Replacing Iron Drain Pipe - A Daunting Task
How very interesting that a contest about plumbing articles should show up just when I am hip deep into my very first "major" plumbing project.
The following accounts are, to the best of my knowledge, accurate and true...
Based on my very recent plumbing experience I will say that beginning an endeavor like replacing existing iron sewer pipes (and the surrounding plumbing) is akin to standing next to a pool on a cool day and thinking about taking a dip.
You want to go swimming and people ARE swimming but, man, that water is NOT warm and it's gonna take a minute to get used to... now all you have to do is JUMP!
I finally jumped when I decided to move my family into the house I owned before I got married (I had been renting it out off and on for the last 3 years) but even while I was living there in 2006 I was afraid to run drain cleaner through the drains because I was pretty sure it was the rust, sludge and nastiness that was keeping the water from running out of the bottom of the iron pipes and into the basement.
So there I was... looking up at an 8 or 10 foot length of 4" black iron pipe with lead appendages leading up to the tub, toilet and sink drains (no to mention the huge length that went straight to the roof as the vent).
[*Side note: why in the he!! would they use "4 black iron pipe for a vent. That just about killed me trying to drag that chunk of pipe out of there.]
Getting back to the titles daunting task; looking up at that mess of copper pipe, drain pipe, electrical wiring, ventilation ducting and rotted flooring kept me rooted to the side of the pool for a good many days as I occupied myself with ripping out the existing bathroom above (and surrounding walls of lathe and plaster).
I finally got to a point where I couldn't go any further upstairs with all the drains and plumbing still in the way so with a handful of resolve and a healthy swig from my lukewarm Full Throttle, I grabbed my sawz-all loaded with a wood cutting bit and chewed easily thru every one of the lead pipes attached to the iron pipe (thus sealing my fate and obligating myself to replacing the drain plumbing in my home, oh yeah, and dropping a chunk of lead on my foot, of course...).
Lets talk about daunting tasks and relate them to systems in the home.
I know that if a professional plumber had come into my home, he or she would have probably looked at the situation, saw a fairly easy job and quoted me about $2000 to rip it all out and replace it with PVC and new plumbing (add another $500 to move it all to work with the rearranged bathroom up top).
I am not a professional plumber, I am a medical professional... so when I look at the situation what I see is a job that I KNOW I can do but it is a job that involves inturrupting not one but three major systems of this home, 1) Water 2) Sewage and 3) Electrical.
This is where the word daunting comes in for me, when I make that first cut, I will not be able to flush a toilet, wash my hands or any of the hundreds of other little things you take for granted when the plumbing is intact.