The Kitchen Sink Got Everything!
April 20, 2010 1:19 AM   Subscribe

My sink overflowed in the middle of the night and now I'm trying to figure out how to clean it up (and prevent it from happening again).

I'm a relatively new homeowner and am entirely unprepared for what just happened -- I was just woken up at 1am by the sound of dripping water. What I thought was a hail storm outside actually ended up being my kitchen sink filled to the rim, overflowing all over my counter and onto the floor.

I managed to bail it out with a slow cooker crock, used a plunger and apparently got rid of the clog. Now I'm left with a wet floor and counter-top and, beyond stanching the water with towels, am unsure of what to do next. I'm in Seattle, so I've been acquainted with mold before -- what do I need to do to clean this dirty-water covered cabinetry up without it ruining anything?

And if you have any idea why my sink would completely overflow when it was dry and the faucet wasn't leaked, I'd be all ears for that too. I'm on the ground floor of a mid-80s condo building, if that matters.

posted by Strang to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Did you start the dishwasher before going to bed? Is a disposal installed in your sink? Dishwashers have a drain line that connects to the sink drain just above the inlet to the disposal. Near the end of a dishwasher's cleaning cycle the dishwasher will pump the dirty water out it's drain line. If the disposal is clogged, this can result in the dirty dishwasher water backing up into the sink. The fix is simple — turn on the sink's faucet and run the disposal for a few seconds before you start your dishwaher in order to make sure the the sink is draining cleanly.
posted by RichardP at 1:47 AM on April 20, 2010

Best answer: I had this happen a few weeks ago. I called an emergency plumber. They have equipment that can suck all the water off the floor in 10 minutes (I had one centimeter of water in my kitchen and wooden living room floor). He also cleaned the pipe.

The problem wasn't the faucet, it was 'water' coming back up from the sewer (and yes, it smelled like that as well.) Throw away all the towels that you're using and clean your kitchen very, very well.

I think it might cost a bit, I rent my place so don't know how much. Perhaps it goes on insurance?
posted by sebas at 1:49 AM on April 20, 2010

Response by poster: I don't have a dishwasher or a disposal. I've got a double basin sink (the left-hand basin is a smaller rinsing basin). Neither side was draining.

Right now I've got a lot of the water sopped up and the range fan going, but now I'm worried about water under the cabinets. Ugh.
posted by Strang at 1:51 AM on April 20, 2010

Response by poster: I'm thinking/hoping it's not from the sewer -- it smells more like what I'd imagine Lindsay Bluth's hot ham water would smell like. I've got it sopped up as best as I can right now; I'm going to keep fans on it and call a plumber in the morning.

posted by Strang at 3:03 AM on April 20, 2010

Best answer: Don't know about cleanup, but as for how it could overflow: the pipe can get clogged somewhere after the point where your drain merges with the pipe from your upstairs neighbor(s). So next time either of you puts water down the drain, it'll back up into your sink. If they happen to use their sink before you use yours, you get a surprise.
posted by equalpants at 3:06 AM on April 20, 2010

Best answer: A wet/dry shopvac is capable of sucking-up the water. It's something no house should be without.
But that's for the future...

Did you shower before retiring to bed? Do you have a water softener that might have been regenerating over night? Both of those could be sources for the water.

You definitely have a clog somewhere in the drain system. My guess it's nowhere near the sink. The sink was just the most convenient path for the water to back-up to.

First, call your insurance agent and describe what happened and your fears about damage to the cabinetry. He will be able to either send, or point you to, someone who can inspect the damage and recommend your next steps as far as repair/replacement goes.

Right after you call your agent, call a plumber to come out and snake-out your drain system. There's definitely a clog somewhere in the pipes. Normally, I'd suggest you DIY, but this might need professional equipment.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:12 AM on April 20, 2010

Response by poster: There wasn't much standing water at least -- I caught it pretty fast and was able to bail it out. But I can see water along the line of the cabinet. Maybe I'm freaking over nothing, but I will contact my agent first thing in the morning.

As far as a water softener, nope, don't have one. I did run the shower for about a minute before going to bed to rinse my head off -- I will note that the bathtub and bathroom sink both drained okay (that's where I was bailing the water into).
posted by Strang at 4:35 AM on April 20, 2010

Best answer: K. Well, since you don't have a softener (and running the shower for a minute wouldn't do this) the last possible problem is a backup from the main drain back into your home. This can be problematic, in the extreme.

Depending on the code where you live, there is sometimes a backwash valve out in your main drain pipe (the one that goes out from your home to the main sewer line) That valve prevents your neighbor's waste water flowing into your home. If that valve fails and is stuck open, well, you get the picture. Fixing this requires digging-up your yard to get to the valve. $$$

Hopefully, though, there is simply a big clog in your line, and the water you got in the sink was simply a long-accumulating backup of water. A good snaking will cure this. I will cross my fingers that this is the problem.

The real puzzler, of course, is where the water came from? You've eliminated the usual water-usage suspects (dishwasher, softener.) You don't run the clothes washer at night, do you?

As for your cabinets...Your description seems to imply that there is no vinyl edging along the floor-line of the cabinets, which would prevent water seeping under the cabinets. If that isn't there, then water most certainly DID get under the cabinets. For all you know, there could be just as much water sitting under your cabinets as there was on the floor. Definitely contact your agent and get someone to come out and check it out.

Good luck!
posted by Thorzdad at 6:58 AM on April 20, 2010

Response by poster: Washing machine wasn't going either.

It does occur to me in the light of day that the city was working on the pipes in the street last week -- I don't know that that could do anything with it, but I'm going to ask my condo building's HoA manager if anyone else had issues. And, having just spoken to him, I'm the only one.

And vinyl edging along the cabinets, that would be a great idea. I wish the previous owner had thought about that when she replaced all the cabinetry in '07.

The flooring in the kitchen is tile over cement, so at least under the cabinets, it's just sitting on slab cement...

Insurance was as helpful as always -- "call someone to take a look and if it's over $500, we'll open a claim." "Do you have any suggestions as to who to call?" "Nope." Heh.
posted by Strang at 10:46 AM on April 20, 2010

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