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mnp13 05-23-2012 08:29 AM

Complete blockage of main line
Here's the very short version of the story:

House was purchased in 2007, built in 1873. Until this month, we had had a few very minor drain issues that cleared up easily with some acid in the pipes. The drains tend to be noisy, and occasionally slow, but nothing major. After a big family gathering (i.e. 6-8 kids in the house) we usually get a clogged toilet, but that's about it.

Three weeks ago, after making pulled pork, someone (not me) flushed a couple pounds of grease down the toilet. Things have been bad since then. Very bad. Very very bad...

On Saturday, the 19th, we had a party and a house full of people and kids. Of course, the toilet got clogged. I did what I usually do - put some bleach in it, which dissolves the huge wads of paper stuck in the line and expected everything to be ok. Things went down. Then it clogged a second time. And a third...

Here's where things went from bad to worse. Monday, the PVC joints in the basement started dripping. So we had standing water in the pipes. Ok. So I ran cleaner down from the second floor tub, which I thought would take care of it. It appeared to work, but when we ran water to flush the lines, all of a sudden water started coming out everywhere. Eventually, that calmed down and the water appeared to go down the main line.

Then yesterday, my brain fell out. When we got home, it appeared that the lines had drained. So we decided to put cleaner down again, and clear out anything remaining. I don't want to get into what's going on now, but it's an unreal, disgusting mess.

I called the town sewer people to find out where our sewer lines are. I found out that our main line had been replaced in 2000. The guy remembered it distinctly because 30 years ago when the sewer was installed, they had run it over the top of the septic system, but had used a rubber coupling to attach the house main to the sewer line. Amazingly enough, the rubber had rotted through and the pipes shifted, resulting in the back being dug up and a new main line being put in. So they knew exactly where the cleanout was, and told me where to dig. I found it and opened it up, but the clog is before it. Of course, they also ran it directly under a tree for some unknown reason.

Now, here are a few important facts to add to the mix: the kitchen sink drain connects directly to the house main line under the cement floor in the basement. There is no cleanout on that pipe. I have two three inch vent stacks/drains. One has a one inch plug at ceiling height in the basement, and at one time had another pipe attached to it at floor level, which we removed and unfortunately did not replace with a cleanout (hindsight being 20/20 and all) Though it has a rubber patch attached to it which we could puncture but that would only add to my current misery...

So... since the kitchen drain won't empty, the clog must be between where it joins the main line and the outside cleanout. If it was farther up the line, then the kitchen drain would work. We're thinking that there are likely tree roots in the main line which coupled with the events of the last three weeks have created an immovable clog. Tonight I have someone coming in to scope and snake the line which will hopefully get things moving. We're also going to dig up the line between the house and the sewer cleanout and check to see if any tree roots have gotten in.

And finally, the question: If we're digging it up anyway, it seems logical that we should replace the cast iron and put in another cleanout outside that faces in the direction of the house. Is that as straightforward as it sounds? Cut it off, pull it out, couple a piece of 4 inch schedule 30 to the cast iron and be done with it? I'm going to get a price on the guy doing it for us, but I have a feeling it won't be a cheap quote.

Yes, I know we screwed up a lot along this little adventure... let's just talk about how to fix things.... :)

TheEplumber 05-23-2012 09:01 AM

199 Attachment(s)
I suspect failed pipes in your basement or where your building drain connects to the sewer. You need an interior access in the 4" to run a camera. Once the line is cleared the camera should show you the problem. Your outside line is probably OK.
Now, I got to ask- why do you think the PVC joints in your basement leak?

mnp13 05-23-2012 09:20 AM

Why do they leak? Because when they were assembled the glue evidently didn't make it all the way around, and since this is the first time I have ever had standing water in my drains, I never knew it.

They are drain pipes, so never should have standing water in them...

TarheelTerp 05-23-2012 09:25 AM

cutting to the chase:

Originally Posted by mnp13 (Post 927091)
... since the kitchen drain won't empty, the clog must be between where it joins the main line...

If you don't already have a clean out where the water flow changes direction... now is the time to do that. While at it... replace as much pipe as is reachable even if it means jack hammering and digging to get at it up to the inside wall of the house.

The section of pipe *outside* the house (that goes to the street) is a whole other project


mnp13 05-23-2012 09:39 AM

That's what I'm referring to about replacing - the section of pipe from the outside of my house to where it joins to the sewer cleanout. It's 12 feet of cast iron, that then joins to the PVC that was put in in 2000.

When the drains are empty, I'm going to cut the kitchen drain and install a clean out there, but they are far from empty at this point.

There is no way on earth I am jackhammering out our basement floor. The sewer output is only about two feet under ground, our house is on a hill, so the basement floor is only 18 inches below grade in the back. We have 9 foot ceilings in our basement, they had to go below grade to put a full height basement in.

Javiles 05-23-2012 10:03 PM

Time to call the Plumber. Just make sure itís not roto rooter by the time they get through with you youíll need a colonoscopy,:eek: and a new house.

mnp13 05-24-2012 06:26 AM

Actually, Mr. Rooter came out. After offering to replace the entire cast iron stack ($3,000) which I politely declined, he ended up getting the cutter to round the Y turn of the outside cleanout and went in from outside. Took two hours, and wasn't cheap, but he did no cutting no water hauling and we didn't end up with any extra work.

Unfortunately, he was unable get the scope to make the same turn, so we never actually got to see the clog. However, a lot of dirt was washing down with the water long after the house lines were clear, so there is definitely something wrong with the pipe between the house and the sewer cleanout. Because 10 more feet of PVC was evidently out of the question when they did this whole thing 12 years ago...

And to make things just SO much better, the water backed up into our 1923 bathtub and the acid cleaner dissolved the porcelain right off the iron. So I now get to replace that on top of everything else.

TheEplumber 05-24-2012 09:49 AM

199 Attachment(s)
thanks for update. Why wasn't the CI pipe replaced before when the PVC was installed?
Also, earlier I asked why you thought the interior fittings were leaking. I was being a little sarcastic. :) As you have discovered, acid is tough on plumbing fixtures- as well as plastics. I have seen fittings melted by drain cleaning products-nasty stuff

mnp13 05-24-2012 11:22 AM

Sorry, I missed that. It's been a very very long week...

As for why all of the drain lines weren't replaced, because the previous homeowners were cheap idiots who cut corners and by the looks of things used scrap or cheap stuff for every step of every project.

For example - the drain line from the sink - the final two feet of the galvanized pipe is made up of one 45 degree elbow, two couplers and one union. Those pieces alone make up almost the entire two feet, the remaining is little pieces of pipe that barely can be seen outside of the fittings, (but no cleanout). Our deck is 11x13, but made of solid boards, so every piece of lumber used is non-standard and not a multiple of a standard size.

The town installed a sewer system 30 years ago. In 2000, the initial problem was found, and it would have cost a few hundred extra dollars to have the PVC put all the way to the house. But they weren't required to do that, so they didn't.

mnp13 05-29-2012 10:51 AM

The same guy who did the work in 2000 is at our house is completing it as I type this. $400. Mr. Rooter delivered the written quote today for $1,800!!

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