clogged bathtub drain is backing me up
April 28, 2009 7:17 PM   Subscribe

this is a really hard to figure out problem with a clogged drain. I have a tub that was installed new several months ago and it suddenly has begun slow draining to almost not draining at all. there is a toilet less than 5 feet away that flushes fine (the toilet was installed approx. two weeks ago. I also have a kitchen sink and clothes washer that do not have any issues draining.

so far, I have had three different contractor guys look at it, with no resolution (one came out for that reason only last Saturday, he used one of the bladder thingys to try to clear it). another guy thought it might be a vent issue, so I went into the attic to check that out... but I don't know if I did anything helpful. I have even dug up about half of the sewer line in the front yard, but it is all PVC and doesn't look to be too old (the house was built in '55) and the joints look pretty clean as far as roots go...
I am really stumped here and hope that the "hive mind" can assist. at this point I would be happy to take a recommendation to a good plumber, so he could take care of the problem for me. But, I do look forward to some good ideas and recommendations from the group...
posted by rxbert to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does your tub have an overflow drain; what sort of plug does it have? Is it on a groundfloor or upstairs? Did it drain slowly before the toilet was installed?
posted by ginky at 7:23 PM on April 28, 2009

IANAP but I have had good luck with using a wet vac when plunging won't help. If everything else is draining it shouldn't be a vent prob since (to my limited knowlege) the same stack pipe does the sink and toilet in a bathroom. Sounds like something in the tub drain to me. If it can't be pulled out with the (powerful) wetvac and plunging won't help, the next thing is snaking the drain. Best of luck
posted by Redhush at 7:26 PM on April 28, 2009

The order of those objects in your plumbing line is pretty important here. Digging up the drain in your yard makes no sense to me, since as you say some of the devices drain fine.

They're all draining into the same place... can you make a diagram of the order in which they all connect and isolate the tub? Then at least you know what section is problematic.
posted by rokusan at 7:28 PM on April 28, 2009

Response by poster: hi, thanks for the initial comments. the tub is on the ground floor of the house. it only suddenly began slow draining. the vent for the tub is a different vent than for the toilet due to some reconfiguring of the bathrooms to make a larger master bathroom. also, btw we live in the dallas forth worth metroplex in texas...
posted by rxbert at 7:32 PM on April 28, 2009

Response by poster: thanks anyway, folks but I give up. I don't know what to do but for this evening I'm going to try beer. maybe tomorrow I'll feel better about it and try again, but I'm thinking it's time for a professional.
posted by rxbert at 7:51 PM on April 28, 2009

This may sound like a stupid question but did any of these "contractors" check for hair or other crap in the tub drain trap? With the extra hardware in the drain pipe stuff gets snagged, add some hair and soap what not. All it would take is a wrapper/trash of some sort and the aforementioned soap scum/hair. A plunger or air plunger thing won't do it.
When my tub drain stops sucking, i have a zip it and it works great.
I would put 4 or 5 inches of warm water in there and probe with a stiff but flexible thing to go all the way through the tub trap (measure it, go all the way). Listen for the water.
In other words you must prove the tub p trap is clear, you have cleared everything else (they work fine).
All that remains is the tub trap and the line to the other drains.

Luck to you.
posted by blink_left at 8:21 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Liquid drain cleaner.

If that doesn't work, you get someone in with a snake.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:37 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I shed A LOT of hair, and I have the same problem with my bathtub. I agree with blink_left. The hair isn't always visible, but it really clogs things up. You can get special hair clog remover at the hardware store. It's not regular Drano or Liquid Plumr. It specifically says "hair clog remover" on the label. It melts the hair and makes a horrible stench, but it works! I would try that before spending money on a plumber.
posted by apricot at 10:53 PM on April 28, 2009

Seconding blink_left only because this happened to me: after trying every DIY trick I knew (drain opener chemicals, aerosol plunger, the snake) I read up on my hardware then unscrewed the plate on the switch-type mechanism that opened and shut the drain plug and pulled the whole opening-closing assembly out and wonder of wonders, there was this big gnarly spring on the end of it with about five pounds of disgusting rotting hair in it. Okay I exaggerate slightly but it was gross and clearing that completely resolved the problem.

If nothing else is slow draining the problem has to be either in the pipe before it links into the general outflow (somewhere between the drain and the basement basically) or in the venting, right?! So don't dig up any more of your sewer line!
posted by nanojath at 11:02 PM on April 28, 2009

I would absolutely grab a cheap $3 snake at Home Depot or Lowes and go at that thing for hair before spending any more money. I have to do this 3 or 4 times a year because the wife and I have such thick hair and shed a bit in the shower. Does the trick every time. Seems to be especially needed on newer drains (the kind where the pug does not remove but is a twist-and-drop style). This usually only takes about 5 mins.
posted by skypieces at 4:59 AM on April 29, 2009

I've had good results using white vinegar and baking soda to clear out clogged pipes and drains, even when commercial stuff like Liquid Plumber doesn't work. Just dump in about a cup of baking soda, then 2-3 cups of white vinegar. It will fizz dramatically. Give it about 10-15 minutes to do its thing, then flush with boiling water. Good luck!
posted by Shoggoth at 6:18 AM on April 29, 2009

Seconding nanojath on checking to see if you have a "spring"-type hair catcher, accessed by removing the screws to your tub overflow, and pulling it out of the wall of the tub...
posted by misterbrandt at 7:36 AM on April 29, 2009

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