My kitchen sink is a series of tubes
November 13, 2020 8:08 AM   Subscribe

We've had no problems with drain clogs for the 10+ years we lived here. Yesterday a plumber came to fix a kitchen sink drain pipe and also "brought it up to code." This morning our sink is clogging and drains at a snail's pace, if at all. What the heck happened and how do I fix it?

First: yes we plan to call the plumbing company for help. But unless we shell out $$$ for emergency service, we can't get someone here today. It's Friday during deer hunting season here and all the tradespeople are wandering the woods right now. BUT in the meantime:

Our house is 100+ years old. We have a double bowl kitchen sink, and a dishwasher. No garbage disposal. We have never once had a problem with kitchen sink clogs, until today.

Yesterday a plumber was here to fix the drain pipes under our sink. One section of pipe was cheap metal and was crumbling and corroded. He removed the broken section of pipe, replaced it with PVC pipe, and mentioned to my husband that he was going to bring the kitchen drain pipes "up to code." I'm unclear what he did to bring it up to code (reading up on it, he may have replaced an S trap with a P trap?) but when he left, the pipes appeared to be sturdy and working fine.

He did note there was a visible crack in our dishwasher drain hose (SIGH) and it would have to be replaced. He gave me the number of an appliance supply company and offered to do the job for us if we got the part. I was annoyed because the dishwasher had been working just fine BEFORE he showed up but yes, I tried to run it last night and water immediately gushed out of the crack, so I shut off the dishwasher. I am not sure if that crack would affect the sink's ability to drain.

We barely used the sink last night aside from rinsing off a couple plates. This morning when rinsing out a coffee pot, the kitchen sink became very clogged and both basins began to fill up. I plunged it several times and that had zero effect. It eventually drained slowwwwwly, but it now continues to clog for several minutes every time we use the water. Again, we have literally never had a clog problem with our kitchen sink, until now, less than 24 hours after a plumber brought the drain pipes up to code. All other drains in the house appear to work.

What's going on? Is the crack in the dishwasher drain hose affecting the whole drain system somehow? Is it possible the plumber dislodged something while he was working, which created a bigger clog further down? Help.
posted by castlebravo to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
1. Would duct tape around the dishwasher drain hose be workable as a for-now fix?

2. It at least sounds like you have enough grounds to call the plumber's boss and complain that "your dude messed up my plumbing, I don't care if it's deer season you need to make this right". At the very least, have THEM tell you what you should do to fix things. And make sure you speak to the guy's boss.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:24 AM on November 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

As a longtime homeowner, including at one point of a house built in 1920, I have experience with an annoying thing that can happen, which is that you have gunk (like mineral buildup, for example) built up in your pipes but it's sort of comfortable where it is and the system is working ok. Then you turn the water off to have work done, and when you turn the water back on, the sudden whoosh dislodges a bunch of the gunk and now you have a brand-new clog. We have in the past had to have plumbers back out to deal with this, and they have, so hopefully your plumber will also not be a jerk about it. I hope this is the extent of your problem and it's easily taken care of.
posted by Orlop at 8:30 AM on November 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

I'm guessing crud got dislodged; old pipes are frequently *very* constricted (like, the free run portion is the diameter of a coin, with the rest of the pipe being crud) so it doesn't take much to block them. I changed all of the plumbing in my house recently, and was appalled at how cruddy the old pipes were. Like, amazed I could flush anything. Now that I've got new pipes, the water pressure is actually somewhat alarming and required pressure-limiting hardware.

To temporarily fix the dishwasher, use self-fusing silicone tape (sometimes called F4 Tape or Rescue Tape). Wound tightly enough, overlapped, and covering the leak area a couple of times you should be good -- I've fixed a pressure hose line that way for going on two years now (yes, really. Just be sure you've got good overlapping coverage, and wind the tape TIGHTLY). maybe go buy some of that tape (HD carries it), and call the company. These things happen all the time, they should be used to it. They'll probably send a guy to snake the line.
posted by aramaic at 8:31 AM on November 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

My house isn't massively old, but we had a similar issue like Orlop and aramaic described. The gunkberg turned out to be out of the house on the way to the sewer main, but it was the sink that was most likely to backfill obviously where the showers and toilets and washing machine were seemingly okay.

We had to get into the cleanout valve (we started with the one nearest the kitchen sink, but they scoped it from there and identified the gunk) and just run a hose into it with medium force until it dislodged (which a garden hose should do with ease - it's got much more pressure than drainwater). It was a little messy at the start but eventually everything washed away into the main and we've been problem-free since.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:10 AM on November 13, 2020

I had the exact same thing happen to me at my parent's house. I replaced some traps under the sinks and the (formerly flowing OK) drain clogged. I was unable to remove the clean-out plug in the basement, so I ended up sawzalling through the galvanized pipes (to discover that the 2" pipes and fittings were so clogged with rust and fat that there was only a 1/4" clear passageway left. It was so solid I could barely poke a screwdriver though it.) Ended up replacing a few sections of pipe with PVC and everything has been golden since. I wouldn't be too harsh on the plumber- the clog and the split dishwasher hose are due to things being old and in poor condition prior to their involvement and it's unlikely they did anything wrong. They should offer to help you out as a courtesy though.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 9:28 AM on November 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

The dishwasher isn't going to be able to drain, so you'll make a big mess even if you do temporarily seal the hole.
posted by flimflam at 10:53 AM on November 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Our kitchen sink drained super slowly because it was not vented (correctly, if at all, the kitchen was moved as a part of a reno). Venting is a key component of draining. In our case it needed its own under-sink vent.

Did the plumber disconnect a vent somehow, or not re-connect it?
posted by Dashy at 10:59 AM on November 13, 2020

Alright, so based on the replies my working theory is that work being done on the pipes caused decades of gunk to shift and create a near total clog, somewhere in the drain pipe between the kitchen sink and before it connects to the sewer main in the basement (based on how long we can run the faucet before the sink begins to fill, probably not far down). The dishwasher hose crack is an unfortunate coincidence but probably not contributing to the clog. I do have plans to patch the crack and see how long we can coast with a temporary fix, but yes the clog has to be addressed first.

I don't know if a vent is installed under our sink - I am not home until later today so I can't compare it to a reference photo. My husband is tasked with calling the plumber again; I am doing a hardware store run to get rescue tape and some clog-busting tools in case we can DIY this before doing another service call.

The plumber was a nice guy so I won't chew them out, I'm just peeved this is now Phase 3 in a cascade of plumbing issues in the past month (dishwasher pump was failing; appliance repairman discovered crumbling drain pipe; plumber fixed drain pipe and noticed dishwasher hose was cracked; sink is clogged...)
posted by castlebravo at 11:32 AM on November 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you think it's fairly nearby down the line, run the tap to hot just as you bring your largest pot to boil with water. Dump the boiling water down, put a squirt of Dawn down the drain, and let the hot tap continue to run either until it backs up again or doesn't after 5-10 minutes.

Not all the gunk is fat, but the binder in the gunk is usually fat, and will soften when warmed sufficiently. If this does not work at all, wait 30+ minutes before you stick a snake or any chemicals (but if you use clog chemicals, know that you're being a jerk to any plumber you're asking to come back and risk their eyes - it's better if you don't but you must disclose if you do) or anything else in there. It's full of boiling water, let that cool before interacting with it.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:53 AM on November 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Right the dishwasher line is leaking now because of newly increased back pressure on that line from a new blockage. Definitely don’t patch the line and run the dishwasher!!
posted by spitbull at 6:09 PM on November 13, 2020

Just a note, be careful if you try to tape up the cracked dishwasher hose. If it's super brittle you could crack it more if you flex it or squeeze it too hard. I mean yeah, attempt to tape it up as others have suggested, just be careful and maybe prepare mentally at least a little bit for the possibility you'll make it worse instead of better.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 6:49 PM on November 13, 2020

We fixed the clog! Hot water plus Dawn only led to a sink full of hot water and Dawn. Removing the sink trap didn’t reveal any obvious blockages. I went to Home Depot and bought this thing and we shot Co2 down the sink. Two blasts of that and the drain works great now. It helps if you announce “Eagle One...Fox Two!” beforehand like they do in Independence Day when they’re shooting missiles at the alien ships.

I put some kind of waterproof epoxy putty (“cures even in wet conditions!”) around the crack in the dishwasher drain pipe and also have silicone rescue tape to put on top of that once the putty cures. But for now at least we can wash dishes the old fashioned way. Thanks everyone!
posted by castlebravo at 7:54 PM on November 13, 2020 [7 favorites]

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