Author Topic: Is this a plumbing emergency?  (Read 2892 times)

fallstoclimb

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Is this a plumbing emergency?
« on: July 04, 2014, 11:34:55 AM »
Just discovered that the shower in the basement is filled with dirty water, and the toilet is empty of water but has a lot of dirt/mulch in the bowl.  We don't use that bathroom much so it's possible it's been like this a a few days.  We still have clean water coming into the house.

Potentially relevant facts:

1) I don't know how plumbing works.  I do know that (at least) once when my husband ran the garbage disposal in the kitchen upstairs, the water in the toiled downstairs jumped.

2) A couple weeks ago my husband accidentally mowed off the water cap to our water line access outside.  My dad seemed to think this wasn't a big deal so we just left it.

3) We got very heavy rain last night.

4) Last year our neighbor warned us that all the houses here had clay sewer pipes that were slowly needing to be replaced.

We have a 3-day bike camping trip scheduled for tomorrow (we were actually supposed to leave early this morning, but my husband's back forced a one-day delay).  We called the plumber but haven't gotten a response yet. 

I assume the sewer line is either clogged up or needs to be replaced.  Any guesses on which one? 

Does this mean we should cancel our trip and deal with this? (If someone can't come out today, which is after all the fourth of july).  Or can we turn off the water to the house (is that something we can do?), leave, and deal with it when we get back?


This timing is complete shit, not only in possibly ruining our trip, but because I just calculated that we might be able to finally pay off my 9K remaining in student loans next month due to some extra money coming in.  Now I'm thinking that we will need to spend the money on replacing the sewer line, and will be stuck with these god damn student loans for another fricking year. 

A daytime beer is acceptable on the 4th, right?

Exflyboy

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Re: Is this a plumbing emergency?
« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2014, 11:54:14 AM »
Daytime beer definately..:)

I assume you are on a public sewer.. First things first ask your neighbours if they have been experiencing serious problems.. The dirty water is back up from the sewer which can come from one of two ways.

1) the sewer is partially block downstream in the street somewhere.. If this is the case then at least one of your neighbours will have the same problem... The same thing could be seen if the main sewer line was overloaded with too much flow.. in which case the symptoms (i,e neighbours will see the same problem)

2) your personal sewer line (between your house and the street) is partially/completely blocked (tree roots or collapsing).. Same thing will happen if you have a clog somewhere as it goes out of the house.

Do you have standing water in the shower now? What about the toilet bowl.

If either one is empty get a hose and see if it will wash away.. I,e flow down the drain.


If you are the only one with the problem you can just valve your water off till after the holiday.

If your neighbours have the same problem than call your public works department as it is their problem.

Frank


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Re: Is this a plumbing emergency?
« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2014, 12:05:14 PM »
Caveat: not a plumbing expert.  As long as you are not operating machinery, the beer is absolutely acceptable.

It sounds to me as though you have a blockage in the sewer.  Note: depending on the cause, a blockage may or may not require sewer replacement.  For instance, if the blockage is due to what you are putting down the sewers (I hate garbage disposal - try composting instead, don't put baby wipes or sanitary products down the loo, and never, never, never put any fat or oil of any kind down a drain), replacing the sewer is not the answer.

There should be a manhole or series of manholes somewhere between the waste pipes in the basement of your house and the main sewer or cesspit.  Starting from the main sewer/cesspit end, start lifting the covers.  If one is full, the blockage is downstream of it.  If all are empty, the blockage is upstream of the last one.  Now find some drain rods, or something equivalent  (a long length of flexible/hard piping is a good one), insert into dirty water (from either the manhole or the toilet end) and push/wriggle until you get a rush of water and the blockage is gone. Wear old clothes and a pair of rubber gloves to do this. Then go on holiday with no worries. 

Mr. Frugalwoods

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Re: Is this a plumbing emergency?
« Reply #3 on: July 04, 2014, 12:24:09 PM »
Daytime beer definately..:)

2) your personal sewer line (between your house and the street) is partially/completely blocked (tree roots or collapsing).. Same thing will happen if you have a clog somewhere as it goes out of the house.

It's 90% likely this is it.

Drain systems are actually really simple.  It all works with gravity.  Basement showers are the first place to show a main line sewer backup because they are usually the lowest opening to the plumbing system.

If the line to the street is blocked then the water that goes down the drains in your house (sinks, showers, and yes, toilets) will fill up the drain pipes in the house until it finds a way out.  Bingo!  Your basement shower is the lowest hole in the drain system.

There's really only one way to fix this: snake the drain.  Hopefully you have a sewer cleanout somewhere in the basement.  That will make this easier.  If not, you can also pull up a basement toilet.  This is something you can DIY, Home Depot rents snakes.  It's nasty though.  A pro will probably charge you in the neighborhood of $200-$300 to do the job.  On the higher end if they have to pull up a toilet.

The way forward depends on what comes back stuck to the end of the snake.  If it's toilet paper and sludge... that's good news.  Switch to a cheaper, septic safe TP (means it breaks down easily) and you'll probably not have this problem again.

If the snake comes back ensnared with roots, dirt, and bits of clay pipe... then you have a larger job on your hands.  I don't have much experience here, but I know that putting a lining into old sewer pipes is becoming increasingly popular.  Might be worth doing some research into that before digging up and replacing the line.

Have a beer.  If you are going to DIY this, have a couple.

fallstoclimb

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Re: Is this a plumbing emergency?
« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2014, 07:49:10 AM »
Good news everyone!  It was just a clog. He didn't get the camera all the way thru but said from what he could see the pipes are okay, and they are cast iron, which is different from what at least some of my neighbors have (though they are original to the house). 

Heading out to bike camping now! 

Exflyboy

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Re: Is this a plumbing emergency?
« Reply #5 on: July 05, 2014, 01:17:17 PM »
Nice!

Frank