Old Stone House

Frozen Waste-land

January 24, 2011

Filed under: Master Bathroom @ 8:53 am

Yesterday morning the bathtub stopped draining.

I was slightly perplexed as the tub had worked perfectly the night before.

I assumed that the children had inadvertently allowed a small bath toy to slip down the drain, or a build-up hair and soap had finally caused a blockage.  I purchased a bottle of industrial-strength drain cleaner and poured it down the drain and waited. Two hours later, I still had a tub filled with standing water.  I tried snaking the drain, but that only added to my confusion as I managed to get 10 feet of snake into the drain without any problem – I had hoped to encounter a blockage at the trap.

The rest of the drains are working perfectly.

Reviewing the photos posted here I realized that the bathtub is the only fixture in the house that uses the old cast pipe to drain into the sewer, the rest exits via a separate line that I assumed joined that pipe at a wye. I say assume because the cast pipe is burred in the wall – a result of previous owners embedding it in concrete when they underpinned the basement. I rooted about in the basement and found a few inches of pipe exposed behind some insulation. It is ice cold.

At this point I’m assuming that the waste pipe is frozen. As you recall, we have had pipes in this exact area freeze before, which I why we redid all of the plumbing. We never thought the waste pipe would freeze, so we left it.

I have read about a number of remedies for frozen waste pipes such as heating the pipe, pouring hot salt water or antifreeze down the drain, but I have little hope this will work as there is potentially six feet of four inch pipe frozen in an exterior concrete wall.

I know that I can open the wall and re-route the drain into the newer plumbing in the basement, but I would prefer to solve this problem rather than apply a band aid.

Stay tuned.

(P.S. This is an old photo. This wallpaper was removed a LONG time ago!)