How Does Frantic Homeowner Come Out a Winner?

Nevada plumber rescues prized heirloom from bathroom drain.
How Does Frantic Homeowner Come Out a Winner?
The Ira Hansen & Sons Plumbing team includes (from left) Taylor Echevarria, Adam Heil, Ian Hansen, Ira Hansen, Alexis Hansen, Tracy Cobb and Steve Messmore. Ira Hansen went into the trades after graduating from high school and has been a plumber for 37 years. Ira and Alexis were high school sweethearts and are celebrating 36 years of marriage in August. (Photo by Tom R. Smedes)

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We are a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week shop, so we get some unusual calls,” says Ira Hansen, owner of Ira Hansen & Sons Plumbing & Heating in Sparks, Nevada.

One late-night call stands out as particularly memorable, when a woman said she might have accidentally washed a gold chain down the bathroom drain. Her tears quickly revealed this wasn’t any old piece of jewelry. This one happened to be valued at about $10,000.

“As I recall, it was a family heirloom,” Hansen says.

“I think she got it through her grandmother. So not only was there a financial value to it, but there was a family value to it as well.”

Above and beyond

“We went out there and the first thing we did was try to figure out which sink it might have been,” Hansen says. “We pulled the trap off and shined a light down the drainpipe. It was actually in a second-story bathroom, and we could see nothing.”

At that point, the odds of finding jewelry that has been washed down the drain aren’t good, Hansen says, noting once you hit the sewer the larger volumes from all the other piping kicks in and everything gets washed down to the city main.

“We were pretty skeptical that we were going to be able to find it, but my guys gave it a good-faith effort,” he says of sons Jacob and Daniel. “My guys could’ve said, ‘Look, you’re out of luck, lady. It’s down the drain; it’s in the sewer system. Sorry. Sayonara.’ But they went above and beyond the call of duty, in my opinion, and just kept aggressively pursuing it.”

They went underneath the house, figured out which vertical drainline dropped into the crawl space, and pulled off the first clean-out. Shining a light, they did their best to locate the chain. Although a camera would have been helpful, they feared it might push the jewelry farther down the line.

Crawling along, they found another clean-out closer to where the sewer leaves the building, pulled the cap off, shined a light in, and there was the gold chain sitting within reach. With the help of a coat hanger, Daniel was able to fish out the chain.

Quick response pays off

“She was absolutely delighted, thanked us profusely, and said she’d recommend our company to everybody,” Hansen says. “I think she kind of thought it was a lost cause to begin with, so when we were able to successfully retrieve it, it made her that much happier and more surprised.”

The timely response turned out to be beneficial, since the house had all-smooth ABS piping. One or two flushes of the toilet and it’s unlikely the chain would have
been found.

“It was probably one of our happiest, most satisfied customers of all time,” Hansen says. “It’s kind of rare when we do a service call and save somebody $10,000.”


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