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Thread: Plumber's snake stuck in pipe

  1. #1

    Question Plumber's snake stuck in pipe

    Anyone have advice on the best way to go about removing a plumber's snake that's stuck in a 4" drain pipe? We have no idea what it's stuck on, or even how far down the pipe it is, since a previous handyman got it stuck. When he couldn't get it out, he just cut it off about 1 ft outside the cleanout fitting and left it hanging there!

    Any advice is appreciated. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    Is the C/O inside or outside the house?

  3. #3

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    The cleanout is in the garage.

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default snake

    What size is the snake's cable? If it is a handyman's I assume it is 1/4" or 3/8" diameter. If so about the only way it could get that tight would be i fit is wound up inside the pipe. The only ways to remove it would be to dig up the pipe, or pull the snake with a winch until it either breaks loose, or snaps in two. If it snaps you would still have to dig it up.

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    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    If it is 1/2" cable or larger you can attach on to it with a piece of 3/8" wire rope and 3 - U clamps made for wire rope. Make a loop at the other end of the wire rope with 2 - U clamps and attach it to a comealong attached to a trailer hitch and ball then try winching it out. If your concerned about it snaping you can drive the vehicle to pull it out instead of winching the comealong.

    Like hj said if it snaps in the pipe you will have to dig it up.
    Last edited by Cass; 09-30-2006 at 01:37 PM.

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    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking is the pipe stopped up???

    Is the pipe stopped up ?????

    if their is no problems with the drain i suggest you

    leave sleeping dogs lie....'


    if you have to get that cable out of there you might want
    to call a professional drain clenaing company and see
    what they can do to help....

  7. #7
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    It is extremely difficult to get a snake stuck in a drain if there is nothing wrong with the drain. If the cable gets hung up on broken pipe or roots the liability is not on the plumber. Most drain cleaning companys have you sign a contract B4 they start and in it you will find a clause that states such. I have the same clause in mine. I once had to put my machine in the back of my truck and tie the doors shut with the cable hanging out between them and drove away to pull a stuck cable out of a line. Luckly it worked. I'm not going to be liable for something I can't see. I'm about that close( = )to not doing drains anymore. There just a pain.
    Last edited by Cass; 09-30-2006 at 03:50 PM.

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    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    I'm thinking that when a homeowner calls with a problem, and the worker tries to fix it, that the worker is doing their best working with the existing conditions.

    Is there something in the pipe and fittings that is catching the snake?
    Were the right fittings used before?
    Did someone drop a 2x4 down the vent pipe?

    Is it the worker? or the home? that is causing the problem.
    I've had a few tough jobs myself, most of them by undersized plumbing or bends that were too tight.

  9. #9

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    Thanks for all the input.

    Yes, perhaps the original craftsman should be held accountable, but apparently this work was done over a year ago, and that craftsman is nowhere to be found.

    We've talked about using a come-along or the truck to pull the snake out, but we were hoping to find an easier way. I guess that's still a lot easier than digging up the pipe.

    I found another suggestion online, in an old thread in another forum. Someone suggested putting the end of the cable in the chuck of a hammer drill and trying to back it out that way. I'm thinking there's way too much flexibility in the snake for the hammering to have much impact, but it's a simple enough solution that it's probably worth a try.

    Thanks again!

  10. #10
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    What size is tha snake/cable?

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    I believe it's a 3/8" snake.

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    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    Using a drill and reversing it may work alright.

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    Master Plumber Dunbar Plumbing's Avatar
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    3/8" cable in a 3 or 4" drain has the capability of turning back around and corkscrewing. Meaning, too small a cable for that size pipe. A risk inherited that I take myself when my access to the main through a floor drain with no basement toilet or base of stack to attack from.

    Physical injury is likely if you try stretching that cable to remove it. I've only had a few break on me and you have no control of where that cable is going when it basically ricochets out of the drain.
    Read what the end of this sentence means.

  14. #14
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    A 3/8" snake in a 3-4" pipe should come out with no problem even if it balled up. They are flexable enough, unless it is caught on something.

  15. #15
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default snake

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookie
    Just curious, but wouldn't one think that the previous handyman should be held accountable? I maybe, would think about getting him to pay for the damages, and the cost in getting it out. Right guys, ? Am I right on this??
    Maybe, but a local plumber tried to snake a friend's sink drain and got his snake stuck just like this one. He told my friend that he, (my friend), had to get it out of the drain and if he didn't the plumber was going to charge him the cost of the snake. I dug up the exterior cleanout, removed the snake which was tangled in a ball of roots, (he had snaked all the way through the sink drain and was stuck inside the main 3" line). I snaked the roots out, which were the original problem anyway, not a stopped sink drain, and left his tangled up, kinked, snake in the yard for the other plumber to pick up.

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