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When DIY Plumbing Works Out In Your Favor

I have finally decided to add a DIY category to my blog.  Since I enjoy doing a lot of DIY around my house and garage, I figured I would tell the stories of my successes and failures.  I hope you enjoy!

Do it YourselfIf you are coming here for the first time, I have to admit that I am a DIY (Do it Yourself) Junkie!  I love the satisfaction of completing a job with my hands.  It keeps me going and increases my knowledge base.  I am not afraid to roll up the sleeves and get dirty.  Whether it be cars, landscaping, fencing, plumbing, electrical,  or anything else.  I am all in.  I have had my fair share of projects go bad and I had to call in the professionals.

This story is about how my DIY plumbing project worked out in my favor, only after I called the professionals.


It was a cold day in the beginning of February 2012.  Come to think of it, it was Super Bowl Sunday.  I had just been through a very rough personal issue and I was just not feeling great.  I was under a very large black cloud.  I needed a pick me up.  Unfortunately, instead of a pick me up, I ended up with a clogged main drain and crap (literally) backing up in my pipes.  I was not what I needed.

To share a little more information, our main drain had been backing up consistently for close to 5 months.  For those that don’t know, a main drain is the main outlet pipe out from our home to the city sewer line.

For the life of me, I could not find out why the main drain kept backing up.  It would be so bad that our toilets and sinks would back up. We couldn’t take showers until I would pull out the clog.  I purchased a hand snake at Home Depot and would constantly unclogged the drain every few days.  It was a solution, but only a temporary one.

I decided to call the professionals to come over with their camera to see if there was something clogging the pipe.  They came out, charged me $300 to video the pipe and gave me the feedback.  They thought there was cement in the pipe from when our home builder laid the front porch.

They provided me with the full solution.  I pay them $4,000 to pull up the porch cement and they lay new pipe down.  This should end up fixing the problem because stuff wouldn’t get stuck to the sides of the pipe and cause a backup.   Seeing that price almost made me throw up in the pipe, but I thought that this would end the headache.  Then my frugal side came in.

Hmmm…DIY Anyone?

Well, with the black cloud over my head and a badly clogged drain, I decided to pull out my tools instead of pulling out my phone to call the plumber again.  When you get a plumber on the weekends, you end up paying double, just for them to come out to the house.  Nope!  Not today.

I used my hand snake and tried my hardest to get the main drain unclogged.  I was outside for 2 hours with my arm half way down the drain.  I was getting frustrated and very angry.  Instead of sticking my arm down the drain and feeling the underbelly of my home, I went into my garage and pulled out the shovel.

I did this with the impression that if I messed up any of the pipe then the plumber would have to come out and fix the drain.  This would be no different if they came out to unclog it.  Either way, it would end up with the plumber coming out.  With my anger getting the best of me and the wind whipping through my t-shirt, I went to it.

I started digging right in front of our porch to get to the pipe.  I dug down about 2 feet to find the drain.  As I moved the dirt away, I realized that there was another drain opening behind the one I was using.  WHAT?  There is not supposed to be two access spots right next to each other.

plumber with wrenchSh*t Hits the Fan ( or the Face :( )

After pulling out my pipe wrench, I turned the drain opening cover and BOOM!  I was hit with something that I wish to not remember.  The whole backup with all of the lovely smells came and hit me all over.  I was covered in human excrement.  It was nasty and I was pissed off and a little on…….

After the clogged filled the hole that I just dug, I realized that I had found the problem.  There wasn’t cement in the drain, there wasn’t any sharp turns, it was something that shouldn’t have been there.  My builder left a tap out cover in the drain.  Are you freakin’ kidding me?

We have lived in the house for 5 and half years before our drain issues.  I found out that the tap out cover was in the drain in such a way that it would just spin and not get clogged.  It must have moved just enough to stop spinning.  This was the problem.  A little piece of plastic that was supposed to be thrown out when they put in the pipe.  This little piece of plastic was the bane of my existence.  I wanted to throw a stick of dynamite down the drain and finish it off.

The fix was the emotional stability that I needed.  I was feeling that I had hit rock bottom due to personal issues, but finding a fix for the drain was empowering.  I felt that I could do anything and just do it with my hands.  This is why I engage in DIY projects.  The reward far outweighs the risk for me.

This is my story of when a DIY project goes your way after a professional doesn’t truly fix your problem.  My only piece of advice to people that are on the fence with DIY is just try it.  You might find that you are good at something and it can save you a lot of money.  My 5 hour project saved me $4,000 and was fixed by myself.  Why pay when you can fix it yourself?  What a feeling!

Do you have a DIY story that worked out in your favor?  What about one that caused you more issues?  Let me hear it!

Main Photo via mrwynd and

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About Grayson Bell

I am an average Joe, who built up over $50,000 worth of credit card debt and had to learn how to break it back down. It took 4 years of learning budgets, secrets, and many other personal finance tricks in order to cut the debt to $0. Now, I push to teach others not only how to get out of debt, but how to use credit wisely and how to start growing their wealth. You can view my other site, Sprout Wealth for ways to grow your money. I am also a freelance personal finance writer who provides staff writing and ghost writing services.


  1. Wow, I can certainly understand why you were more than a little pissed off! I can understand how fixing the drain issue would be empowering, especially when it had been giving you problems for some time. We’re not huge into DIY but have become much more comfortable with doing projects now that we’re in a house. I hate calling to have someone come over, especially when it seems like an easy fix.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..Frugal Friday: Blog Posts That Ruled This Week, Top Ten EditionMy Profile

    • A little pissed was an understatement. I was able to collect myself, especially after my wife helped me get cleaned up from all of the nice things that hit me.

  2. I handle my own landscaping but any other DIY improvements I attempt just lower the value of my home.

    Having a list of reliable repairmen and knowing when to call is what I am good at.
    Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle recently posted..My Family’s Money HistoryMy Profile

    • There is nothing wrong with letting the professionals handle it, that is why they are called professionals. I make sure that I do things to the highest quality. I won’t repair something to look worse than it was before.

  3. Justin@TheFrugalPath

    I tiled the front 4×4 foot entryway to our house and did a great job, they were little mosaic tiles. Then I tried the 1×1 foot tiles in the laundry room. About 90% turned out okay, but backerboard for the entryway didn’t hold so now I have to tear up that section and re-do it.
    Justin@TheFrugalPath recently posted..January & February Income Plus Some UpdatesMy Profile

  4. I need to do a little DIY plumbing myself. My dishwasher won’t drain. It’s practically brand new too.
    Johnny Moneyseed recently posted..The One Week Snapshot ChallengeMy Profile

    • That should be fun to figure out. Diagnosing the problem is only half the battle, right?

    • We had the same problem (except out dishwasher is circa 1993) and neither my dad nor I could figure our the problem so I had to call a plumber. Turns out the main drain out of our house was clogged with about 50 years of grease and gunk and just needed a very good cleaning. It was only about $180 which was much cheaper than a new dishwasher!

      I hope your problem turns out to be a simple one!

      • Ah, the main drain. That was our problem, but it clogged up everything. It could be good practice to have it cleaned out every couple of years in order to ensure proper flow.

  5. Hubby and I DIY everything!! I’ve also been thinking about adding it to my blog but haven’t decided for sure yet. Most recently we (he) DIY’d a full wet bar in our basement, plumbing and all. There isn’t much in our home we haven’t done…except hardwood install only b/c it had to blend with existing floor and didn’t want to screw it up.
    Catherine recently posted..Virtual Banking Isn’t For MeMy Profile

  6. I read your whole post, it was well written but I still don’t quite know what you were talking about. Something about fixing your sewer pipes? :P Joking aside, I’m glad you were able to save $4000 from DIY and find emotional stability as well. Such a guy Grayson :)
    Girl Meets Debt recently posted..Fun Friday 5 – #7My Profile

    • Hmmm…maybe I need to revisit. I basically had to fix a massive clog that was in our main drain. When it clogs, nothing leaves the pipes in the house, causing everything to back up. The plumber thought it was something else and I found the issue to be something small and irritating. Nevertheless, I got it done.

  7. yuk, sorry to hear that! I am trying more and more to DIY although with cheap labor costs here I often go the lazy way. Lately we have done all the plumbing and electric work on our new room since the builders didn’t know much and any mistake they make would have cost a lot more to fix once the concrete was poured on top of cables and pipes.
    Pauline recently posted..Friday recap, no more love and a carnivalMy Profile

  8. My mind keeps going to the scene in Shawshank Redemption where he has to crawl through the sewer line as the last leg of his escape. Doesn’t sound as bad, but I suppose when you have to deal with the human waste factor, there are just varying degrees of bad. Glad you worked through it.
    Money Beagle recently posted..A Roofing Company Refused My Potential BusinessMy Profile

  9. My last home had a similar problem. About 5 years after the house was built we started to get repetitive backups that you would clear and would come back within a few weeks. One of the plumbers ran a snake to measure where the blockage was occurring. It looked to be in the main drain between the house and the street, about 10 feet from the house. He charged me $500 to dig it up and fix whatever he found, which in comparison to what you were quoted was a screaming bargain! So what did he find? He found that the contractor that had laid the pipe never bothered to glue some of the joints, over the years the shifting soil had separated the pipe at the joint so that about half the pipe was trying to drain into the yard. Grrrrrr. BTW, just like you, I had gallons of sludge slopped on me when I was draining the system in the crawl space. An amazing amount of slop can build up in two stories worth of house plumbing!

    I also am a DYI nut, you can expect some DIY Extreme stories from me later in the year :)
    Jose recently posted..A Coupon for the Man (or Lady) CaveMy Profile

    • We must have had the same builder Jose. Mine was about 5 feet from the front of my house, but the contractor just left a tap out cover in the drain. I think it was going to cost me more because they had to rip out my front porch, which is concrete and then lay the pipe and pour more concrete. I wasn’t going to pay that without a fight though.

  10. Wow Grayson! That’s incredibly impressive and a little bit gross. But thankfully it worked out to the tune of $4K in savings! We’re very basic DIYers, so I guess we’re the people who keep the professionals in business. But I enjoy hearing other people’s DIY triumphs. :)
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted..Blog Round-up: Week of March 4, 2013My Profile

  11. Grayson, this sounds awful!!! And, you wrote about it in such a humorous way that I chuckled reading it and then felt bad for laughing. Go you for fixing your drain. My husband would have so beyond livid, he probably would have put the dynamite in there!!
    Cat @ BudgetBlonde recently posted..How To Be Self-Sufficient: A Comprehensive A-Z Financial ChecklistMy Profile

  12. I must say you are pretty brave! lol I like doing stuff myself to, but I would probably be to grossed out to give plumbing a try. My dad has problems with his drains, it seems like every other month water starts backing up. He calls the plumber and forks out $200 every couple months for a quick fix.
    Alexa recently posted..Making a Financial Plan for the Future (Here’s Mine)My Profile

  13. I’m very impressed! I worry that with some DIY work I’m more likely to cause problems than to fix them!
    Alex recently posted..Look outside your boxMy Profile

  14. Really great blog. Must of been a right nuisance but I’m glad you got to the bottom of it and fixed it whilst saving some money. However, I think it’s a good idea to get some advise from a qualified and experienced plumber or do some research before wading in as you might do more damage than good. In this case you came out on top. Good work Grayson.

    • Thank you for stopping by Bob. I certainly agree with you. I had a plumber come out a few times to look at the issue and they weren’t able to figure it out. I never do anything without researching, so I felt comfortable doing the work.

  15. Sewer & Drain Cleaner

    Getting your drains cleaned by a professional is the best way to keep your drains and sewer system fully functional. Sometimes the issues that homeowners experience are far more complicated than they realize. Many customers will easily find themselves spending hundreds of dollars paying for chemicals and equipment to repair a clogged plumbing issue that they could never fix, only to call us later.

    • That really depends. I have fixed numerous plumbing issues with just a snake that costs $40. All plumbers here charge you to come out just to look at the problem. If you take your time and look at the issue, most people can figure it out. If you can’t fix it, then you can call a plumber. Most chemicals won’t push through clogs. That requires a snake.

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