Old roto-rooter tool stuck in pipe?

Discussion in 'Drain Cleaning' started by fwrunner2020, Dec 14, 2020.

  1. fwrunner2020

    fwrunner2020 New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2020
    Location:
    New Jersey
    i have a 95 year old 3in iron pipe running approx. 30ft under the basement floor from the laundry rm to the main sewer.
    The line also serves the kitchen, directly above the laundry.

    We have had trouble with blockages in this line for a long time, and once, we had a guy (semi-pro??) run a rooter through and told us his tool broke in the pipe.
    We have had a (pro) drain guy roto-rooter the line on several occasions over the years. Each time the line runs OK for about a year, then gets clogged up again.
    Now though, it is getting clogged more often, and with COVID, I hesitate to call the drain guy, but I think it's inevitable that we need to call him now. I know he will do his job safely, so there really isn't any worry. But... I have attempted on several occasions over the past couple of years to snake it myself with a 50ft 1/2in non-rotating snake.
    I don't know whether a piece of a roto-rooter cutter is stuck in the pipe or what, but I have only been able to snake (using a 1/2in snake without rotation) it about 17ft from the cleanout in the laundry before it snags and will not go any farther, no matter what I do. When I begin to pull the snake out, it is stuck, and I have to pull really hard to get it out - but it does come out in one piece.

    About 4 years ago, we had a contractor replace the stack and 10ft of the pipe under the laundry floor with PVC. That part of the pipe was completely blocked, and leaking. But the remainder is still the old iron.

    I have successfully pushed the snake back-end (without coil) first into the line and had it all the way to the main sewer line (as observed from the sewer cleanout). When I did this, the snake did not become snared and I was able to pull it out easily. But of course snaking backwards will not clear as much of a clog as the correct way.
    Also, my snake is 50ft with only that little slip-handle which you tighten the thumbscrew and try to twist, but it's useless in this respect.

    I will call the drain guy, but I'm afraid he is going to break his snake in the pipe, so I will of course inform him that there might be something stuck in the pipe.

    So I'm thinking: how likely is it that some DIY plumber got his roto cutter stuck in the pipe?

    I have considered other reasons the snake is getting snagged. One is that there is a break in the pipe, and the coil end of the snake is catching on it. But the snake never comes back with dirt on it, and there is no leakage anywhere on the floor.

    I have thought of using a sewer camera to see what is down there, but I'm afraid that the camera will become obscured with grease or whatever and not show me anything. It's about $100 to rent a camera.

    Any thoughts on this?
    Thanks
    fwrunner
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2020
  2. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
    Can you get a large Brasscraft drain bladder in there, on a garden hose?

    The best procedure is to jet the line before the camera work. I wonder if a large Brasscraft drain bladder would be good enough for that.
     
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  4. fwrunner2020

    fwrunner2020 New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2020
    Location:
    New Jersey
    I forgot to say that I did use a drain bladder. It's a Husky medium I bought at HD.
    I only pushed the bladder into the cleanout until it reached a point where the pipe bends and runs horizontal under the floor.
    Today though, I did try to push it a bit farther, and I don't think that is going to be possible with the garden hose I have. Perhaps with a stiffer hose it would go much farther?

    I ran water for about 3 minutes. Even ran warm water (not hot) for a minute, but when I heard some air pushing past the bladder, I figured it wasn't a good idea to run warm water, so resumed with cold and the bladder re-sealed itself in the pipe.

    There is a rubber coupling at the point where the PVC pipe joins the old iron pipe - 10ft from the laundry stack - but my snake definitely gets past that point.
    Using a stud finder with metal detector, I am able to locate the position of the pipe under the floor. There are two bends, which I believe are 45 deg. It is most likely that the obstruction is at one of those elbows.

    I thought about building a DIY sewer cam, but doubt it would work, as the lens is far too small, so even the smallest bit of debris will obscure it.
    OTOH, I hate to burn $100 to rent a pro one. I'm not sure how many drain plumbers have sewer cams, or what they charge to scope a pipe, but it might cost less to have him do it (as part of his drain cleaning procedure) than to rent one myself.

    I have looked for a sewer jet to rent, but none nearby. I don't own a compressor, so I can't buy the jetter attachment.
     
  5. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
    Unless that procedure was jetting, I expect the adder would be significantly more than $100. Even if it was jetting, I would expect a bigger adder.
    The bigger Clog Hog would call for an engine powered power washer. I don't know if the smaller units powered by electric pressure washers would be enough.
     
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  6. fwrunner2020

    fwrunner2020 New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2020
    Location:
    New Jersey
    What do you think of building a DIY sewer cam, using one of those 'endoscopes' available on Amazon or Ebay for under $100, and attaching it to my snake?
    My first thought is that the tiny lens would become obscured so quickly the whole project would be worthless.
    I've seen those used in outdoor drains, which contain only roots and leaves, but no grease or...
    This line will contain plenty of grease, but no toilet waste.

    OTOH, if I'm going to do that, I might as well rent the sewer cam for $100.

    I saw a YouTube vid with some guy using 'drain rods' to clear a clog in an outside drain. But that was a garden drain, not a laundry/kitchen sewer line.
     
  7. MASTERPLUMB777

    MASTERPLUMB777 In the Trades

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2007
    Occupation:
    Retired Master Plumber
    Location:
    Texas
    You need Professional HELP ! Bite the bullet and get good drainman in to first clear the line and then Camera the line and find out the problem once and for all
     
  8. fwrunner2020

    fwrunner2020 New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2020
    Location:
    New Jersey
    I just hope the guy can get his (electric) snake through whatever it is that mine cannot get past.
    I will surely let him know that there may be something bad down there that could damage his tool.
     
    MASTERPLUMB777 likes this.
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