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The cost of delaying an easy plumbing repair

We had minor plumbing disaster but who is to blame? The previous owner? Contractors? Ultimately, the homeowner has to bear the responsibility. It could have all been avoided if I took five minutes to complete a proper repair five years ago.

On Good Friday, I was on my second day of a five day juicing Reboot and I was washing the juicer a lot. At some point my wife told me that she could hear water running in the basement. I went down to investigate and found a huge puddle of sudsy water in the boiler room where the kitchen drain ultimately exits the house.

water from plumbing leak
Gonna need a shop vac for this.
soap suds from plumbing leak

This mini-disaster was completely avoidable.  A pipe did not burst nor did a joint spring a leak. The source of the problem could be directly traced to the contractor that installed our new sump pump system the week before.

It could also be indirectly traced to the contractors that installed the sump pump five years ago, as part of our major renovation in 2009.  And while we are at it, let’s blame the previous owner as well.

But at the end of the day, the ultimate responsibility is mine.

The repair cost $12 and about five minutes of time (not including the Canadian Tire run). I should have taken care of it five years ago.

Blaming the previous owner

When we moved into the house, there was a pedestal sump pump in the pit that discharged into the same downspout as the kitchen drain and exited to the septic tank.

Sump pumps should never drain to a septic tank or sanitary sewer. But I didn’t do anything about it for six years, until we hired general contractors for a major renovation. Installing a new sump pump was one of those “while you are at it” projects that we kept heaping on them (“and we want a window and a new door and a new kitchen and…”).

Blaming the general contractor

The general contractor did a good job installing a new submersible pump that ultimately discharged out to a “Big O” that drained in the middle of our sloping back yard about 50 feet from the house.

But he didn’t disconnect the pedestal pump and left it beside the pit “in case we needed it.”

I should have insisted he get rid of it. I should have asked him to disconnect the discharge hose from the kitchen drain pipe and either cap it or clean up the plumbing properly. But I didn’t. This was late in the renovation and the contractor-client relationship had deteriorated significantly. He liked to tell me what I wanted instead of listening to what I wanted. I didn’t press the issue. By this time, I had given up.

Instead, I cut off the discharge line, leaving the back-flow valve in place, and removed the pedestal pump myself. The discharge line hung there for five years during which, at any point, I could have done the same repair that I was forced to do after the Good Friday mini flood.

discharge line cut at backflow
The abandoned discharge line from the old pump.

Blaming the basement contractor

Fast forward five years later, or flashback to a couple of weeks ago….

The basement contractor who was installing our new TripleSafe sump pump system insisted that he could “get rid” of the old discharge line.

I warned him that it went to the kitchen drain pipe. He again insisted that he could clean things up for me and I assumed he would properly cap off the pipe after removing the line.

He did not.

Literally a hack job.

I forgot about it. And apparently so did he. I want to believe that he did not intend to leave the connection like this.

Fortunately, the pipe did not constantly back up, or we would have had a much more serious situation.

Blaming me

I should have been more assertive with both contractors and made sure they did what I wanted them to do, or NOT do what I didn’t want them to do.

More importantly, when I removed the old pedestal pump, I should have done it properly and taken care of the kitchen drain pipe at the time. As I said, the repair job took only a few minutes and cost about $12. There was no reason to put it off indefinitely.

The fix

The ugly section of pipe was removed using a hack saw.

section of pipe removed
The ugly section of pipe is removed.

Did I mention that it was ugly?

Like I said, “Ugly.”

The only thing draining into this pipe was the kitchen sink, so there was no need for all the “wyes.” Rather than cap off another wye, it was just easier to get rid of the ugly section and replace it with a straight, clean pipe.

This job required two couplers– one for joining same-size pipes and one for transitioning between different sizes, based on what I had to work with– and a length of straight pipe.

abs couplers
The only required parts: two couplers and straight pipe.

Always dry-fit connections before cementing them.  The working time for ABS cement is only a few seconds and the bond is permanent.  It is important that the cement is applied to clean surfaces.   Twisting the parts together ensures the cement creates a complete seal.  I glued the couplers in place first

abs couplers cemented in place
The couplers were cemented in place first.

The straight pipe was cut to size, test fit and then cemented in place in the same manner.  And with that, the repair was complete.  (It took longer to take the pictures than it did to complete the repair).

kitchen drain line repair complete
Completed plumbing repair

I should have done this five years ago.

It sure would have avoided a mess on Good Friday.


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