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Thread: trapped snake head

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member Shadrach's Avatar
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    Default trapped snake head

    I have a snake head trapped at an elbow in a cast iron drain pipe where it is joined by a 2" vertical steel drain pipe/vent. I am advised to have the basement floor jackhammered and the pipe replaced. I propose to cut the steel pipe 6" above the floor, drain the water and take out an 18" section of pipe to get at the snake head and rejoin the steel pipe with hubless connectors. I could really use advice.

  2. #2
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Nothing you have told us tells us WHY the head is stuck, and that is important because it will tell us if you have any chance of removing it without a major excavation job.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

  3. #3
    DIY Junior Member Shadrach's Avatar
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    My kitchen sink on the ground floor drains into a 2" steel pipe that goes out the roof and joins a cast iron drain pipe at the basement floor. Approximately 34 years ago, I had a rooter guy cleaning out my kitchen drain. He used a snake and could not get it past the elbow of the cast iron pipe at the basement floor level. The snake broke off at the elbow and was never retrieved. The rooter guy put a balloon on the end of a garden hose and lowered it down the vent pipe on the roof until it was below the level of the kitchen sink drain. Then I turned on the water and the pressure blasted the clog free, but the snake head was still at the basement floor level elbow. Every year since then, in the Autumn, I would lower a balloon down the pipe and blast the line clear before Winter came. This year I was busy with other house emergencies and never got around to it. The drain clogged. I hired a plumber (not a rooter guy) to go up and blast it out for me. He insisted on taking a snake up to the roof. I let him go up to find out for himself. He sought the use of my garden hose and balloon to blast the clog out as I originally wanted him to. But, it did not clear the drain. Now, the sink was completely clogged and not just slow. We went to the basement and I showed him the 2" pipe that came from the kitchen sink down along the basement wall and where the cast iron pipe disappears into the basement floor. He said the only solution was to jackhammer the cement floor and replace the cast iron pipe that goes along underneath the basement floor. I thanked him for his services and told him I would have to leave it as it was. He charged me $95 and the sink is still clogged. Now the floor under which the cast iron pipe goes towards the main line is in a fully carpeted, fully furnished den. I propose to saw through the steel pipe far enough above the union with the cast iron pipe that I will be able to fit a no-hub fitting around the pipe at the cut when I have the pipe cleaned out. I would then make another cut 18" higher to remove a section of pipe to allow access to the joint where I believe the snake head is. After the retrieval I would be able to replace the removed section of pipe and fasten it in place with 2 no-hub connectors. What problems do you see with my proposed approach?

  4. #4
    Plumbing Contractor for 49 years johnjh2o1's Avatar
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    What you may find is the cast iron ell has failed and the snake is stuck into the ground. Snakes don't often break in lines that haven't separated.

    John

  5. #5
    Test, Don't Guess! cacher_chick's Avatar
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    You can cut the above-ground piping and try to snake from there. Whether you find the snake head or are able to clear the line is not guaranteed.

    If you can get access close to the blockage, you will be able to determine more precisely where the stoppage is, which means you could cut a smaller hole in the floor with a concrete saw instead of breaking open a large area to make the repair.

  6. #6
    In the Trades SacCity's Avatar
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    No harm in trying. either way you are going to have to cut that pipe and pair
    Last edited by Terry; 10-28-2012 at 10:49 AM.
    Michael
    Sac City Plumbing
    http://SacCityPlumbing.com

  7. #7
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    The only problem is that even then you may not be able to retrieve the head, especially after that much time has passed. Snakes to NOT break off in an elbow, unless there is some very serious problem in the pipe.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

  8. #8
    DIY Junior Member Shadrach's Avatar
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    I sincerely hope the snake didn't auger into the ground. The idea of sawing the cement really helps. If the cast iron needs to be replaced at least I can dig it out a bit and save a little on the plumber bill. Working with cast iron is totally out of my league.

  9. #9
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    qquote; Working with cast iron is totally out of my league.

    It is supposed to be, and I am glad you figured it out before you went past your "level of incompetence".
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

  10. #10
    DIY Junior Member Shadrach's Avatar
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    I don't know what happened to the snake; I couldn't find it. Once I cleaned out the gunk by repeatedly pouring in water and vacuuming it out, I found a pile of lead drips blocking the pipe. After removing the stub of steel pipe I found that no oakum had been packed around the pipe before the lead was poured. It appeared the snakes had pushed the lead drips into a pile that finally completely blocked the drain. Looking back I realize that it never ran what could be called really free. After cleaning out all the lead I could reach with coat hanger wire and a long needlenose I replaced the removed steel pipe with PVC with a clean out "Y". It now drains fine. The house was built in 1940. Has anyone ever run into this before?

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