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Southlake_Ed 11-06-2007 01:54 PM

Help me check my logic on clogged drain and overflowing toilet
If you're willing to read through the info below and let me know if you think I have analyzed the situation properly I would be grateful.

-Son used LOTS of "flushable" baby wipes in upstairs toilet.
-Soon after the downstairs toilet overflowed when a bathtub upstairs (in a different bathroom from the son's toilet) was emptied.
-Panic ensued, all use of upstairs bathrooms was stopped, and we cleaned up the overflow from the downstairs toilet
-But now the downstairs toilet won't drain at all.
-I used a 25 foot 1/4" hand powered snake on the toilet and retrieved 1 baby wipe. Toilet still would not drain.
-Later same night when we ran the washer, the downstairs toilet overflowed again.
-Now since we are cautious we have avoided another overflow but we can tell that the toilet will overflow if any of the following are used on the downstairs level: washer, bathroom sink next to problem toilet, laundry room sink, dishwasher, or kitchen sink.
-After about 4 hours, the toilet that overflowed will have a completely empty bowl
-final interesting fact: master bathroom on far side of house on ground floor (same level as the toilet that overflowed) works fine. We can use the toilet, the bathtub, and the shower with no problems at all. The master is also in a one-story area of the house....the upstairs bathrooms are all directly over the downstairs bath/kitchen/laundry room

MY DIAGNOSIS: Partial Clog of the main drainline in the branch that services the upstairs and the main part of the downstairs (toilet that overflowed and kitchen/laundry). The clog has to be downsteam of the washer which is the last thing on the line before it goes outside. But the clog has to be prior to the place where this branch of the main drain line joins the branch from the master. The final line to the sewer must also be clear since the master works fine (even when emptying the oversize tub).

QUESTION #1: Does this sound like an accurate diagnosis?

I have opened the cleanout in the garage which is directly behind the washer and used the same 25 foot snake but no improvement. This cleanout is at waist level which is higher than the level of the downstairs toilet so no water is in the cleanout when I open it. But if I leave it open and run the washer, when the washer empties after the wash cycle, soapy water will come out the cleanout and soapy water shows up in the bowl of the downstairs toilet. Unless I stop the emptying of the washer after about 30 seconds, the downstairs toilet will fill up and overflow. It then takes about 4 hours for the toilet to empty.

My plan now is to rent a commercial snake at about 100' length and see if I can clear the branch of the mainline.

There is a U-shaped "house trap" out in the flower bed at grade about 18" from the foundation. I am assuming this trap is downstream of where the two branches of the drainline come together, right? I estimate it to be about 40-45 feet from the cleanout in the garage on a straight line basis.

Any suggestions helpful. I am a little leary of taking the plunge on a commercial snake, but i am not ready to call a plumber when I have a reasonable degree of confidence in my diagnosis and we have a workable situation for a while with the one working bathroom.


Concordseeker 11-06-2007 03:20 PM

I had a similar problem in college in my basement apartment. 5 floors of apartments bubbling up through my toilet. It was a root growing through the main over 250 feet down the line. It took more then a few visits from a plumber to fix the problem. I hope yours is easier.

Mike Swearingen 11-06-2007 04:48 PM

NOTHING goes down a toilet except normal human waste and toilet paper made for the purpose. Period.
Baby wipes, feminine products, paper towels, etc. will clog up the line and never should be flushed.
Your thinking seems right on to me.
I would rent a heavy duty 100' plumber's snake and snake every line that I could from the house to the main line and street. If that doesn't do it, and they have sectional drain pipe (like cast iron, ceramic, etc.) then there are probably roots involved and you'll need to "roto-rooter" the problem.
However, the latter will only last for 1-2 years and the roots will return. If roots are ever the problem in a sectional drain line, only replacement with solid "glued" joint white plastic PVC or black plastic ABS will keep them out.
Good Luck!

Handy1 01-11-2009 10:21 AM

Your diagnosis sounds correct to me. The only thing I question is when you snaked the cleanout from the garage, were you sure that your snake went downstream towards where the clog would be and not upstream towards the washer.

The toilet takes 4 hours to drain because the wipes are letting the water past, just slowly.

As mentioned, there's probably a root coming through the pipe, which would be what caught the wipes. When you get the snake from the rental place, make sure you have an auger bit, not just a spring. You'll need to cut through the root so it won't catch anything else. It will grow back and like mentioned it will be an issue again eventually until the pipe is replaced or the tree/shrub/whatever is removed.

I would go in through the garage cleanout with the big snake. Just be certain that it connects to the pipe with a Y and not a T. That way you know it's gong downstream and not turning upstream.

Good Luck!

majakdragon 01-11-2009 11:06 AM

I think your problem is in the main, close to the toilet that had the wipes flushed. 1/4" snake can easily go through this material and then the hole closes back up. You really need an auger, not a snake. I am guessing that the tie-in from the other toilet is past the clogged line.

user69906 01-04-2010 08:41 PM

Clearing a Clogged Main Sewer Drain
Ed, if you have a household pressure washer there's an alternative to a mechanical drain snake that can clear a clogged main drain faster.

Thurman 01-04-2010 08:53 PM

I'm thinking along "dragons" line, the baby wipes are not really down the line yet and your small snake is going over/under them which give a false sense of a clean drain. I'm also in favor of a larger snake with an auger attachment to really clean out the drains, particularly any drain lines which are beyond the walls of the house. "Paul D." has a good idea, if you have a pressure washer. See my answer to "ice clogged vent", or something like that just ahead of this post. I use this attachment and am pleased with it. IF you do use an attachment like this, remember to clean from as far as you can get the hose into the line, and do not start at the open end of the line. This method washes all of the "goo" towards the other end of the line, which hopefully is open. Good Luck, David

DUDE! 01-05-2010 05:21 PM

although all useful information, Ed hopefully fixed this by now, posted over two years ago

user69906 01-05-2010 06:57 PM

Help me check my logic on clogged drain and overflowing toilet
Ed may have fixed his plumbing problem, but since he posted his question there have been over 5,000 views by others looking for a solution.

Scuba_Dave 01-05-2010 07:47 PM

Pulling up a 2 year old thread to advertise is generally a good way to get banned
Do this again & that will be the result

tpolk 01-05-2010 07:52 PM

is that your happy face dave? :laughing:

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