My Unsuspected Meeting With Mr. Hankey

I came to St. Louis last Friday to visit family and attend the upcoming FinCon 13 conference, yea!  I got a call from one of my tenants at my four family flat, which is located in St. Louis and she let me know there was a foul smell coming from the basement.  Great, I had had this problem in the past, I immediately knew what needed to be done; the sewer drain was blocked and needed to be snaked…Again!  Since I was in town, I figured I would swing by, check out the situation and while I was at it, change the filters on the furnaces.  When I pulled up, my tenant, Carol rushed out to forewarn me that she had been down there and that I may be overcome by the smell, and even worse, the sight.  It was almost as if she was embarrassed by what I was about to see.  Parents cover your children’s ears this one’s PG 13!  

I almost passed out!

I walked in the back hallway and immediately noticed the foul odor, I knew I was in for one of those moments when you wish you hadn’t invested in rental property!  I walked down the stairs looked to the left; nothing.  I then shifted my eyes to the right and there he was, in all his glory, there among the shredded toilet paper: Mr. Hankey… And about 8 to 10 of his friends, I immediately took my shirt and covered my nose and mouth with it,  I felt my eyes tearing up, I almost hurled!

I was flustered, what do I do?   I had no shovel, no gloves, and I feared getting to close would really make me throw up, and then I would have another mess to clean up! I rifled through the trashcan and found a box and a plastic sack,  I quickly tore the box apart to use two pieces as a makeshift shovel, and one by one emptied Mr. Hankey and his friends into their new resting place.  I then had to eradicate the remaining odor, so I borrowed some 409 and a broom from Carol, poured it on the affected areas, and let it sit.  A few minutes later, after I stepped outside to get some fresh St. Louis air, I grabbed my hose, drug it down in the basement and let’er rip.

Ahhh, minty fresh, I could breathe again!  Then reality set in, I knew I had a big, recurring problem, Mr. Hankey would rear his ugly head in the near future if I didn’t do something besides put another bandage over this issue.

The Aftermath

I knew I had a problem, this is the second time in a year I had to snake the sewer line.  I called Roto Rooter, they cleared the line, then went in with a camera to see the extent of the damage (man, that camera has a tough job).  Anyway, come to find out, about 25 feet of sewer is randomly blocked by roots which was causing Mr. Hankey’s posse to build up.

The building is 85 years old and apparently this root compromise happens frequently to old galvanized sewer drains, Arrgh!  So, I asked Roto Rooter if they had any plumbers who work directly for Roto Rooter.  Bingo, they did, so they provided bid #1.  I contacted my property management company, asked them which contractors they routinely deal with, and if they could provide a bid.  They provided bid #2.  Then I scored Bid #3 from a friend of a friend who happens to be a certified plumber.

The Result

I am currently scheduled to drop $3800 for a new drain and 25 feet of new Schedule 40 PVC pipe underneath my basement floor.  Yep, they have to jackhammer the old floor up, tear out and replace the old galvanized pipe, then sew’er back up with new concrete.  This is $3800 I never planned on having to spend, luckily this building is cash flow positive to the tune of $800 per month so I have a little cushion.  This my friends, still hurts, to have to drop that amount on something that I will really never even see.  So, once I get this fixed correctly, Mr. Hankey and his posse, will have nothing to hold up their path to browner pastures!


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  1. Oh, man. Good on you for dealing with the situation. It’s something that had to be done. Do you think you and some buddies might be able to handle renting a jackhammer and doing that work yourself? You might be able to cut the cost way down if you do the manual labor, and let the plumbers properly set the pipe.

    • Jim says:

      Thanks Done By, well that is a great idea, never worked a jackhammer before, though. I am sure the PVC is pretty cheap, so the real cost has got to be the labor. Would be a bit nervous that I make a bigger mess than I am already in, but may be worth the time investment. Will keep you posted!

  2. Glad you gave Mr. Hankey the old “heave ho”, Jim. 🙂 I am now officially uninterested in using real estate as an investment opportunity 🙂

    • Jim says:

      Dont hate it yet, you can always have a property manager handle all the smelly problems. This investment has been good over the years though, and I hope it is after this is all cleared up. Thanks Laurie!!

  3. Martin says:

    I am still not quite sure what I read… 😀 All I can say is I am glad Mr Hankey is gone and I also enjoyed the reference to South Park.

  4. Mr. 1500 says:

    Holy shit (pun intended), this just happened to me as well. I did battle with Mr. Hanky in my crawlspace just last week and the cause was roots too. I rented a rooter and tried to do the job myself, but the rooter wasn’t strong enough to cut some of them, so I had to have a pro come in. Here is my nasty story:

    I had taken the cover off of the drain cleanout and was watching as the guy snaked it. As soon as the snake got to the cleanout, it sprayed me with the mess. I was covered in it. SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO nasty!

    In any case, instead of replacing my pipes, I am going to treat them with RootX every year. I did some research and it supposedly does a pretty good job of taking care of the roots,

    • Jim says:

      To funny Mr 1500, sorry you had a similar experience wouldn’t wish it on anyone, especially a fellow PF blogger! Will have to look into that RootX, that is very interesting, maybe I need to use that every year as well!

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