Oh Dear God What Have I Done?
May 13, 2006 11:01 PM   Subscribe

Help! I just lost a very expensive, very old, and a very beloved family heirloom of a diamond ring down the drain of my bathtub.

There is no discernable way to get at what I hope is a trap somewhere. Nothing to unscrew or take apart. What to do?
posted by TheGoldenOne to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Call a plumber immediately.
posted by tristeza at 11:05 PM on May 13, 2006

Join Angie's List:


Find a local plumber with a good review, and have them get it out asap! It's five dollars a month, but you can cancel at any time. I've had GREAT success in finding a good plumber that way.
posted by allthewhile at 11:09 PM on May 13, 2006

Is it magnetic? Lower a heavy thin magnet on the end of a string down the sink hole? With any luck it is still in the U bend.
posted by zaebiz at 11:33 PM on May 13, 2006

And if that doesn't work, how about some fishing line with the smallest hook and sinker you can find? I agree a plumber is better but if you're in a hurry, might be worth a try?
posted by zaebiz at 11:38 PM on May 13, 2006

Yeah, so the all-night plumber told me that it's probably gone forever and there's no magical place where everything anyone has ever lost down a drain ends up. I really asked him if there was such a place. Nope.

Maybe someone will find it somewhere and it will render them invisible when worn and give them unnaturally long-life.

posted by TheGoldenOne at 11:43 PM on May 13, 2006

Im not sure I would give up at this point. Bathtubs often have Ubends to prevent smells escaping - it depends on the location of the bath with respect to the plumbing. I don't know how the plumber could tell without looking at the setup.
posted by zaebiz at 11:53 PM on May 13, 2006

was it on the ground floor? do you have crawl space or basement access?

did you drain all of the tub water? good chance the ring is caught up somewhere in your drain system if it wasnt "washed down"

good luck.
posted by vaportrail at 12:07 AM on May 14, 2006

It sounds like the plumber you talked to didn't want to do any work. It's probably in a bend like mentioned before, because all of the crap that you've sent down that drain is stuck there and the ring is stuck on it.

Call another plumber.
posted by bigmusic at 12:11 AM on May 14, 2006

I wouldn't give up so easily.

Many years ago, a business partner of mine came home one day to hear his wife tell him she'd washed her wedding ring down the kitchen sink. "No problem," he said, and took apart the trap under the counter, but the ring wasn't there. So, he got a drain snake, and spent most of the night snaking the pipes. But, no ring.

By morning, he was sure that the ring wasn't in the pipes, so, since he had a septic tank, he called a septic tank company, and they came and dug up his yard, and opened his tank. Using a garden rake, he spent most of the afternoon trawling in the septic tank, but by nightfall of the second night, he had his wife's ring back.

Getting her to wear it again took about a week of cleaning and cajoling, however. He often used that story as a demonstration of what the power of Italian persistence can accomplish...
posted by paulsc at 12:29 AM on May 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

are your pipes metal?

if they are PVC, maybe a magnate could help...
posted by Izzmeister at 12:49 AM on May 14, 2006

magnet, i mean.
posted by Izzmeister at 1:10 AM on May 14, 2006

Many years ago, in school, we did a tour of our local sewage water treatment plant. I seem to recall the man telling us about all the strange and sometimes very expensive things and whatnot they had fished out through the years... just throwing it out there, I have no idea, but maybe you could try to find where your sewage ends up and ask.
posted by Catfry at 2:32 AM on May 14, 2006

Izzmeister, I'm sure a magnate could help if the plumber's really expensive....
posted by altolinguistic at 2:34 AM on May 14, 2006

How much water are we talking about? The whole tub? None? It might make all the difference. Get a couple more professional opinions and don't use any water/flush any toilets until you have the ring or know for sure it's gone. It might be lingering in a bend, as noted above.

Also, let us know what happens. I'm paranoid about this kind of thing happening to me and I'd like to hear how it turns out.
posted by jaysus chris at 4:03 AM on May 14, 2006

There are several P-traps and clean outs in your plumbing system. First. Stop all water movement through the system. Second. locate the P trap under the tub. You may have to break through a ceiling to gain access. (before breaking ceiling I would go to an autoparts or hardware store and buy a flexible pick up tool that has a spring action gripper and fish around in the tub's trap). Third. There is at least one clean out and P trap in the basement of most houses. The good news is that this is at least a 3" pipe. The bad news is that it may be underground...

In a nutshell. The flow of water in most systems won't be strong enough to carry the ring too far. It will eventually settle in a trap, or is most likely caught in a hair clog just under the tub.

Last resort is to call a sewer cleaner like rooter man or roto rooter and have them bring a camera. This will cost $ but much less than the ring.
posted by Gungho at 5:43 AM on May 14, 2006

I live on the 6th floor of an apartment building, so I can't do any of this busting through ceilings business. The plumber actually called me back this morning and suggested I get a Shop Vac to try to suck it out if it's still there. He said it's my only hope.

Does anyone know where to rent one?
posted by TheGoldenOne at 7:16 AM on May 14, 2006

A shop vac is probably your only chance.You should of course take the trap apart to check in case the rare chance it became lodged.In the 20 plus years I have been a plumber I have only found one ring on a search,due to the drain downstream being improperly installed with a huge sag.The ring had settled in the sag as the increased water velocity leaves objects behind rather than floating them.

What type of drainage do you have?

As mentioned earlier if you are on septic you could try pumping and searching.
posted by plumberonkarst at 7:37 AM on May 14, 2006

Running the camera is a very interesting idea. It probably isn't that expensive (less than $200?). Certainly worth digging around in the drain with magnet/hook for a while first of course. What you do for water while waiting for the camera guy to show up is the real problem.

Perhaps the camera operator could improvise a hook on the end of his probe. Even if that is impossible, the apartment building owner is much more likely to help you if you have a picture of the ring sitting in a trap somewhere (trap = P-trap = U bend, as far as I can tell).
posted by Chuckles at 9:48 AM on May 14, 2006

In Ontario at least sewer cameras run $200 hr.We use them for broken drain locates etc but probably 70% of the time the video is useless in that if the water in the drain is cloudy you will not see a thing.The systems small enough for a 1.5" bath drain have a lot of difficulty getting around a few bends.Depending on you configuration YMMV.If you are in an apartment you most likey have a modified stack system so the drain would immediately go into a 3 or 4" vertical stack.If this is a house you may have a decent amount of horizontal drainage to "perhaps" let the ring settle.

To me gettting a shop vac and plugging the upper overflow with a rag etc. then sucking through the drain strainer is the best chance if the ring is indeed in the waste and overflow or trap.

Good luck
posted by plumberonkarst at 10:09 AM on May 14, 2006

Yeah, if the ring got past the bathtub trap and into the 6 story stack, It's probably gone. Water falling from that height has more than enough energy to carry the ring deep into the sewer system, and every bathtub above and below you will be connected to the same stack.

The p-trap is likely drywalled-in above the ceiling of your downstairs neighbours. You could pay them and have someone knock out an access, but that's a lot of money for faint hope. And unless the ring band was poor quality stainless steel, I don't think a magnet will work. Get yourself one of these grabbers and go fishing (gently).

Good luck.
posted by Popular Ethics at 3:01 PM on May 14, 2006

A shop vac could work too, come to think of it. You can rent them from any Home Depot. The vaccuum won't lift the ring up from the trap though. What you need to do is remove the overflow faceplate, and feed the hose right down to the bottom of the trap before switching on the vaccuum.

posted by Popular Ethics at 3:15 PM on May 14, 2006

In southern California, my drainpipe camera adventure was about $275 last Friday. Try the shopvac (try to rig up a smaller hose that'll go in the pipe), but the 6th floor bit worries me. Certainly don't run any water through there. I would do this while I was waiting for the plumber I called with the camera, as time is of the essence here. Don't know if he'll be able to get access though, with umpteen other tenants trying to take showers, etc while he's looking for the ring.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:46 AM on May 15, 2006

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