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Grease Vault/Trap on 50's House

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  • Grease Vault/Trap on 50's House

    My house is a 50's brick ranch in Denver, Colorado. I have been told that it is likely that it was built with a grease trap/vault in the backyard. I was advised to take off the trap in the kitchen sink and flush the basement toilet if I can hear water then there is no trap/vault. Consequently if I can not hear water then there is a trap/vault. I removed the trap from the kitchen and upstairs bathroom sink and then flushed the basement toilet many times. I am fairly confident that I hear water in the bathroom drain and NOT in the kitchen drain. Based on all of this I have a few questions.

    1 - Is there a more reliable method of determining if there is a trap/vault?

    2 - If there is a trap/vault what are the consequences? I am planning on tearing out the basement and replacing the plumbing, updating the old galvanized. If the house has a trap/vault does it require attention? I have been told it needs to be removed and bypassed. I have also been told that it is fine and requires no attention.

    One final note - this is my home and I plan to live here a very long time, thus I am interested in the correct fix, even if it is the one that I do not want to hear.

    Thanks to all for any advise you have.
    Sean

  • #2
    Re: Grease Vault/Trap on 50's House

    Originally posted by ffsquints View Post
    My house is a 50's brick ranch in Denver, Colorado. I have been told that it is likely that it was built with a grease trap/vault in the backyard. I was advised to take off the trap in the kitchen sink and flush the basement toilet if I can hear water then there is no trap/vault. Consequently if I can not hear water then there is a trap/vault. I removed the trap from the kitchen and upstairs bathroom sink and then flushed the basement toilet many times. I am fairly confident that I hear water in the bathroom drain and NOT in the kitchen drain. Based on all of this I have a few questions.

    1 - Is there a more reliable method of determining if there is a trap/vault?

    2 - If there is a trap/vault what are the consequences? I am planning on tearing out the basement and replacing the plumbing, updating the old galvanized. If the house has a trap/vault does it require attention? I have been told it needs to be removed and bypassed. I have also been told that it is fine and requires no attention.

    One final note - this is my home and I plan to live here a very long time, thus I am interested in the correct fix, even if it is the one that I do not want to hear.

    Thanks to all for any advise you have.
    Sean
    In my experience grease traps are unusual, nearly unheard of in a residence; I have found them, with one exception, exclusively in restaraunts. However the listening test you have done makes sense, and your results (if you trust them) indicate that something is between the kitchen sink line and the main line, and that something could well be a grease trap.

    Someone with a small camera may be able to get it into your sink drain line and push to either the trap or the main line, whichever it connects to, and identify which you have. Success will depend on the type and size of your drain pipe and what kind of camera they have. Galvanized drain lines will make it difficult, if not impossible. A flushable transmitter is a device typically used to locate septic tanks; it may be usable to locate your trap, assuming you have one, but is designed to go through a 3" or 4" line, and may well hang up in your smaller kitchen sink line.

    Your lack of sound is not to me conclusive; your line could well be partially obstructed from the 50-odd years of use or could have a low spot or other obstruction to sound. If use of a camera is not possible due to size/type of pipe, I would suggest jetting the kitchen sink line and watching/listening through a pulled toilet or a cleanout on the main line. If you can push a jetter nozzle (or a snake cable) thru from the sink line and see it in the main line, perhaps with a camera, there is no trap; the nozzle won't go thru the traps I am familiar with. Less certain would be hearing the jetter in the main line... similar to your listening-for-the-flush test, but in reverse. If you have a cleanout and a helper, you can talk into the cleanout (or a pulled toilet, or a wet-vacced out trap of a toilet) or the hole for the p-trap under the sink and see if your helper can hear you at the other end. Again I would say hearing is a certain no, but not hearing is not a certain yes on the existence of the grease trap.

    If there is a trap, it presumably would have been installed such that it could be accessed for maintenance... a lid typical of what I see in restaraunts would be a rectangular steel diamond plate set flush with the floor, maybe 18" x 30". Do you have such a plate anywhere in your basement floor? Ask whowever told you to suspect a trap what it would look like and where it would commonly be located; I am unfamiliar with a grease trap in a residential setting (in fact, I'd tell you straight out you were crazy but I haven't dealt with any 50's houses in Denver so I don't really know). This other person apparently has seen this before.

    Consequences; put enough grease down your kitchen sink without cleaning the grease trap and it will eventually plug up. This is true of any sink, but with a trap in the system you probably cannot clear the eventual clog without access to the trap. In a restaraunt, a trap needs pumping every month to every couple of years depending on size of trap (some are huge...1000's of gallons) and usage. In a residence even a small 20 gallon trap would likely last decades without service.

    I would not spend a great deal of effort to remove or bypass the trap if you find you have one. I would just clean it out once because it's probably never been done, and keep it accessible in case there is ever a problem.

    -Alex
    This is my reminder to myself that no good will ever come from discussing politics or religion with anyone, ever.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Grease Vault/Trap on 50's House

      Thanks for getting back to me. These traps are very common in the neighborhood that I live in. Many of my friends have houses in the same neighborhood and consequently also have the traps. Believe it or not here in Denver the presence of such a trap is somewhat common knowledge. Currently the trap, if I have one, is not cauising me any problems. The sink drains very well and everything works well. According to other residents in the area there is a cover and it has often been hidden by the application of sod and grass. One neighbor told me that he had to have his cleaned and the guy simply searched around the back yard until he found the clean-out. I am slowly arriving at the conclusion that I should leave it alone as long as it works and if need be have it cleaned out.

      Thank for the insight

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Grease Vault/Trap on 50's House

        Originally posted by ffsquints View Post
        My house is a 50's brick ranch in Denver, Colorado. I have been told that it is likely that it was built with a grease trap/vault in the backyard. I was advised to take off the trap in the kitchen sink and flush the basement toilet if I can hear water then there is no trap/vault. Consequently if I can not hear water then there is a trap/vault. I removed the trap from the kitchen and upstairs bathroom sink and then flushed the basement toilet many times. I am fairly confident that I hear water in the bathroom drain and NOT in the kitchen drain. Based on all of this I have a few questions.

        1 - Is there a more reliable method of determining if there is a trap/vault?

        2 - If there is a trap/vault what are the consequences? I am planning on tearing out the basement and replacing the plumbing, updating the old galvanized. If the house has a trap/vault does it require attention? I have been told it needs to be removed and bypassed. I have also been told that it is fine and requires no attention.

        One final note - this is my home and I plan to live here a very long time, thus I am interested in the correct fix, even if it is the one that I do not want to hear.

        Thanks to all for any advise you have.
        Sean
        Do you have a sump pit in the basement? If you do that test means nothing.
        the dog

        Comment

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