Misadventures in Plumbing - 101





Introduction: Misadventures in Plumbing - 101

About: I am a professional voice over artist and I am terrible at DIY.

Plumbing can be scary if you dont know what youre doing.. but it doesnt have to be. Sometimes it just takes patience and determination. Join me as I have a crazy adventure through replacing the drain pipe under my bathroom sink.

Step 1: STEP ONE: Evaluate the Issue.

So I should preface things by saying I know absolutely nothing about plumbing or really how to do much of anything when it comes to home repair. I usually turn to instructables or youtube or something when I need to get somehting done, but sometimes the problem is even beyond my internet comrades and their well laid "how to" guides... thus was the case of my leak.

I had noticed a drip coming through the floor into the basement. a very slow... methodical... drip. it was intermittent. This caused me to believe it was just condensation on the pipe from some hot days but what I eventually encountered turned out much worse.

Anyways, I put a bucket in place.. let it go a few days.. and eventually it of course became worse when I noticed my drip had turned to wetness coming through the floor. It was then that I knew there was a problem.

So i did what anyone would do when he doesnt know what to do. I called a plumber.

He came out and told me it would be a thousand dollars. I said thanks and let him go on his way. Then I called another plumber, whose company begins with an R and ends with an R and has the word "ripoff" secretly wedged in between. He said 220 an hour.

Both wanted to completely disassemble my bathroom, rip out the vanity and destroy the walls on both sides.

Step 2: STEP 2: Take Matters Into Your Own Hands, Like a Man!

It was then that I decided to chip away at the concrete wall under the bathroom sink and see if I could get a better view at things, or at the least do some dirty work to cut down my eventual costs.

So... I got a hammer and an old screwdriver that was made in the 50s and is virtually indestructible, and I went to town.

Surprisingly.. I did not discover a leak coming from the water supply on the pipe containing the drip. So, I kept chipping a bit.. and kept chipping.. until I started seeing corrosion on the drain pipe. Lots of it.. and it was gross. Evetually I discovered that the part of the pipe running through the 2x4 support in the wall had a hole in it big enough to stick my finger into. It was only holding water back with the decades of sludge buildup in the pipe.. which had begun to finally wash out through the hole and started making water drizzle down the inside of the wall and build up until it came through the floor.

Thats when it became decision time.

Step 3: STEP 3: Sell an Appendage... or Do It Yourself.

I like both my hands and arms. I like the stuff I own.. I like not spending money for things if I don't have to.

And after unsuccessfully trying to convince my brother, the master plumber, to catch an emergency flight from across the US to come fix my drain pipe I felt like I didnt have any options but to try and tackle it myself.

After some more chipping... and examining the situation. I felt like I might just be able to replace the pipe, and with his encouragement through texting. I did just that.

Step 4: STEP 4: Get What You Need.

Thats when I made a trip to the big orange box for the supplies I would need.

WORD TO THE WISE: Do not trust the first guy that comes along in an orange smock. He will most defintely steer you in the wrong direction. "John" we'll call him... gave me the wrong pipe, the wrong fittings, and the wrong advice... but thank the maker that Felix showed up when I stumped John on a question. He was gracious enough to let John walk away before calmly taking everything out of my cart and putting it back, assessing my needs, and then giving me the correct items.

Felix was a former master plumber who also worked in the Marines, and now disabled, was working part time at the orange box. He was a godsend.. and was incredibly paitent. So, an hour later... I arrived home with everything I needed to make my adventure a success.

In addition to what you see here I also had ten foot of PVC... safety glasses, a ham sandwich, and determination.

I also bought a socket to replace one in the kitchen.

Step 5: STEP 5: Get It Done!

It was about the point that I was grateful I had decided to wear safety glasses. All those years of sludge came spattering out everywhere.. including on me, the wall behind me, and all over the interior of the vanity.

It also caused a very curious and freshly rescued pit bull to come and inspect my work.. she clearly knew more about plumbing than I did. I mean, just look at that face.

I had now made a clean cut.. and I felt good, but skepticism quickly set in. I thought: "Cant be this easy.. something is wrong here"

Step 6: STEP 6: Go Above and Beyond...

And something was wrong.. I decided to chip away more and inspect the pipe further and I am glad I did.

I would come to discover the entire drain pipe was rotted and not just the small section I had cut. In fact there was rot all the way up to the T connection that sends the drain into the floor and down into the basement. It left me pondering...

"I am going to need to cut out the whole pipe arent I?"

"The downspout pipe cant be rotted.. everything goes straight down and doesnt sit there"

"Where is that pipe going to thats leading up?!"

"Why didnt I put mustard on that sandwich?"

So I made the decision.. and I cut the pipe at the T. I'm glad I did because the entire bottom of the pipe shredded up when the blade hit it. If I hadnt taken the extra time and effort to investigate further, I would have been right back here again probably within days.

So then all that was left was replacing the rotted section with new PVC. I thought the easiest way to do it would be just to measure the existing crappy pipes, which it was. I measured every single section out to match the new components size with the old and from there it was simply assembling it all up and doing what Felix had instructed.

Step 7: STEP 7: Finish It All Up.

After measuring it all, I put the elements into place without the glue to see how it would look and match up. It all seemed perfect, so I applied the glue (primer and cement) following the instructions on the package. I then tightened the rubber boot between the PVC and the T connection, screwed everything that needed screwed, and the entire assembly was together and ready for action.

It only took me about 9 hours or so... but I had successfully replaced a drain pipe with zero idea on how to do it in the first place.

I cranked the water and let it run a good ten minutes... everything was bone dry, there were no leaks, and I could finally wash my hands again.

Step 8: STEP 8: Be Proud of Yourself.

I felt super accomplished. I had never done anything like this before and though it wasnt easy for me, I kept my determination and finished the job. Now a week later and everything is still going strong.

Oh and as far as cost....

I only chipped out as much as you see in the pictures, replacing it with a section of OSB plywood and I spent 112 dollars. Most of which was in the price of the saw. That sure beat a thousand dollars, along with having to replace two walls and my vanity.

If I can do it... you can do it. Good luck.



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17 Discussions

Well done! I've got leak in my plumbing and need to call emergency response plumber for that.This will give me some new informations.

Well done and a good entertaining ible. I am always amazed how cheap your big box stores are in the US. It's always worth DIY-in though as once you have the right tools everything becomes easy

3 replies

You're not kidding. I couldn't believe the cost of supplies when I was visiting in Europe.

If you thought Europe was expensive come to NZ and be another level of shocked!

Amen to that! NZ plumbing supplies are horrendously priced.

It cost $112 and you still have a reciprocating saw, that you can use on your next misadventure. Your tale sounds a lot like the one where I kick plumbing butt, except you don't swear. My SO woke me one morning after months of my asking him to fix a leaky toilet to tell me that I needed to call a plumber, pronto. The entire bathroom was flooded. I had to go to the orange box store, buy everything necessary to put a toilet on a new wax ring and add a shutoff, and spent a productive morning fixing things. I was stoked that I could do it, so I then put in the washing machine hookups I'd been waiting for since the last ice age.

SO came home and asked what I had done with myself that day, since I didn't go to work. I was far more gracious than I thought I could be, and the SO had to take me to dinner.

Congratulations on your plumbing success. It fees great to accomplish something that seems scary at first, doesn't it?

I take my hat off! I admire your "can do" attitude. I also don't care how long my wife's "honey do list" is, I deal with the project.

Great ible. Each plumbing issue in our house turns into a major undertaking, but we keep muddling through. I just wish we could be as happy about it. Thank you!

Logged in just to say great job, man. Plumbing can be a nightmare, but I'm glad you made it through with your sense of humor preserved.

Great 'ible, love the sense of humor. You sir, deserve a round of chips & mustard with that ham sammich

Good job!
I have done a bunch of DIY plumbing over the years. A few things I have learned:
1. Start using PEX which is a kind of flexible PVC pipe. It will make your life easier. You will use it in place of copper pipe.
2. Sharkbite fittings have almost obviated the need for soldering.
3. Find a good plumbing supply house. They will give you much better advice than Home Depot. Even the guy in line next to you will often supply better answers than the random clerk I always seem to get at Lowes...
The plumbing store usually has everything in one place so you don't have to drive to three different parts of town on one simple job.

I love this write up!

I do all my own plumbing needs, with the selection of aftermarket fittings and adapters, just about any interior repairs can be made effectively, yours is a good example of that, nice $ave. ☺

2 replies

Haha. I'm not trying to be smart with you but I have to ask you this. What is an aftermarket plumbing fitting? It's not like they build a house in a Honda factory with a line of accessories you can install later.

Usually the things homes are built with are the right items for the job. (With obvious exception to updating old building materials to modern.) Seriously though, I'm interested. Maybe there is a whole market of maker supplies I'm missing out on.

No offense taken at all, yours is a legitimate question. ☺

See the black rubber coupling the author used to connect the sink drain to the main? that would qualify as such because in a new installation it would be hard plumbed with pipe in it's entirety. Many code inspectors dislike hose clamps and rubber tube behind walls when contiguous system components can be used during construction, in this instance though it is a great solution to the problem that had arisen much later. This also addresses why the quoted price by contractors may seem out of line, but it must be expected they will restore the system according to code, it is their license that underwrites the job and they would (should) also pull any required permits. Not saying the author did anything unacceptable or wrong- I'd've done it exactly the same way, it's just that pros are held to a much higher standard and that is usually reflected in the fees charged.

This is a pure example of why this website exists. I've done some professional plumbing and 65% of the time we'd be consult a friend because every plumbing opportunity is different. No two jobs are the same.

The difference between the person who pays the plumber and the diy guy is the diligence to do enough research to get the job done right. You might take 3x as long as the pro but you'll be able to pay for groceries.

Well done. Give yourself a pat on the back. (Good looking dog too)