Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gilbert goes to Grainger

After the great basement flood of '10  and the largely forestalled mini flood two weeks ago,  and with Hurricane Irene possibly coming to call, we decided we needed to come up with at least a slightly better plan in the event of another sewer backup.

We're going to try  inflatable test plugs- basically a heavy rubber balloon that you put into a pipe (or toilet U bend) and then inflate.  They're typically used in new construction when the plumbing on a house is tested to make certain there are no leaks.   They put these in every drain, and then pressurize the system, and it has to hold pressure for 24 hours.

I do think that the warning tag is a bit extreme!   For the record, I'm going to risk life and limb and NOT wear a safety helmet while I put it in.   The bright orange tag might be a good clue to others that the toilet should not be used however! Note that it takes a Schrader valve, so I can use a bike pump to inflate it.  Although perhaps I need a dedicated pump since I'll be sticking it in the toilet bowl. hmmm.

The most convenient place for me to get one locally turned out to be Grainger,   which is one of those Mega-industrial supply places,  like Home Depot on Steroids.   Need a continuity tester?  Check.
Need a conveyor belt?  Check,   Need a mop and janitor's supplies?  Check.

I'm mostly familiar with their telephone-book sized catalog,  which I like to peruse when I can't get to a hardware store, but have a practical products jones that needs to be scratched.  But it turns out that they have a store about a mile away from my office, which is convenient.   There's an old warehouse/ industrial district with a working waterfront, with a lot of industrial truck traffic and a distinct smell of fish.  But they've converted the closer-in part of the area to fancy restaurants and shops,  the new Institute for Contemporary art, and a giant convention center.    So it's an odd experience-  there's a bike lane,  lots of streetlife, and then boom, you're tossed in amoung the semi-trailers.   Fortunately I didn't have to ride far through that district, but these photos give you an idea of the feel of the place:


  1. I hope these work out for you in the event of a storm backup! I also hope Irene doesn't hit Massachusetts for the D2R2 ride this Saturday! The rain I can deal with, but I just don't want there to be wind...the hills alone will be challenging enough!

  2. Grainger is cool, you can get anything through them. ;)

  3. Have you, or your landlord, considered having a back-flow preventer installed?

  4. Unfortunately the logistics of the existing plumbing (basement bath not on separate lateral, and both sides of the condo sharing a main line) a backflow preventer isn't an option. I SO wish that there was a toilet which incorporated a backflow preventer in the toilet...
    We'd have to tear out the basement bathroom completely to rejigger things, and we're not sure if it's financially worth it, although the emotional uncertainty is tough to take.
    Sump pump is going to be my project for September. There's one in the other side of the condo, but I want to put one in the boiler room, and through a series of dams(raised thresholds) and spillways (reduced thresholds) lead any possible overflow to an automatic sump

  5. Toilets designed for marine applications have integral back-flow prevention systems. One designed for freshwater usage could probably work. While expensive, it may be cheaper than semi-annual sewage cleanup.

    Toto's hatbox toilet might also offer the same back-flow prevention given that it uses an electric pump to control pressure similar to many of the marine toilets.

  6. @ Anon9:43.

    I'm intrigued by the idea of a marine toilet, but at least the one I looked at said specifically that it was not suitable for residential applications with a horizontal pipe run. I'm guessing that it doesn't use enough water to get proper flow along the pipe.
    I'll do more research, and see what I can find out- thanks for the tips!