Whoa! Didja get the numbers off that truck?!?

March 30, 2003 - 11:08 p.m.

Man 1, Tree 0

Plumbing, a modern miracle. It’s great when it works, annoying when it doesn’t.

I’ve had a long standing problem with the drains underneath my basement floor. The washer drains into them, and then out to the street. The problem started a few years ago. I rented a drain auger to fix the problem, and although I got temporary relief, it wasn’t the whole cure.

About a month ago, I noticed the water backing up on the floor while doing laundry. It wasn’t a drastic problem, the water eventually drained away, but I knew I’d soon have to deal with it.

That happened this weekend. I rented a 50 foot power auger. If you haven’t experienced the joy, it’s a motorized thing with a rotating basket that holds the cable. You’re supposed to feed it into the drain as it rotates, and “away go troubles down the drain.”

I started in the wrong drain as it turns out. I started a “test load” of laundry, the pool came back.

I moved to a drain that was closer to the front of the house. Each floor drain has a cleanout plug that doesn’t come loose, without the aid of a chisel and a hammer. When I cracked it open, water came rushing up. Wow, it seeks its own level! There wasn’t much to do until the water drained away, so I fixed dinner.

About eight o’clock, when normal folks (who haven’t rented an auger that has to be returned the next day) are settling down for the night, I went back downstairs to work that drain. The auger came with a chisel tip and another “C” shaped tip with serrated edges. The chisel is supposed to punch through the muck, and the other thing reams the pipe, so to speak. I drove all 50 feet of the cable down the pipe, and it came back with tree roots wound up in it. Pay dirt. I followed with the “C” shaped thingy. This is where it really put the motor on that auger to work, I nearly stalled it.

I enlisted the help of Son2. He held the auger machine back while I rammed the cable down the pipe. He was complaining of the smell, something I’d gotten used to. I had thirty bucks invested in this project, and the cost of a professional would have been about eight times as much. The smell wasn’t so bad. I mentioned to Son2 that good grades in school would prevent him from doing this grunt work as a career. Don’t get me wrong, I admire the work that plumbers do, the boiler install they did in my basement is a mechanical miracle. But I’m thinking the guys that do the art work with copper and solder are not the same ones rodding the tree roots and manning the shovel in the ditch.

I got all the cable back in the basket, and Son2 made a hasty retreat. I filled one of the laundry tubs full of water, which is about the same amount the washer discharges, with a full load. I pulled the plug. Voila it all drained away, no backups. Wahoo! I rule! I think the culprit is a dogwood tree someone planted too close to the foundation of the house. It found my drain in its search for water. If this is what results, the dogwood will be firewood.

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