Cincinnati Plumbers: Take My Money, Please!


The sewer camera is controlled by a Wii, I think.

Warning: Not for the easily grossed out.

Two plumbers ran a camera scope from the clean-out port in my basement out toward the main; both said I had a blockage. I refused to believe it.  After all, I’ve had no backups, and the toilet keeps working.

So I called the Metropolitan Sewer District, and they ran a camera up from the other end, and crossed well beyond the point of the alleged problem. No blockage; just a little bit of what we’ll delicately call “sludge” and standing water behind it in a flat area of the line. The dye we dropped down one of my toilets came flowing out the other end in good order – and was a lot prettier than what usually comes out there, I’m guessing. (Note: Thanks MSD! Everyone there is incredibly responsive, kind and helpful.)

Allow me to show off my drawing skills. (And now you know why I use SketchUp.)

Allow me to show off my drawing skills. (And now you know why I use SketchUp.)

What we did discover, though, is that my line (which doesn’t appear on the MSD map), connects to my neighbor’s line underneath his house, then runs out the back into the alley. MSD’s best guess is that what the plumbers hit is the edge of the Y-shaped pipe that connect the two lines. And there’s also a floor drain tying in on the stem of that Y from my neighbor’s basement. Gotta love old houses, old neighborhoods … and old sewer systems.

So, my potential buyers (yes, we’re still under contract) want the line cleaned, just to make sure there are no problems hidden under the “sludge.” Sounds reasonable.

But my neighbor is out of town; I don’t want to force water at a high psi down the pipes until I can get into his basement to cover up that floor drain. While it’s unlikely that the water and “sludge” will travel upward 4′ or so through that narrow pipe, I really don’t want to chance having to clean his basement of who knows how many years of “sludge” – only 13 years of which is my “sludge” (which makes it no more easily stomached).

But it hardly matters. I can’t get a darn plumber to call me back. I’ve had five – FIVE! – calls out since last Thursday. Nothing. I fail to comprehend this non-responsiveness by a business. Why does no plumbing company want my money, and for what I understand is a fairly simple procedure?!

In the meantime, weather permitting, the roof and gutter work is supposed to commence on Friday. And I hear the appraisal is supposed to be sometime this week.

This better not all go down the drain.

About fitz

Woodworker, writer, editor, teacher, ailurophile, Shakespearean. Will write for air-dried walnut.
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16 Responses to Cincinnati Plumbers: Take My Money, Please!

  1. Oh, but as I understand it you want things (sludge) to go or pass down the drain? But, I do pray that “All’s well that ends well”, so be it!

  2. Sue your neighbor for being gross. Haha. Afterall, he must be the reason for the blockage.

  3. toolnut says:

    Maybe you can rod the line instead of the high pressure water option. That way, you wouldn’t need to wait for your neighbor to get back. Have them use the big bit.

    • fitz says:

      I’m afraid that won’t get things over the joint — that said, the joint is in a more downwardly angled area, so maybe. Of course, I’d still need one of them to actually call me back!

      • toolnut says:

        Usually they will have you flush the toilets and run water while they rod. If the blockage is before the Y, the bit should loosen it and the water from your home will float it past the Y. Be worth asking the plumbers.

  4. Andy McConnell says:

    Smoke bomb down the hole….call Cincinnati’s finest……red truck shows up, dumps 1000 gallons a water down the hole….clean as a whistle!….easy peasy

  5. Don Newman says:

    iIhave always had good service from Tarvin Plumbing, a family run business on Eastern Ave,(513) 321-5726.

    • fitz says:

      Thanks Don (One of them finally called me back this morning…but if they flake out, well, I have a new recce!)

  6. Jeremy says:

    I tell every high school kid I can to forget college, and take the training to be a plumber. In my area, they are always in demand, charge what they want and if you had an ounce of business sense (like maybe hiring someone to answer phones) you can practically print your own money. Most customers glow if they get the work finished in 6mo or less

    • fitz says:

      A plumber, a roofer or an electrician. I’ve had a devil of a time finding any of the three w/time and inclination. (That said, nothing wrong with college if that’s what one wants to do!)

  7. J.C. says:

    TradesMEN are sometimes otherwise engaged with other pursuits like, well, never mind the recriminations but it is a vexing problem when business is good how a ringing phone is to ignore. When times are tough, they sit and stare at the thing wondering why it doesn’t. Go figure.

    Fortunately, I have a decent plumber, electrician, drywaller, resilient flooring guy, roofer and a mason. It’s only taken me thirty years of homeownership [and frustration] to cultivate them.

  8. bsrlee says:

    A friend’s workshop was next door to a large “plumber’s” shop for some years. It was basically a radio despatch centre with extras, they also had a few ‘depots’ in other parts of the city. You rang one number, half a dozen (at least) staff there to answer calls, jobs were listed, put on computer and the nearest free crew were given the job by radio – negligible travel time, customer is happy because he’s not paying for the plumber to drive across the city, job gets done soonest – notice how most plumbing maintenance jobs are a rush job like ‘There’s Eeewww Yuck bubbling out of my drain/toilet/shower – fix it’ along with no hot/cold water, new fountain in the garden – that sort of stuff – which is probably why Megan gets pushed to the back of the list.

    The owner no longer had to do jobs, he had about 20 crews doing the dirty work, he just drove around in his flash car, kids in top schools, laughing.

    The veteran plumbers I spoke to liked it because they got paid promptly every week, no chasing delinquent bills, adequate staff for big jobs like entire high-rises, company car/truck.

    There was even a wall at the head office for new apprentices – one of every type of toilet flush mechanism commercially available hooked up to water and drainage – they had to disassemble and replace parts in all of them before they were let out on the street – seems trade school only taught theory and basic mechanical skills, not how anything actually worked.

  9. alanws says:

    It reminds me of the contractor’s card from Dave Barry’s “Homes and other black holes” that reads something like:

    30 Years Experience — Quality Work
    Fully Bonded and Insured
    Free Estimates — Reasonable Prices
    “We never Show Up”

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