Maybe you haven’t been around here long enough to notice, but I don’t generally take on small projects. Mostly not even regular sized projects. And definitely hardly ever maintenance projects.
I like fixing and/or building things. Changing oil, cleaning filters, and making the bed are not high up on my priority list. This makes me a poor homeowner at times, and it also makes me the type of person who needs to have a cleaning service in their employ at all times.
The good angel Fran, who comes in a shovels me out of my hovel every other week, cancelled yesterday, and I made the mistake of telling her just to come on her next scheduled day. After all I’m here at home, I can do this.
Okay, and this post about is exactly why I shouldn’t do this. It’s also about plumbing.
Aside from throwing a load of laundry in the washer, I start my cleaning adventure with the bathroom. I hit all the regular spots… bath, toilet, mirror, sink.
As I’m washing the sink I notice the walls around my wall-mounted faucets are dirty so I go get a sponge and I start to wash the walls. As I’m letting the water run and washing the walls, I notice that the sink is draining poorly.
This is a lie. I’ve noticed the sink drains poorly every time I’ve brushed my teeth for the last year. This wasn’t some new 80 year old house symptom that needed to be taken care of right away. Especially because I hate dealing with plumbing. When one morning you walk into your house to find a waterfall spanning three floors of living space, you become a little gun-shy about dealing with plumbing.
I’ve mentioned this plumbing thing to MysteryMan a few times hoping he would take pity on the helpless female and come to my rescue with the Drano or whatnot. Firstly, he’s catching on to that routine. Secondly, I totally underestimated his fear of reaching under the sink and accidentally bumping into a box of tampons or some other such thing that would obviously turn him into a girl.
Which is how I found myself here:
Yeah, you saw that one coming a mile away, didn’t you?
Here’s the thing. The plumbing in my house was installed by a general contractor who said “oh, and I can just do the plumbing too” which I naively believed. Come to find out this guy installed the water meter in my house backwards despite the arrow embossed on the entire length of the meter that clearly indicates the direction of water flow. The water company noticed this after my meter was running backwards for an entire year. So there are some inherent issues with the plumbing in general.
What I was hoping for, was a clog. A clog in the trap would have been easy to deal with.
If you ignore the plumbing gunk (and may I just say, ugh), you can see in this picture that someone forgot how to use their tape measure and put the hole in this cabinet slightly too low.
I thought maybe the pressure on this pipe was pushing downward and making it hard for the water to drain. What do I know? I’m not a plumber.
Which is exactly how, while attempting to perform the singular act of cleaning my bathroom, I end up with this on my hands.
Yeah. This is my life people.
At this point the only positive thing I can say about dismantling my sink was that I found a veritable treasure trove under that cabinet, consisting of:
- 4 toothpaste caps
- 7 bobby pins
- 1 missing earring
- the instructions for installing wall mounted faucets
- 6 water bottle caps
- 3 hair ties
- 1 headband
- a crust of bread
- and enough cat hair to stuff a throw pillow
Complete & Utter Breakdown of my DIY System
At this point I realize that
1.) The waste pipe in the wall is immovable, so if the slight downward angle is a the problem, there is nothing I can do about it.
2.) I don’t know shit about plumbing.
My DIY system goes something like this:
Step 1: Take something apart.
Step 2: Google it to figure out how it put it back together in proper working order.
Yes. Yes, I see the flaw in this system, evidenced by the fact that when my bathroom fixtures were located in seven distinct pieces strewn about the upstairs…. my internet connection went down.
Wherein I Curse the DIY Gods & Simultaneously Perform Experiments
The best I could do was clean everything out and put it back together. Previously I also noticed there was a tiny bit of water leakage from the drain into the cabinet, so I thought at the very least I may be able to rectify that.
I realized that I could fractionally adjust the angle at which the water trap sat and that this angle did slightly influence both the drainage capabilities of my sink, and the leakage from the pipes. My experimenting went something like this:
Turn on faucet, start counting
…eleven one-thousand… twelve one-thousand… thirteen one-tho…. aaannnd we have back up.
Then I check for leaks.
At 16 seconds before the sink backs up, I have constant dripping in the cabinet. With no dripping in the cabinet, I can only get around 12 seconds before backup. Still, this is an improvement from the .075 seconds it took the sink to backup before.
1.) The plumber who installed this was an idiot.
2.) The sink is positioned too close to the wall, which is why the leaking becomes an issue (the pipes are connected almost at the curve of the trap and the seal doesn’t get as tight as it should.) I need to build a new cabinet. This still doesn’t solve the drainage problem.
3.) I hate plumbing.
4.) This, this is why I don’t clean.
5.) I. Need. A. Nap.
My pipes have been snaked from the basement in the last year, and this plumbing is less than 3 years old. If anyone has any ideas about this it would be greatly appreciated.
Next time, I’ll just live in a hovel until Fran gets here.
Edit: I’m thinking. Do you think it drains poorly because the faucet is located directly over the drain?? This has to do with the cabinet that is not meant to be a bathroom cabinet and the sink positioning as well.
I blame it on a sink which was obviously designed by using a toilet bowl as inspiration.
I assume your trap wasnt just full of goo. ???
The faucet location shouldn’t have anything to do with it. – they are 2 totally different lines, one is supply and the other drain. They don’t intersect so the location of the faucet is irrelevant. The water could flow from the moon and it shouldn’t matter.
The slight angle. I guess it depends on the angle, but I can’t see that being an issue. It’s not as if its sloping 45degrees upward??? + the run into the wall is too short to likely cause a problem. It’s not like its running up hill for miles, probably only about 4 inches before it turns downward. I doubt thats it.
Sounds like a venting problem to me. You need adequate venting to create back pressure for water to drain. Poor venting, poor drainage… Are there any other sinks in the vicinity, or above that have similar problems. What about the tub? If yes, maybe there is no venting to this line…
Friends of ours had a similar problem, (I think) and created a little vent pipe right under the sink. It was a small upward piece of pipe just after the trap that allowed the air to vent but was high enough that water didnt come out. I think they had some form of cap too???. Never really seen this before so I can’t comment on how effective it is ???
Could be the main drain line is blocked, which would explain why it takes a while to back up… its a big pipe to fill up and that takes time – thus 16 seconds in before chaos ensues. Only roto rooter can solve that… or draino?
What happens if you fill up the sink and then pulls the plug? Just curious…
The leak is probably just bad plumbing connections. This can be fixed by using flexible rubber connectors instead of threads or glue. This is often used to connect pipes of different materials. It’s a rubber sleeve with 2 round clamps. Comes in many sizes at HD.
Oh yeah, if the trap is leaking at any of the threads… get the white silicone plumbers tape and wrap the threads before screwing it back together. The upward angle is probably what’s causing the leak cuz the trap isnt sitting straight, not the backup. It’s readily available in the plumbing section of HD too.
I am no plumber, just an architect, an writer and according to my wife – a handyman. Hope this helps….
Plumbers tape for the threads, and don’t over-tighten them. There’s usually a gasket fitting where the vertical tail pipe goes into trap. Make sure the gasket is straight, in the right orientation, and in good condition (e.g., not cracked)
The slow draining could be lack of proper venting as handyman says, but the solution his friends used sounds questionable. Code requires the vent to be above the maximum water level, and you don’t sewer smells venting into your bathroom (there may be some special widget that allows for that.) When it drains, does it drain slowly but steadily, or does it blop, drain some, blop, etc.?
If it’s slow but steady, more likely it’s the drain partially blocked a bit further down. Snaking drains can be un-fun if there are any toilets above that level.
Yeah, I thought the makeshift sink vent was dodgy too….
Handyman: No goo. Venting sounds like something that could be the problem, I have no drainage issues from the bath or toilet up here, but when I do run a bath and then drain it all of the water gets sucked out of the toilet as well. I assumed this was a venting issue.
Gene: I did expiriment number 5000 on the sink and watched it drain. Water definitely drains slow but steady, however I hear a glugging noise down by the trap, even though there is no noticable stop-start-stop in the draining.
No toilets or anything above, this is on my top floor… and no drainage issues on the first floor or basement. You really think it needs to be snaked?? Can that much stuff build up in a year or two?
Okay, yes, probably. I have no idea why I’m so reluctant to do that.
Oddly there are no threads to tape. I mean, there are, but that isn’t where the water comes from. There is a pipe that slides in from the trap and then a seal, and the threadded part tightens down the seal. Because of my sink position, that seal (which should be on a straight part of pipe) is located on the curve of the trap. I pulled my whole cabinet about 2″ out of the wall so that seal could be tighened on the straight part and it seems to work okay. Go fig.
Last time I experienced something very similar, having taken the trap apart and discovered no blockage immediately under the sink, through trial and error I eventually worked out that the blockage was further along and unreachable by conventional means, ie anything ‘pokey’.
Chucking some caustic soda down the sink along with hot water, and then allowing it to work its magic for a while, before flushing the pipes through with more boiling water did the trick (be mindful of the vapours).
May be worth a shot…
Of course it could just be that, as you suspect, you had a shoddy installation, but the first thing I will always try if I have the problem again is good ol’ caustic soda.
You just had it done but was this drain slow right after it was snaked? If it was just as slow then as it is now, then I’d have to think you’ve got a venting issue. Especially with the tub/toilet connection you mentioned. (Neat trick BTW…got to get that on video!).
Yes, it can be due to the water falling directly down the drain, rather than landing slightly offset from the drain. Can check – simply use your hand to re-direct water slightly away from the drain. If it still backs up quickly, it’s not the position of the tap. If it no longer backs up (or takes significantly longer to do so), that’s the problem.
I’ve just started reading your blog, so I’m very late commenting. I have no clue about plumbing and am too cowardly to try anything with it.
But one great thing I learned from the web after years of no results from Draino, etc. for slowly draining sinks is to flush the sink with a lot of hot water (as hot as the hot water tap will produce), then pour in a cup of bleach and let it sit for an hour or two, then flush again with a lot of very hot water. So far it has always worked (now I’ve jinxed myself.)
I love that you found a crust of bread under the cabinet. I once took apart a stuffed doll to wash the cover and restuff it, and found a crust of bread inside.
I don’t know if you solved your problem yet, but I have a suggestion if not. Vessel sinks either have an overflow or they don’t. Yours clearly does. Vessel sink drains are made two ways — for sinks with an overflow, and for those without. They are not interchangeable. I’d suggest a trip to the hardware store to pick up a new drain built for an overflow. They’re cheap.
Could it be there is no air ventilation? Perhaps there is no vent for the air exchange. If that’s the case, the air would be trying to escape through the drain as the water is traveling down, causing less space for the water to drain quickly. There are parts to add mini-vents to an existing drain, and you *might* have room for that.
NOt sure if you ever found the answer to the sink drain, but we have the same kind of sink and it does this as well. with our sink the faucet is mounted on the cabinet and if we turn the faucet to hit the sides, it creates a centrifugal funnel with the water that helps it drain. If you do find the answer, it’d be great as it’s rather annoying.