Monday, July 08, 2013

There is something trapped in my vent pipe

There was something moving about in the vent pipe that runs over my desk.  I heard it two nights ago, but when I stood on my desk to figure out where it was, it was totally silent.  Yesterday morning, I was working in the basement and heard it again.  This time it was distinct fluttering and was definitely in the pipe.  I suspected a bird. 

After researching the plumbing You Tube videos about vent pipes and pipe cutting (you can find everything on You Tube), I made the bold decision to cut open the pipe with a saw and try to get the little bird out.

I wound up cutting an 18" section out which had to be cut into two pieces to remove it.  I would like to point out that the spouse was gone to an appointment during all this.

Then I waited with a box and landing zone set up below the open pipe... which smells because it is the toilet vent.

I could hear fluttering, but nothing came out.  So I climbed up with a flashlight and looked into the vent (which really smells) and could see nothing.  Just pipe.  I needed to make something to "see" for me.  I had an old Icecam web cam.  It was small and could fit through the 2" pipe.  The camera and drivers are so old, they wouldn't install on my main computer.  Fortunately we have a very old, but functional PowerPC which accepted the drivers.  I taped the camera to a stick and plugged in all the USB cables that I could find.

Unfortunately the stick would not make the turn to get into the pipe due to the floor joists AND there wasn't enough light.  So onto the Second Prototype.... I used somewhat flexible green garden stakes and taped the camera to that.  Then I added a very small light bulb.  The garden stake didn't work.

Due to the narrow pipe opening the camera would only fit through the opening with the lens pointing down rather then forward.  We (myself, Mister e and Miss E) got lovely views of a dusty sediment along the bottom of the pipe.  I tried to stick it in with a 90 degree bend in the flex cable, but the overall width was too wide.

So I removed the housing from the camera, and taped the circuit board which held the lens directly to the end of Prototype Three.  The new material for the rod is a drain snake.  It is flexible enough to make the turn to get into the pipe, but firm enough to continue pushing through.  At this point, I have used up all the duct tape in the house and have moved onto electrical tape.  I taped the Camera Snake off in 12" increments, so we could estimate how far in the pipe we were going.  At about this point, the spouse came home and found us in the basement with the cut pipe, tape everywhere, wires and extension cords running across the floor, the vacuum, the dog, and tools all supporting this exploration project as well as doll clothes in process from earlier in the day.  Surprise is not exactly the word I would use to describe his reaction.

We went in as far as we could go, but there was a 90 degree turn that went straight down that eventually connects with the sewer pipe.  My hack camera could not make the turn.  We were not able to see the bird.  He made a few noises at 2:30pm and then was silent.  After a long phone call with my father (discussing plumbing and plugging up said plumbing), we decided that a test flush on the basement toilet was in order.  Everything seemed to work well which meant that the bird in the pipe had dropped through the vent pipe and into the sewer pipe and was now on his way to the sewer system.  Sad.

I would like to note that if the spouse had not come home when he did, I was fully prepared to rip into the wall behind the toiled and cut that pipe too.  I have to touch up the paint in the bathroom anyway, so patching a wall wouldn't make that much more of a mess.

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