain is clogged. Tried drano (unwise decision) and it didn't work managed to plunge the crap out of it for a day and it drains extremely slow for example if I was to fill the tub half way it would take an entire day+ to drain completely. So I went to lowes and bought a snake; but after like 2" not 2' it hits a metal thing and cant get it to go any further. The house is about 50+ years old so the pipes are probably metal not pvc and the trap is probably an drum trap, but their is no access panel to it. Also unscrewed the overflow cap but it has the trip lever attached to it. The stopper is one that lifts and lowers horizontally when you turn the lever. Any help in fixing this mess is much appreciated. Thanks in advance.
  2. etaf

    etaf Moderator

    Oct 2, 2003
    First Name:
    i have used a product called
    Mr. Muscle quite successfully in the past
    also an old fasioned plunger - which unblocked my sink last weekend - which would take all day to drain -
  3. wacor

    wacor Banned

    Feb 22, 2005
    sounds like a part of the drain fixture could be down there. If so it came off long ago and now with hair and other things the drain won't take the water. If my guess is right then maybe try a magnet might remove it?

    What floor level is this on? If ground floor then what is the foundation? Crawl, basement, slab?
  4. telecom69

    telecom69 Gone but never forgotten

    Oct 12, 2001
    Sounds like this is going to be a time and labour intensive job,you have to get access to that trap from how Im reading it,there must surely be some sort of access.or how on earth did they get the bathtub there in the first place? do you have that flexible curtain wire where you are ? Ive had success with that stuff lots of times in the past,with a bit of perseverance .....
  5. iltos


    Jun 13, 2004
    this is maybe a stupid question....are you sure the snake didn't just run into the bottom of the drain line?.....in most tubs, the drain starts with a shallow "L", and 2" would be just about it's lower surface.

    here's a site that might help
  6. evening post

    evening post

    Nov 1, 2008
  7. K7M


    Feb 27, 2000
    If your tub has a lever under the fill spigot, take the 2 screws out and lift it upward carefully. When it comes out there should be a round plunger type device about an inch or so thick, if there is nothing on it the shut off fell off the wire or the wire corroded, and that is your blockage. In that case you will have to fish it out with a coat hanger to clear the drain.
  8. JohnWill

    JohnWill Retired Moderator

    Oct 19, 2002
    Normally, when I see slow drains in the tub or shower, it's hair right at the drain. I open it up and remove all the hair and other gunk, and then they work fine.
  9. worknfool


    Sep 27, 2008
    Having four daughters I'm more than a little familiar with the hair clog. Warning, old pipes do not respond well to highly caustic chemicals, high powered augers nor high pressure air blasts.

    This may sound stupid but bare with me. Look at a tub drain at H/D or Lowes or on line, so that you're comfortable in understanding how all of the pieces relate and function.

    JohnWill's experience is very accurate, most of the hair gets caught right in the drain entrance at or before the trap so removing any drain plug and attachments first will usually bring most of the clog up and out with it.

    Plunging the drain with the overflow unplugged will produce no force at all on the clog. Remove the overflow cover and drain plug actuator if there is one. Usually a wet rag will suffice to plug the opening. Put a little water in the drain, compressing water is more efficient than compressing air, and plunge.

    Should your pipes be as old as the house and they be steel you are flirting with a major problem if you separate a joint or blow out the bottom of the trap, and you very likely could. The bottom of the trap is where all of the caustics , lye/soap, lay and work on your pipe.

    After plunging, if that doesn't work, try a manual auger 1st. Lot's easier to control and much less likely to punch through a thin skinned old pipe.

    To get past the trap try rotating the auger counter clockwise. Don't ask me why but my plumber bud gave me this trick and it always seems to work.

    After that, if yer still not gettin' any relief you can try a small power auger, and I do mean small, like one of the hand held drill types.

    I warn you though, at this point you are very definitely in the land of probable pipe breakage so be prepared. Put down plastic, have plenty of old towels and buckets.

    Figure out ahead of time just what you'll need to access the trap if you need to so yer ready when Murphy pays ya a visit.

    Cutting and patching drywall is no big deal, but plaster can be a real bugger. Circular saw w/ a cheapo Chinese diamond blade (about $10 @ Harbor Freight) will give ya a messy but clean cut without rattlin' all of the plaster and lathe loose like a reciprocating saw would.

    Find the center of the joists on either side of the cell where yer trap is located and use those as two sides of your access hole. This gives ya somethin' to attach yer new patch to after yer all done takin' food out of Joe the Plumber's mouth.

    Make sure that you set yer saw depth to just a 1/16" or so beyond what it takes to get completely through the plaster. Tapin' up some temporary dust partitions will save a ton of clean up 'cuz cuttin' dry plaster straight up sucks, so wear a respirator and goggles fer sure.

    If you have a double insulated saw and are plugged into a GFI you may want to risk using a plant sprayer to wet just the area in front of the blade as you cut.

    I didn't tell ya to but it does cut down on the dust, it's just that whole water and excess electrons thing can get a little dicey, 'specially if yer standin' on a nice conductor, er I mean aluminum ladder.

    Now another possibility is that you have cast iron drains and or vents. Usually tougher than the steel, they can still rot over time, and the older joints are sealed with oakum and poured lead.

    Should you find yourself in that situation don't panic. You've probably been exposed to worse handling old fishing weights. The main concern with lead is vaporizing or grinding it, so none of that. Kids are more at
    risk than anyone so if ya got any ankle biters in the house you may want to grab a lead test wipe kit just to check yourself.

    If you have to remove a piece of cast iron that has a leaded joint just wrap the joint with heavy plastic and duct tape and then cut both sides of the pipe with a chain cutter, which you can usually rent from the home center for the day.

    Replacement fittings of PVC can be adapted and connected using rubber boots with over sized hose screw clamps called Fernco fittings.

    Should you end up with a hole in the ceiling I would suggest that you take advantage of the access opportunity and replace as much as possible of the tub drain plumbing even if it's only the trap that's bad. Murphy says so.

    Lastly, getting back to the steel pipe scenario. any of this can be replaced very readily with PVC. Most of the old steel and cast iron pipe will fill with corrosion and crud to the point where, especially with steel pipe, sometimes the corrosion is the only thing holding it all together.

    Hope for the best but prepare for the worst and you'll never be disappointed. Might also want to review Murphy's Law before hand and send the wife out of town for the weekend.

    Usually you can get drywall scraps of varying thicknesses for next to nothing out of the home center dunnage racks. Just measure your plaster thickness and pair up whatever layers get ya the closest without getting too thick and screw 'em up.

    Fiberglass joint tape is easiest fer newbies so grab a small roll, a couple of disposable plastic knives and a small bucket of joint compound and you're ready to bury the dead.

    I know it may sound daunting but as long as you're patient and don't let yourself get flustered you can fix just about any of this and still save yourself some significant coin.

    Last but not least, if you've been blessed with the surplus of estrogen that I have, get ye a drain basket or cover that will catch the hair before it gets down the drain. Good luck!
  10. wacor

    wacor Banned

    Feb 22, 2005
    Great advice Workn

    I suspect though this is another drive by post.

    Seem to get them a lot. How the heck they find this forum out of all the places on the internet always amazes me.
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