Repair Chronicles #4: Clog blog (in the slab, baby!)
I closed on an investment property in Austin on February 13th. The property was a 1960’s house in north/central Austin, Jamestown area. It had been inspected and there was nothing that presented a red flag on the inspection report. The property appeared to be move-in ready.
On February 14, I was doing a little painting and decided to run the drapes through the wash. Next thing I knew I was ankle deep in water in the laundry room. I immediately called my home warranty and they sent a plumber. I initially thought it was a clogged drain and I would be done to the tune of my $60 co-pay. After 4 hours of trying, the clog remained and it was evident that the problem was a clogged trap, in the slab. Ugh.
I got another company, we’ll call them D Plumbing, to do a diagnostic on the line. Not all plumbers do this type of diagnostic and D came qualified and recommended. They pulled the toilet, checked the lines to the street and all appeared fine. They too tried to unclog the pipe with no luck. They too said it was a clogged trap. They could not use the camera in the washer line so they used another diagnostic test to locate the trap in the slab. The machine acted somewhat like a metal detector and found where the end of the auger stopped which indicated where the clog was. So we needed bids to jackhammer the slab in the living room to reach the clog and replace the trap.
The next several days I got several bids in the range of $2-5k. I had D Plumbing mark the spot that they said the trap was in so if I used another company, they would be able to locate it. After trying to get the D to get me on their schedule to do the work, they were not able to give me a definite time frame and were very rude on the phone. I explained the urgency with the tenant moving in but they were not willing to work with me in any way.
I found another person, a contractor, through the realtor and friend who was the selling agent on the property to get her plumber over there. I had a tenant moving in in 2 weeks and was getting nervous about getting the job finished so I had to move fast. I could not wait on D who was giving me the run around.
The 2nd plumbers worked for 3 days jack hammering and digging in the area that D indicated the trap was in. The hole was so deep and wide, three people could have climbed inside but no trap was there. I finally called D and explained that the plumbers could not find the pipe anywhere. Mr. D himself was completely rude and uncooperative and accused the plumbers of not knowing what they were doing and that’s what we get for not dealing with professionals etc. After numerous calls and emails to D including pictures of the hole and taped area where they said the trap was, they finally agreed to come back over. After coming over and doing the test again, they found the trap 6 feet in another direction. 6 feet! So the jack hammering began again, only this time D was doing it. Two holes in the living room floor.
It gets worse. During their digging, the D plumbers hit a water line just below the slab. And even worse, D plumbing refused to fix the water break that they created. Incredible. My contractor and the lead man came to verbal blows over it outside. D refused and left. There we were with not only two holes in the floor, but a water leak to boot. About an hour later, D called back and said they would send a man over to fix it. 3 hrs later and a lot of welding, the pipe was fixed. My plumbers, however, could not afford the time they were spending digging holes and not finding a pipe, so they quit the job. My contractor, Julie, hung in there with me and found another plumber to do the job.
The entire time, Julie kept saying this was the reason she started her own company because she was tired of dealing with the D’s out there and folks needed and deserved to work with trustworthy people. Julie was my advocate and stuck with the project out of principle … she knew I needed her.
The 3rd plumber completed the digging and sawed the trap out. Ironically, the trap was not clogged. The clog was in another area of the pipe. Unreal.
He put in a new pipe and unclogged the area that was clogged. They cut into the drywall behind the washer to put in a vent. Homes in the 60’s put traps in the foundation to keep the sewage fumes from entering the house. Therefore, when the trap was replaced with a straight pipe, a vent needed to be added and it was easy to do in the wall behind the washer.
If I had it all to do over I would have run the washing machine a few full cycles during the inspection (this is not typically done by inspectors, so I recommend you attend the inspection and run the washer a few times yourself) … especially homes built in this era that have cast iron pipes running through the slab.
The contractor, Julie, who owns a business called Hard Working Women definitely worked hard to see the job through. D Plumbing on the other hand was not only significantly incorrect with their diagnosis of both the clogged trap and the location of the trap, but they were extremely rude and hard to deal with. I am still considering reporting them to the better business bureau.
I spent a day dusting and cleaning and working on the carpet so it looked like nothing ever took place under the carpet. The new tenant moved in 2 days later and all is well. The project cost was about $3500. We did get the sellers to pay for a portion of the repair.
Kay – austin, tx
This is an ongoing series of homeowner insight & advice on repairs, upgrades, & add-ons, sometimes do-it-yourself (DIY), sometimes not, chronicling what went well, what did not go so well and advice for the rest of us. Please feel free to submit your repair chronicle to the http://www.TNPBlog.com … we would love to hear your stories and advice. If you wish to submit, please follow this format: (Oh, and we reserve the right to edit and publish or not publish as we see fit. By submitting to the TNPBlog Repair Chronicles, you agree that we can edit or publish and/or not publish as we see fit.)
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