Sippican Cottage

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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Interestingly, ‘Sewer Pipe Diamonds’ Is the Name of My Brewer and Shipley Tribute Band. But I Digress

Cover me; I’m going in.

So we had this plumbing thing on the run once it went Sploosh. We were all jazzed up on Ferncos and plastic plumbing and fumes. Ferncos require you to give them a clean end to attach to. Don’t misunderstand. Clean is just an expression. Even if you bought everything brand new, by the time you’re done mucking around in the ground, it’s all dirty. Like an HBO series, our only obligation is to make sure it remains a certain kind of dirty.

We can’t allow the pipes to get filled with dirt, or rocks, or anything else the sewer won’t like. Our problem begins with the fact that our plumbing predecessors busted up the pipes pretty good to work their micturating magic and poopy prestidigitation. The cleanout featured in this picture was sheared off at a very funny angle. Ferncos don’t do funny. The pipe would have to be cut off squarely.

I rented a pipe breaker along with the drain auger. The moment I asked for it at the rental place I knew I was making a mistake. If the pipe is out and about, you can wrap the chain around it and perform the required lever action with its big handle. The chances of all that being possible in a ditch are vanishingly small. Home Depot had my Plan B on hand, however: Sewer pipe diamonds.

I have a sawzall. It’s a lower-case Sawzall. A real Sawzall is made by Milwaukee Tools. I have a Porter Cable version because it was ten cents cheaper or something. The blades are interchangeable, and so is the tool, really. It’s a reciprocating saw that’s perfect for demolition, and for deboning large prey and unwary door-to-door salesmen. I bought a blade with no teeth. It had a frosting of industrial diamonds on the business edge. It’s great for cutting through glazed clay sewer pipe. The pipe is really tough, like baked concrete, so you don’t want any teeth. You want to abrade your way through it. It’s like dinner at a nursing home.

The sheared-off end of the cleanout pipe would be buried more than a foot deep if we didn’t extend it. We needed to cut it off square so the Fernco would slip over the end and transition to a length of 4″ plastic pipe. We had a Fernco end cap to finish it off for now. I’ll put a fitting with a cleanout on it later.

I took a piece of twine left from the packaging of the drain pipe and tied it to a rag. I stuffed it in the pipe and stepped on the loose end of the twine. Then I sliced off the clay pipe cleanly. If this had been any of the jobs I’ve ever supervised, the plumber would have explained to me that he had broken the pipe, the shards of pipe went down the drain, followed by the rag, trailed by the twine, and could he have his check please, it’s almost four in the afternoon. Because I am totally unqualified to be a plumber, the pipe was cut cleanly, we threw the cutoff pieces aside, and we pulled the rag out and threw it away. Very far away.

The Fernco went on the clay pipe without any fuss, and the plastic pipe was easy to cut with a metal-cutting blade chucked into the lower-case sawzall. Top it off with the rubber cap, and throw the soil back in the hole to support the pipe. Done deal.

The other end was going to be interesting. That’s the end where the main, vertical house drain went down into the floor and took a ninety-degree turn towards the opposite wall. This transition had been made with a “Tee” fitting instead of what’s called a “sweep.’ A sweep is just an elbow with a longer radius. The idea is that the, ahem, solids would get to the bottom of the pipe and get a head start on heading down the horizontal run of sewer pipe under the floor. I can never see a picture of the tubular slide at a water park and not think of a plumbing sweep. You know what that makes the swimmers. In case you’re wondering, I don’t go to water parks.

The extract of a drunkard’s nightmare plumbing setup couldn’t be salvaged. That made things easier, really. From about eye level to two feet below the floor, we nuked everything. We pulled out the busted Tee fitting. That’s when the craziness of my plumbing predecessors really came into focus. A Tee makes a crummy sweep. Everything lands at the bottom of the pipe, and it can cause a logjam, if you will. It was bound to cause trouble, and it obviously did as the decades rolled by. Everyone tried everything but something smart to deal with it.

Whoever dug it up back in the mists of antiquity must have broken the bell on the Tee, rendering it leaky forevermore. The Nobody’s Looking Plumbing Company, Inc, then proceeded to break or lose the plug that fits into the end of the pipe to turn the Tee into a crummy sweep. The Nobody’s Looking Plumbing Company then checked to see that nobody was looking, and fashioned a circular plug out of a piece of a 3/4″ pine board, and stuck it on the end of the clay pipe. Brilliant.

[to be continued]

6 Responses

  1. "Up in that room I decided that I would write one story about each thing that I knew about. I was trying to do this all the time I was writing, and it was good and severe discipline." — Hemingway.

    There's a book, and a popular and appealing book,– a book that will sell — to be written out of all the Maine Family Robinson essays….. Not a book of fiction or short stories but a book about own "This Oldest Almost House." And then there's the movie and reality TV show.


  2. Up here in Canada we have some rhyming plumbing rule about how a Tee may not lie upon its back, but a Wye may.

    Is it possible that your evil Tee was an honest Wye?

    Before you permanently bury your Fernco, check if it came with stainless steel clamps. If not, Fernco makes stainless steel clamps ( while the Fernco elastomeric PVC will last forever ordinary steel clamps will not.

    Vanderleun is right. I particularly like the Dickensian cliff hanger endings leading into the next chapter.

  3. I was giggling for a while about the Nobody's Looking Plumbing Company Ltd.; I worked at the Think They'll Notice General Contractors Inc. for a while under Mr. T. "I'm Not Lying to You Right Now" Kolis.

  4. I was gonna donate but but then I'm cheaper than a suit you would buy so…I bought your book instead.

  5. I sent youse guys some Jack, but he sent me a smoke signal that he got hisself lost. Bummer, that bum is.

    My wife watches the DIY channel on fixin' up houses. Like Leuny sez, you could have one heckuva show there.

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