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Don’t leave cutters in water pipes

Your Home Improvements

Posted: August 8, 2008 8:35 p.m.
Updated: October 10, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Hello Robert,
I was having trouble with my toilet and my bathtub overflowing. I rented a snake and the counter man told me to take off the toilet and snake down through the opening. I was pushing the line in and then it stopped maybe 20 feet down the pipe. I had to pull it very hard to get it back out and when it came out, the cutters on the end of the snake had broken off. Now what should I do? Would it damage anything to leave that in there?

Hello M.W.,
No, you shouldn't leave the cutters in the pipe. It sounds like you have some roots growing in your line and the cutters got hung up on those.

You say the obstruction was about 20 feet down the line. Let's say it is 20 feet, but the question is which way. That line may travel straight or it may 90. The pipe is going to have to be dug up but first you have to find where the roots are. Once exposed, remove the section with the roots which are probably getting in through a no hub band.

I would use an underground camera and locator to find the obstruction. They are about 100 percent accurate and will tell you exactly where you need to dig. As far as I know, this equipment is not available for rent. Look for a plumber that has this technology. You'll want someone with what we call a see-snake and locator. This equipment is not cheap to use but it is worth every penny. They will probably charge you in the neighborhood of $550.00 to bring those tools out for a locate. They will hook the camera up to a monitor so you can see exactly what's going on inside that pipe; or, they can just run a transmitter and when it gets to the roots and stops, the locator above ground will pinpoint its location. The camera is better because you can see everything and it takes the guesswork out of what the problem may be.

They'll probably spot paint the surface for you to show you where to excavate to make the repair.

Remember to call Dig Alert at 811 before getting started. They will come out and make sure it's safe to dig in that area. If not, let me know and we'll go to Plan B.

Hi Mr. Lamoureux,
I'm starting a very small project but have a question. I have white brick / red grout on a built in bar-b-que and want to build a white brick patio area. What kind of paint would you recommend for the white and to paint the grout red? Thank you,
Matt P.

Hello Matt,
If you're going to paint the brick, you need to do this before you set it. Any good masonry paint will do.

Make sure the brick is very clean. It's already very porous so it does not need to be etched, unless it's a glazed brick. If so, apply a mixture of muriatic acid and water to removing the glazing. This will create a better bonding surface to give the paint something to hold on to.

Personally, I would try to avoid any type of maintenance issue. You don't want to have to repaint those brick once the color wears off of them. You'd be better off buying the white brick.

As far as the grout goes, if you want red, add some red dye to the mix. The have many colors available to allow you to closely match the existing.

Dear Robert,
I serve on the Board of an HOA and we are spending a lot of money on the external appearance of our buildings. Especially under the scuppers that drain out onto the stucco. These areas are always black. The last painter said we had to paint from "wall to wall" because the paint would never match exactly. Is this true? Also, we tried to pressure wash the black streaks coming from the scuppers, but this removed the texture from the wall. Any ideas of how to prevent these costs?
Joel A.

Hello Joel,
Yes, painting from wall to wall is recommended.

First of all you need to repair the stucco. Depending on what you have - matching a sand finish or trowel finish is a piece of cake. If it's a knock down, it's a little harder but there are companies out there that have real artisans that can match any knockdown or lace.

To prevent the staining from the scuppers, run a horizontal gutter to the wall with a downspout. Paint the gutters the same color as the stucco. A lot of folks don't like the appearance of these gutters on the face of the wall, but that's about all you can do.

Besides, I think gutters are much better to look at than mold.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years' experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to


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