Diagnose a Slow Draining Bathtub
LESLIE: Steve in Tennessee finds The Money Pit on WFHG. And you’ve got a noisy shower. What’s happening?
STEVE: Hi. Yeah, it just like … when you turn it on, sometimes, it like … or … well, when you just turn the regular water on, it’s fine. But then, when you hit the shower thing, it starts squealing like crazy. I mean, it don’t do it all the time but it just like during a shower it might do it four times.
LESLIE: And it’s only happening in the shower.
STEVE: It only does it when the shower’s turned on. If you just have the actual faucet in the bathtub turned on, it don’t make any noise. But when you turn on the shower, it just like squeals; like wheeeeerrrrrrrrr!
TOM: Well, it sounds like it’s the shower diverter valve and that’s what reroutes the water from the tub faucet up to the shower head. Or it could be the shower head itself. One thing you could try, Steve, and that is to remove the shower head itself.
TOM: Just unscrew that and then turn the shower on. The water’s going to come out in one solid burst.
LESLIE: (chuckling) And it’s going to hurt so don’t stand near it.
TOM: Yeah. You’ll be amazed how much water comes out of that pipe. But try that and see if it’s still noisy. If it’s … if it’s still noisy, it’s the shower diverter. If it’s not, it’s the shower head.
LESLIE: How difficult is it to replace that shower diverter?
TOM: Aw, it’s kind of a hassle. Yeah …
LESLIE: So a plumber’s got to do it?
TOM: Yeah. I wouldn’t … I would recommend ear plugs; you know, like the kind you use in swimming pools.
STEVE: Yeah, right?
TOM: (laughing) So you don’t have to worry about …
STEVE: Right. And I have one other question if you could maybe answer it, too.
TOM: Sure. We’ll run the two-for-one special just for you, Steve.
STEVE: Well, thank you. I’ve got an older home, also. And in the bathroom in it, the tub is the only thing in the whole house that doesn’t drain good. And I’ve tried, you know, putting stuff down it and everything. I ran a snake down it and nothing happens. But it just … it don’t … it’s the only thing in the house that don’t drain. Everything else drains perfect.
LESLIE: It could be that the house just wasn’t … when you … when that tub was put in, it just wasn’t graded properly.
STEVE: What does that mean?
TOM: The angle of the pipe might not be pitched properly.
STEVE: Oh, okay. I never thought of it …
TOM: What’s underneath this tub? Is it under a … is it over a basement or a crawl space?
STEVE: Crawl space.
TOM: Alright. So can you visually ID the plumbing pipe, there, to make sure it’s pitched properly?
STEVE: Yeah, I could … I could do that. I just didn’t … wasn’t sure why. I guess I’d have to ask somebody what pitch it should be or something or …
TOM: Well, another thing that you can do … I know you mentioned you snaked it.
TOM: Are you relatively confident there’s nothing in there?
STEVE: My brother works for like the water place and he come … he give me some stuff to pour down it. Said if it … if there was anything stopped up in it, it would definitely eat through it. (chuckling) And like I said …
LESLIE: He’s got the secret potion.
STEVE: It’ll drain, but it just drains real slow.
TOM: Hmm. You know, what about the overflow valve that lets some air into the line? If that was blocked, then you may not be getting enough return air on the drain pipe and it might be slowing down the drain. When you let the water up to the point where it goes over the overflow …
TOM: … if there’s any obstruction in that or if that thing is blocked off … you get a lot of gurgling as it goes down?
STEVE: No. We don’t hear … it just drains so slow you …
STEVE: … if you sit there and watch it you would think it wasn’t moving at all.
STEVE: Yeah, I mean it takes about 20 minutes for it to drain out.
TOM: Well, look, something’s got to be in there. Let me give you one more trick of the trade to check that drain for any obstruction.
TOM: Do you have a wet-dry vacuum?
TOM: You can use a wet-dry vacuum to vacuum out the drain. Put it right on top of the drain and vacuum it out. With a good wet-dry vacuum, you’ll be sucking any debris that’s in that pipe right back into the vacuum.
LESLIE: That needs some serious suction, though.
TOM: Naw, it’s a good trick. I’ve done it before. It works well.
STEVE: Well, somebody else had told me something but I would have thought that that would have made other … they said something about the valve that goes out of the house. You know, the big pipe?
STEVE: Said that it could be stopped up or something but wouldn’t that make all the drains not drain if it was that?
TOM: Yeah, you would think. Yeah, absolutely. You would think. It’s only this one piece of pipe between the …
TOM: … tub itself and the drain.
STEVE: Yeah, that’s the only time.
TOM: So, yeah. Try that. You know, wet-dry vacuums, the way they’re … way they’re building them today, they can actually suck about a gallon of water a second.
STEVE: Oh, wow. Wow.
TOM: Yeah, they’re pretty strong. So try to vacuum out that drain and see if you pull any debris out of there. I suspect that it’s either obstructed or it’s not pitched properly, like Leslie said. Okay?
STEVE: That’s great. Thank you very, very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.