Happy Halloween! The season of trick-or-treating is here again and we at Bob Oates Sewer and Rooter thought it’d be the perfect time to share a few scary stories. But these tales don’t involve ghouls or ghosts. No, instead we’re going to scare you in the only way we know how, by sharing some nightmarish tales from on the job. These are plumbing nightmares that still give me the willies – not because they were particularly difficult, but because each of them could have been so easily avoided. Hopefully, you can learn a thing or two. Behold; here are a few of Bob Oates’ Sewer and Plumbing Nightmares (and how you can avoid them).
The $53,000 Flood
There was a call a few years ago from a customer who said that their house was flooding and they could not get the water to turn off. This is a pretty common call, although more often than not, the house isn’t really flooding. But this time was different.
I arrived on-site around 1:30 am, and to my utter astonishment, the customer was not lying – their entire house was actually flooding. The customer, who had just purchased the house, had been attempting to change the kitchen faucet. Little did they know, the house was outfitted with substandard push-on angle stops…Oh boy! When the customer had gone to turn the water off, the emergency shut off blew clean off the pipe. Remembering his walkthrough of the house with the realtor, the customer ran downstairs to where he thought the shut-off for the whole house was. He had turned and turned and turned the valve, but the water did not stop. Now desperate, he quickly ran outside to turn the meter to the house off but was unable to do so, due to it being an old style spike meter.
But, wouldn’t you know it, I was able to shut the water off within 5 minutes of arriving. Unfortunately, the damage was done, and my customer’s plumbing nightmare had just begun. For, after final inspections of the water damage across the whole house, the repair estimate was around $53,000 – no small amount of money for anybody, let alone someone who just finalized the purchase of a house.
How to avoid a nightmare like this –
The customer could have avoided all the damage with a simple plumbing inspection. After all, the cost to repair the substandard stops and the faulty main shut off, which any plumber worth his salt would quickly recognize, is negligible compared with the cost of the damage.
One Garbage Disposal Can Ruin an Entire Building
One of the most nightmarish jobs I have ever been on involved a kitchen sink and a demonic garbage disposal in a multi-unit apartment building.
I arrived on-site to a complete disaster; the sink was overflowing with black, greasy water. It had been overflowing for a while, long enough to cover the entire counter, overflow into the drawers and cabinets below. It had also spilled onto the floor and had made its way into the carpet. Not until the tenant below had called maintenance, because the water had caused part of her ceiling to collapse, were they able to shut off the water to the building and stem the black, greasy tide of disgusting garbage disposal water. Talk about a plumbing nightmare!
So, I did what I do – I snaked the line and quickly found the cause of the problem; one of the tenants on the upper floors had thrown away a large pot of left-over rice down the sink, turned the disposal on, and started running the water to clean her dishes. The sink in the unit below her was the one backing up and no one was home at the time. The job took just an hour to complete but cleanup and restoration for the entire building took 2 weeks.
How to Avoid a Nightmare like this
Be careful what you and your guests throw down the disposal. Had the tenant on the top floor known the basic garbage disposal do’s and don’t’s, this whole thing could have been avoided. To prevent a plumbing nightmare, leftover, cooked food is all that should go down your disposal and remember to always run water when using it. Pro-tip: Half of a small lemon, chopped up, will remove any odors from your garbage disposal.
When a Basement Becomes a Sewer
This is truly one of the biggest nightmares. I once got a call from a manager of a multi-unit apartment community telling me there was a leak in the building’s basement, not providing much detail beyond that. I’d soon found out why.
I arrived to the building around 11:30pm. I entered the main lobby, which was filled with a particularly ripe smell, flickering lights and an inoperable elevator. It already sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it? I located the manager’s room and knocked. It took him a minute to answer, he spoke to me only through the crack in the door. He told me that the leak was in the basement and that he was too busy to show me down there, but he gave me a key and told me to come back to his room once I was done.
Ok? So I made my way to the dank, dark, and completely flooded basement. Some leak; the sewer line was backing up and flooding into the basement and it looked like it had been doing so for more than a day. Plenty of human waste, and a couple rats that I caught a glimpse of with my flashlight. There were no lights, and I couldn’t find an outlet, so I ended up running 200 feet of cord for power. After who-knows-how-long of searching, I finally found the basement cleanout and was able to clear the stoppage in a matter of minutes. But, the damage was done. Once I was finished, I made my way back to the manager’s room and knocked, but there was no answer. It was late, and I was tired, so I to just decided to bill them.
How to Avoid a Nightmare like this
For starters, the building manager should care enough about the state of the building and the lives of his tenants to keep an eye on the drains. Beyond that, simple drain cleaning and maintenance, along with regular inspections, is enough to keep even the scariest of plumbing nightmares and basement floods at bay.
As the Owner at Bob Oates’ Sewer and Rooter, I’ve seen the full gamut of plumbing nightmares…nothing scares me anymore. There’s no job that’s too difficult or spooky for my team to handle. However, I simply can’t stand it when my customer’s incur huge damage costs for sewer and plumbing mishaps that could have been easily avoided. With simple drain & sewer cleaning and maintenance, performed regularly, you can easily avoid plumbing nightmares like the ones listed above, while saving a huge amount of money in the long run.