Nothing makes me more motivated to solve a problem than sheer pissed-off-ness. So yesterday after supper, thoroughly mad and frustrated about this whole shower drain situation, I resolved to fix it myself. By that time, the standing water had finally drained out of the shower and I was really tired of taking baths and waiting on a no-show plumber.
I reasoned that if it was cold enough in that bathroom to freeze the bathmat to the floor and for a crust of ice to form on the kitties' water bowl, then there was probably some frozen water in that shower drain. So I braved the basement. I took with me the space heater that has three settings: Scorching, Death Valley, and Hubs of Hell. Because there are no outlets in the basement, I ran an extension cord from the kitchen down into the basement and connected it to the space heater in the crawlspace where the water pipes are. I didn't see any burst pipes or a flood of water in the basement, thank God, so I set the space heater on Hubs of Hell and left it blowing hot air onto the water pipes. Then I set two big pots of water to boiling on the stove. (I would've set three big pots there, but Reed still has my biggest stock pot, darnit. He's lucky, considering the snit I was in last night, that I didn't call him right then and demand it back.) Next I got out my trusty hand-cranked snake/auger thingy and ran it down the drain as far as it would go. It came back up with little flakes of ice hanging on the end of it. Theory confirmed. The next hour or so was a cycle of boiling water, then snake, then more boiling water. When I started seeing glop on the end of the snake instead of ice, I knew I was making headway. Another hour or so of snaking, a couple applications of baking soda and vinegar followed by more boiling water (thanks, Kate!) and then the drain was clear. Hooray!
I believe the cause of the clog was a giant ball of glop somewhere about 15' or so down the drain line. The drain has run slowly for some time. However...I think what completely clogged the line was ice forming around the glop. That ice was caused by several days in a row of single-digit temperatures and, to put it bluntly, that it's too damn cold in my house.
So how do I keep the drain from clogging up again? Well, to prevent the glop, once a week or so I'll do the baking soda-vinegar-boiling water thing. Easy peasy. To prevent the ice, I bought one of those oil-filled radiators (thanks, Christine!) to set in the bathroom. It has a thermostat and will cycle on and off, unlike the space heater I've been using in there. When I'm gone, I'll just leave the door open between the back porch and the rest of the house to let more of the warm air back in the unheated part of the house. That should keep the back porch warmer, at least above freezing. Hopefully that will work. If not, I'll have to break down and use that wall furnace after an HVAC guy checks it out. I'm hoping not to have to do that since the wall furnace runs on natural gas and will be expensive. It occurs to me though that natural gas for the rest of the winter costs less than a plumber's bill if the pipes freeze and burst.
And speaking of plumbers, as of 12:29 p.m. today I have neither seen nor heard from the plumber I called more than 24 hours ago. I guess Jan's right that the economy must not be as bad as we think it is.