Above-Floor Grinding Technology
By Tony Bara
A New York plumbing contractor was convinced to try a new approach to an old problem, and it paid off.
Sometimes taking a leap of faith can produce unexpected positive results during the decision-making process. Although it’s often tempting to tread in familiar waters and go with what you know, breaking out of that comfort zone and trying something new could quickly render the old ways obsolete.
It’s a lesson that plumbing contractor Kerry Root of 2 Guys Heating, Plumbing and Air Conditioning in Barton, N.Y. learned firsthand on a job. His clients, Ellen Conti and Jack Cook, had a recurring problem with their macerating toilet system, located in their home’s basement.
The couple had bought the existing home in Endwell after moving into the area to run a jewelry business. Root was originally hired to handle some necessary plumbing and heating work when the macerator in the downstairs bathroom began to malfunction.
A macerator is used in above-floor plumbing applications where the fixture is below the drain line. It employs rotating cutting blades to liquefy the waste and a pump to impel it up to the drain line. In this application, the couple had the macerator serving not only the toilet, but also the sink and shower in a full-bathroom application.
Unfortunately, this particular macerator proved unable to effectively break down the waste. “The man of the house regularly smoked a pipe and would flush the ashes down the sink,” explains Root. “This, in conjunction with shaving cream, toilet paper and all the other waste going down different drains proved too much for the macerator’s razor-thin blades to handle.”
Worst of all, this wasn’t the first time the couple’s macerator failed. A few months prior, Root dealt with the same problem. That time, he simply replaced it with the current system. Now, tired of costly callbacks and faced with a frustrated client, Root was dead set against installing another macerating system.
Giving it another shot
Root’s plan to permanently resolve the couple’s above-floor plumbing problems was to dig through the concrete and install a sewage ejection tank and pump. “I knew it would be much more costly and labor-intensive, but I also knew it would work because I had done it before,” Root says.
A timely meeting with Troy Morgan, a sales representative with Empire States Associates, however, forced Root out of his comfort zone. “Troy provided me with a good boiler on another job, so I trusted him,” notes Root.
But even trust could not initially make Morgan’s proposed solution to Root’s above-floor plumbing woes appealing. Morgan’s cure-all? Another macerating system.“ I told him he’s got the wrong pump,” recalls Morgan, before recommending the Sanibest Pro grinding system from Saniflo.
Saniflo originated macerating and grinding technology in the late 1950s and operates through 24 subsidiaries in 50 countries, having sold more than seven million units worldwide.
The Sanibest Pro comes equipped with a heavy-duty grinder that can easily handle the accidental flushing of sanitary articles, such as feminine products, baby wipes, dental floss, condoms, etc. The pump can discharge waste up to 25 vertical feet and 150 horizontal feet.
Morgan assured Root that this grinder would easily handle the ashes and other waste that were clogging the couple’s existing macerator, which was designed for lighter use.
Root took a long time to convince. “Everyone always tells you that their product is the best and the fix-all solution, so I’m always skeptical, especially in this case when I had just dealt with not one, but two failed macerating systems,” Root says.
Again, Morgan emphasized that this was a powerful grinder that could handle what the couple was flushing down the drain. Root also knew that his default plan of digging a sewage pit would be reliable but extremely costly. Realizing how desperately the couple sought a working solution for their basement bathroom, he finally decided to give the grinder a try.
“I was still very reluctant and skeptical going in,” says Root.
Facing the power of the pump
Root obtained the grinder from IRR Supply Center in Endicott and undertook the installation during Oct. 2015. Still unconvinced of the unit’s reliability on the day of the installation, Root got to work. “I just didn’t trust it and couldn’t help but wonder how many callbacks I would get for this grinder,” he says.
His epiphany came as he was connecting the grinder to the various fixtures and mistakenly activated it. “I had temporarily used a paper towel plug to keep water from leaking during the installation. When I accidently activated the grinder, that wad of paper towel shot several feet across the room. At that point, I knew this product would work,” he laughs.
The installation was extremely simple and took only one hour because the grinder connections were similar to that of the existing macerator. Root installed the grinder in front of the wall, although it is possible to install it behind the wall, using an extension pipe. The only challenge involved the proximity of the coupling to the wall, which created tight working conditions for Root and was a result of the prior installation.
In terms of cost savings, there was no comparison between choosing the grinder over the underground pump, according to Root. “Installing an underground pump would have cost at least five hours in labor to tear up the concrete and seal it back up. In addition, quarterly maintenance would have totaled up to $600 annually. By installing the grinder instead, the couple saved around $1,500.”
Third time’s the charm
Since the installation, Root has received no call-backs from the couple regarding the grinder. “The macerating system has worked just fine since Kerry installed it,” Ellen Conti says. “Looks like third time’s the charm.”
This success has caused Root to become a passionate proponent of macerating technology. “It’s the best I’ve seen,” he says.
He admits that many professionals in the plumbing industry remain skeptical of grinding and macerating technology. “A lot of guys are used to doing things they know and aren’t willing to adopt something new, fearing that it won’t work,” he explaind. “What they don’t realize is that installing something new, like this grinder, can save time, money and the nastiness of potentially having to clean up malfunctioning plumbing equipment.”
Now a convert, Root hopes to help other plumbing contractors see the light and consider above-floor grinding technology when applicable. “I would highly recommend it to anyone facing the similar challenge of having to install plumbing below the drain line,” Root says. “Take that leap of faith like I did.”
Visit www.saniflo.com l