For today's Frugal Friday, I am going to share with you something that recently happened to us! By managing to deal with this problem ourselves, we saved quite a bit of money, and through our experience, maybe we can help others to save money too!
On Tuesday this week, our kitchen sink became blocked. This happens more often that you might expect, partly because of the way our sink has been plumbed into the ground pipe - we live in an upstairs apartment, so there is no outside drain, and the pipe that carries the waste water out of the building is far too narrow - and could not be replaced without considerable expense. We don't own our apartment - we rent it - but it is our responsibility to arrange and pay for repairs such as blocked sinks, so we always try not to let them happen in the first place because it seems such a waste of money to have to pay for someone to fix a problem that could have been avoided.
Usually when it happens, I am able to resolve the problem quite easily. The simplest way to unblock a kitchen sink is to pour a bag of soda crytstals down it (the washing sort, not bicarbonate of soda. It can be found with the laundry products in a supermarket, or in hardware stores, often with the stronger drain cleaning products). Follow this with several gallons of boiling water, and leave to sit for a few hours. This often clears the blockage without any further action.
But sometimes it doesn't work. On this occasion, I used two bags of soda crystals, and nothing happened! I didn't tell Papa Bear, because I didn't want to bother him at work with something that I can usually fix myself. Instead, on Wednesday, I went to our local hardware store and purchased a stronger drain cleaner, the sort that advises you to avoid contact with skin or eyes, and not to mix with any other cleaning products. When I got back, I dismantled the pipework under the sink so that I could see exactly where the blockage was. To do this, I first had to get all the trapped water out of the sink itself, and then place a bucket underneath the U bend and undo it. This is quite easy to do - and it is worth knowing about, becuase oftentimes, if you have lost something such as an earring down your sink, you will be able to rescue it if you immediately shut off the taps, and undo the U bend under the sink. It has usually fallen into the U bend and becuase of its weight will have settled there without going any further (though it will, if you keep running the taps). I have rescued 2 earrings using this technique! Of course a better way to prevent your earrings getting lost down the sink is to put the plug in before you remove them!
Anyways, having dismantled the pipework as far as the ground pipe, I was able to see that the blockage was just where the pipe left the building. The water inside it was trapped about 4 inches down from the level of the inside of the cupboard under the sink. This is where the problem always seems to be, because the pipe is too narrow. The waste water from the washing machine also empties through this same pipe, and it isn't wide enough to cope with the flow from both the sink and the washing machine, so it blocks quite frequently unless I am careful to keep the water flowing freely with regular washes of soda crystals and hot water.
Well I poured the whole entire bottle of drain cleaner down the pipe as instructed. It smelled horrible and I got a chemical burn on my arm in the process, even though I was wearing gloves and long sleeves. I was so sure it would work becuase it was obviously quite powerful! I put the pipework back together, and then left it overnight. It was difficult to keep from telling Papa Bear about it, but fortunately he didn't notice, though Little Bear did whilse she was helping me wash up (we had to drain the water into a bucket)! We agreed we would not share with him yet about the sink becuase he had plenty else to be concerned about and I was still sure I could fix the problem myself.
The next day, yesterday, the sink was still blocked however! Oh my goodness! I was starting to worry now that we would have to call in a plumber, and I really did not want to have to do this. For one thing it would cost us money we didn't want to spend, and for another I was certain that something as simple as a blocked sink ought to be fixable without calling in a professional. After all, nothing had gone down that sink except the usual bits and pieces that escape through the plughole when we wash up, so it couldn't be anything too serious! I did a bit of research on the internet, and found a small gadjet that I thought would be the answer. It is called a drain auger or plumber's snake, and you can buy one like the one we got here. Of course, I had to tell Papa Bear about our problem then! But he said he thought he would be able to pick an auger up cheaply from the wholesalers where he gets supplies for jobs for his work. He sometimes has to get tools and materials at short notice, and knows of a good wholesalers just outside the town where we live. Luckily he was going there anyway yesterday, and he was able to buy a hand held auger for less than the price of the one I've linked to! That is way less than a plumber would have cost us!
I can't tell you how pleased we were, when Papa Bear used the auger to unblock the pipe! It was very easy to use. He just unwound the thin, bendy metal cable, which has a coiled spring on the end of it, and fed it down the pipe until it wouldn't go any further. Then he locked it off and spun it around to clean out the inside of the pipe, and withdrew it up again. It was a bit messy, but we all took a turn so that next time it happens, any one of us would be able to deal with the problem! In all it took about 7 attempts, and then we put all the pipework back underneath the sink, and ran the taps into it, and - yay! - the blockage was gone! Papa Bear said he was very proud of me for trying to fix the problem all by myself - but that next time the sink blocked, he would much prefer that I didn't have to worry about it all alone! Oh Papa Bear! He gave me such a sweet present today to say thank you for dealing with the blocked sink so well. Next to the Church that he is working on at the moment there is a small charity shop, and in the window of the shop he had seen something that he knew I would like. He'd been too busy to go to the shop whilse it was open until today, but he was very glad that he did - I love his present so much! It is two sweet bears, made like a bride and groom, that someone has hand knitted. They are beautifully made with the prettiest detailing, so unique and characterful, and just perfect for an almost-anniversary gift! He said as soon as he saw them he knew I would like them - and I do! He knows me so well! And I am so thankful that we were able to fix our sink problem without spending lots of money. I hope that our experience helps other people too. It's always worth trying to fix something yourself, before getting professionals to do it. Oftentimes the simplest DIY tasks really just need a little research and patience, and they can be fixed by most people. And there's so much satisfaction too, in knowing you can do it youself!