My daughter had just come downstairs after taking a shower and we were in the kitchen talking about what to do with the day when we heard a gurgling sound. We listened for a moment and determined it was coming from the half bath. The water in the toilet bowl was bubbling and churning. I flushed to see if that would stop it, but it didn't. The water continued to bubble and it wouldn't drain.
I called to Mr. W for help. We knew the toilet itself wasn't clogged, but we thought there might be something blocking the drain further down the pipe. The trouble started after the shower had been used, so maybe something had gotten into the shower drain. We thought that by plunging the toilet, we could clear the clog.
In the backyard, just past the end of the porch, there is a pipe sticking out of the ground that vents all of the drains, so I went to check it out. As I got closer to it, I could hear splashing. To my horror, raw sewage was spewing out of it. I ran back into the house and told Mr. W to stop plunging.
Our next thought was to snake the pipe with a 25 foot hand held drain snake. We managed to get the entire length of it through the drain without hitting an obstruction. Not sure what else to try, we dumped some more drain cleaner into the pipe and waited.
By Sunday, we were getting pretty discouraged that the drain cleaner was not clearing the pipe. We thought of calling a plumber, but we knew that would be outrageously expensive on a weekend, and being the DIYers that we are, we wanted to fix it ourselves. Again, we snaked the drain, then we added some foaming root killer in case tree roots were the cause of the clog.
When Monday rolled around and we were still in the same predicament, we decided to try one last chemical treatment. According to a number of online sources, lye was the chemical of choice. I had serious reservations about using it after reading about the potential for explosion. Still, we were desperate, so we carefully added lye to the offending drain. There was no explosion, but also no progress. It was time to call in the big guns.
Mr. W rented an electric drain snake. It had a 100 foot cable and came with an assortment of blades for cutting through roots and debris in drain lines. It took both of us to operate the machine, one to feed the cable into the pipe and the other to advance it, but we got the drain flowing freely. We were kicking ourselves for not doing it Saturday afternoon instead of adding all of the useless chemical drain cleaners.
Although we can't say for sure, we're fairly certain it was a root blocking the drain. There are a lot of mature trees around here and it's pretty common in old drain lines. Should you ever encounter a similar problem, I highly recommend renting the electric snake. It cost a small fraction of what a plumber would have charged and was pretty easy to use.
You never realize how much you take your plumbing for granted until it's not working, you know?
*All photos courtesy of Google Images