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!