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  • HELP sewer/drain issue - smell and toilet flushing

    Let me start off by telling you my story of the symptoms I've discovered and hopefully you can help me pinpoint next steps....

    I recently (July 2008) purchased a bungalow in that was completely reno'd with new exterior, roof, electrical, plumbing, floors, furnace, etc I recently put in A/C and had to install a new PV Hot Water Heater since there wasn't a proper gauge wire for the A/C (and didn't want to rip up the ceiling) and the electric water heater was probably pretty old (one contractor figured 1995 from the S/N). The house is approximately 60-70 years old from what the inspector figured.

    The plumbing looks to have been upgraded to this PEX plumbing from what i gather. The drains look to be a mix of clay and cast iron and likely PVC (under tub, toilet and sinks).


    A few weeks ago I started to smell a bit of a sewer smell near the drain when I was down on the floor trying to level the new washer and dryer that I had included in the purchase of the house. The previous owner was the one doing the work on the house and he had a rough in place and I asked for washer and dryer to be installed (taps installed).

    I poured some water and javex in the drain and filled all of the traps in the basement with water.

    Also about 2-3 weeks ago (about same time I noticed sewer smell) I was trying to stop the upstairs toilet from rocking on the tiles so I was shimming the toilet and lifted up slightly so may have released the seal? Anyway I think I have solved the toilet upstairs rocking issues. At the time I had flushed the toilet a number of times in a row to make sure it was shutting off properly and noticed some sewage come out of the drain(s) downstairs - poop in the laundry drain area and water in the front drain. So perhaps this is a symptom of a blockage somewhere where I put too much water down for the drains to handle so has no where to go? (a dozen flushes to make sure upstairs toilet was shutting off when I was leveling it)



    Basement configuration consists of sink, toilet, tub in the bathroom (back corner of the house). On the other side of the tub is the laundry area. in front of the washing machine is a drain (looks to be cast iron) (where I smelled the sewer smell originally).

    In the centre of the basement is the furnace area where you have furnace, hot water heater in an enclosed room and the furnace and condensor drain into what appears to be a PVC drain in the corner.

    There is what appears to be an inside cleanout in this area as well in the laundry area between the bath/laundry wall and the furnace area on the exterior wall within the drywall (finished basement) which I take it goes up to the roof stack vent. (directly above the laundry area is my main bathroom - tub, toilet, sink).

    At the front of the basement in the living room area there is another drain (clay that looks to have been relined).


    What I've noticed is that when I run the washing machine (perhaps I haven't had enough times to ensure it is a pattern) that I was noticing the sewer smell becoming more apparent? I flushed the drains with water afterward to trying and get rid of the smell a number of times and it went away over night or I had to resort to javex.

    The basement toilet seems to flush about 1-2 times and then on the 3rd time the bowl only empties half way. Over time it seems to cure itself. I suspect this is because the sewer drains are dropping in level and I can flush again.

    I was trying to flush the drain with the drain stuff from Home Depot over the last 1-2 weeks to see if I could dislodge anything and also found one that says its okay for toilets and have tried that over the last couple of days.

    Since then I may have dislodged something perhaps as I looked down the drain and saw sludge or perhaps paper mixture at one point? Continued to flush with water, etc. Noticed more paper going by when I had the drain near the top the other night.

    I thought perhaps when I filled the tub that it was causing this flushing behavior but now it appears to be evident without introducing more water than the toilet.

    Is the toilet downstairs not flushing because there is not enough air in the pipe to create a wet vent? Is this how it works? and as a result the siphon effect does not happen because the pipes are full?


    A few days ago, I was running the water in the tub and filling buckets to dump down the drain and it was getting quite high in the drain, to the point that the drain in the front of the house was dangerously close to over filling. I had previously tried using the garden hose on full blast in the laundry drain and didn't seem to take it without running on the floor a bit but "soak" setting on my nozzle seemed to be okay (perhaps too much for any drain to take).


    At this point I called the City again to see if they could come out to look at the sewers to see if I have a blockage. I had called them a couple of weeks back when I noticed the poop in the laundry area and they said they would only come out when it is happening and I didn't know they handled this sort of thing on a 24/7 basis so called the next day (Monday).

    So when I called the City again they say that I need to check the cleanout to see if I see water pooling before they come out (homeowner responsibility).

    I asked in another forum up here in Canada when I posted a picture and they said that the pipe near the edge of the house/driveway is a fresh air inlet and I thought perhaps it was a cleanout. There is also a pipe for the downspouts that was removed previously as part of a city program to remove from the sewers. Could one feed an auger down the fresh air intake (or possibly the downspout pipe) to clean out the pipes? They said that it could lead into the house trap but may not able to angle into there?

    There is a cleanout inside the house in the basement wall pipes. Is it possible for this to have an auger run into this all the way down to the street from this clean out? or where will there be another cleanout outside? or is this one cleanout sufficient to clean to the street?

    How would you see water pooling in this wall cleanout as the city alludes? they won't clean their side unless I prove it is backing up.

    A couple of days when I came home I noticed that both drains are much lower and then I tried flushing again to the 3rd time successfully (as described above) but 4th time it stopped mid way (but seems to clear itself over time?).

    Water level in the drain is much higher again and perhaps will drop over the next 24 hours?

    What is the normal water level in the drains? How high should they be from the top?


    So what could be my issue here? Is it worth it for me to go to Lowes and pick up a drain snake (25') or is it better to put my money to a service call? Perhaps I just have something partially blocking the line. I take it I could put this snake in the wall cleanout as well and fish in there as well? Can I run the snake in the drains along with the cleanout or should it only be run in the cleanout?


    Do I have a venting issue at all? Sewer smell seems to go away especially once I have flushed water down the drains, etc (or use javex).

    As I mentioned above, do I understand how this wet vent works and that if there is too much water in the pipes that this would make it so I couldn't flush the basement toilet?

    Do I need to get a plumber in here to clean the lines of the house?

    Can I assume that the sewer line runs straight out to the street from the fresh air inlet pipe area? I don't have trees on the front of my property (towards the sewers) but my neighbour opposite (not mutual drive neighbour) has a pine tree on the front lawn but the trunk is about 20-25' away from my driveway edge (where the fresh air inlet and downspout connect is located).

    I ask about the sewer line running directly from the corner of my house to street along the edge of the driveway as it may be less likely to be penetrated by tree roots possibly? It looks like the pipe in the front sewer drain (clay) looks to have been lined at one point (white within the orange) so perhaps this was addressed previously?

    The water shut off valves (x2) look to be in the sidewalk in front of the mutual driveway (one for my house and the neighbor?) and have been marked recently since an gas contractor was digging on the street (but not on my property as I believe Gas was just installed this year as part of the reno).

    So perhaps I could rule out tree roots hopefully if the line runs directly from the fresh air inlet pipe to the street that it may be far enough away from any tree roots

    Before I call a plumber I would like to troubleshoot as much as possible. So the next steps the city is requesting is to look for water pooling in the cleanout. Apparently though, this pipe near the edge of the house is this "fresh air inlet" which I thought might be a cleanout. I guess the only cleanout that is apparent would be the one in the wall. Perhaps there is a cleanout buried outside in a house trap as one member on another forum suggested? Perhaps an auger could be run inside this fresh air inlet to dislodge anything in the house trap too?

    This weekend may give me more indication of problems if I smell the sewer smell again when doing the laundry this weekend. I'll be keeping an eye on the level of drains while this is happening.

    I also noticed it seemed to smell more after it rain the other night so I'm not sure if this is contributing to something?

    I can go buy the drain snake (25') if it will help me resolve this but may only use it once or twice (maybe more often to keep it clean)! Seemed to be about $20-35 IIRC.

    I would really like to solve this problem soon for peace of mind for sure.

    So what do you think it is? Just a partial blockage? I really hope I don't need to dig up anything.


    Many thanks in advance!



  • #2
    Re: HELP sewer/drain issue - smell and toilet flushing

    What chapter was this? O wait that wasn't a book, that was a post.
    Proud To Be Union!!

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    • #3
      Re: HELP sewer/drain issue - smell and toilet flushing

      Originally posted by Aaron91 View Post
      What chapter was this? O wait that wasn't a book, that was a post.
      What he said. Don't have the patience or maybe attention to read all of that.

      J.C.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: HELP sewer/drain issue - smell and toilet flushing

        A diy needs your help. Rick, assemble the team; Aaron, Charlie, and Kevin to the wrench mobile!!!! Da ta da! With your powers combined........anybody can be a plumber!!!! Up, up, and away.
        Last edited by gear junkie; 09-02-2008, 09:22 PM.
        Buy cheap, buy twice.

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        • #5
          Re: HELP sewer/drain issue - smell and toilet flushing

          You should get somebody to run a real drain cleaner in there. The little ones you get at Lowes would be for a single small diameter drain. Sounds like the vent might be plugged too.

          That certainly was a long post. I admit to skimming part of it myself, I think you may be overthinking everything here. Just get it all cleaned, have them run a camera if you still have issues after that.
          sigpic3:00, I mean 5:00, and work is done. Time to crack a cold one.

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          • #6
            Re: HELP sewer/drain issue - smell and toilet flushing

            Originally posted by gear junkie View Post
            A diy needs your help. Rick, assemble the team; Aaron, Charlie, and Kevin to the wrench mobile!!!! Da ta da! With your powers combined........anybody can be a plumber!!!! Up, up, and away.
            Funny, funny, funny!

            Wrench mobile is the best part.

            J.C.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: HELP sewer/drain issue - smell and toilet flushing

              sorry guys about the long post but wanted to make everything clear but not confusing.

              So you think I have a blockage then and/or a venting issue?

              Would too much water in the line (washing machine, tub, dish washer) prevent flushing of the toilet downstairs?

              What would cause the sewer smell? backflow from the street? after it rains? too much water in the underground?


              How much am I looking at to have it cleaned out? scoped with a camera, etc?




              thanks again!

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              • #8
                Re: HELP sewer/drain issue - smell and toilet flushing

                Northern Kentucky Plumbers Twitter Feed | Plumbing Videos

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                • #9
                  Re: HELP sewer/drain issue - smell and toilet flushing

                  Someone is on some serious caffeine--------question boy is here

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: HELP sewer/drain issue - smell and toilet flushing

                    ..and I thought I was asking some professionals / experts around here ("Ask the Plumbing Experts"), not getting sarcasm on my first post.

                    I realize it was a long post but thought I could provide the best details and symptoms as possible to try and narrow down what the problem is.

                    If you think it is clogged drain and/or vent then I'll call a plumber to look at it but just wanted to rule out bad plumbing, etc Since the basement may have been reno'd without a permit for all I know (I know there were plumbing permits but could that not be just for upstairs work?)


                    geesh.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: HELP sewer/drain issue - smell and toilet flushing

                      You have a partial drain clog in your main line that needs to be cleared.


                      Once you get that task taken care of, you need to smoke test that system and determine where all the leaks are inside your house.


                      Smoke will show up where the cracks/leaks are in your system and it's very possible that the wax ring is leaking gas but not water.
                      Northern Kentucky Plumbers Twitter Feed | Plumbing Videos

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                      • #12
                        Re: HELP sewer/drain issue - smell and toilet flushing

                        I think you're getting sarcasm is because most pros here aren't interested in giving free advice to some guy who just pops onto the forum for free info and then leaves.

                        A long winded discussion just petered out on another thread that could have been avoided if the homeowner had just made one call to the city.

                        Maybe that's all you need to do. Maybe a short question on a specific problem would get a better response, but it seems like you want a whole-house diagnostic for free.

                        I don't think "Ask the Plumbing Experts" was meant for homeowners with plumbing problems to get free advice, but rather for professional plumbers/drain cleaners to exchange info on challenging problems.

                        In your case, considering you just bought the place in July, I'd be going after the home inspector who checked out your place before you bought.....assuming this is what you did.

                        Don't get me wrong, there's really helpful people on this forum. Then again, who wants to sit at a computer and answer some stranger's plumbing questions for free.

                        Your house inpection should have turned up some potential problems. Get someone in to check things out - you may have some recourse legally if problems weren't disclosed from the previous owner/noticed by the house inspector.
                        Last edited by tinmack; 09-03-2008, 09:46 AM.
                        I'm on "The List" and I love it!!

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                        • #13
                          Re: HELP sewer/drain issue - smell and toilet flushing

                          HOME INSPECTORS!!!!!

                          They should be hanging by their nads next to kiddie touchers, lawyers and house flippers too!!! Those guy have zero indemnity! They are detrimental to everyone buying a home because 99% of the ones I met know nothing!!! There is no recourse because lawyers drew up everything to protect them!! try suing a home inspector becasue the day after you move in you roof caves in!

                          http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121379891241684297.html

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                          • #14
                            Re: HELP sewer/drain issue - smell and toilet flushing

                            You guys are brutal.
                            I can't count how many times a homeowner's question has been criticized for being too vague. This guy writes in and is over-explicit and you roast him for that too?
                            Originally posted by tinmack View Post
                            I don't think "Ask the Plumbing Experts" was meant for homeowners with plumbing problems to get free advice, but rather for professional plumbers/drain cleaners to exchange info on challenging problems.
                            Tinmack, advice to homeowners is exactly what this section is most used for. The professional exchange you're referring to occurs in the next section down, called: Professional Plumbing Discussion

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: HELP sewer/drain issue - smell and toilet flushing

                              Originally posted by DUNBAR View Post
                              You have a partial drain clog in your main line that needs to be cleared.


                              Once you get that task taken care of, you need to smoke test that system and determine where all the leaks are inside your house.


                              Smoke will show up where the cracks/leaks are in your system and it's very possible that the wax ring is leaking gas but not water.

                              Thanks! That was the advice I was looking towards. I just wanted some direction as to where this could be and what my next steps should be. That is, is it just a partial clog and need to get my pipes cleaned or if it could be something worse.

                              I don't know if there are any cracks/leaks but that might be something (smoke test) to try after having the line cleaned if the problem persists. I didn't notice any smell in the bathroom downstairs area, just in the floor drains (laundry area, family room - front, and once in the furnace area - perhaps that trap was dry).

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