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Old 04-03-2011, 04:28 PM   #1
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This old house's plumbing fiasco


Howdy, folks...

I bought a 1914 'American craftsman' style house in NW WI about 2 months ago. Got it on the cheap so to speak... I grew up in an old house (1886) across town, and inherited a love of old houses. Dumb me.

I got lucky in that the house was rewired in '97 (pretty well) and replumbed (except for the 2nd floor bath) with copper at the same time. The galvanized supply run to said bath isn't corroded shut yet (phew).

Anyway. Long winded. In '97 they built this (pics) along the basements west wall. Left to right, dryer, washer, laundry sink, vanity, toilet, shower. The pipe above the dryer on the left goes to the kitchen sink/dw. The pic of the PVC pipe between the joists runs 15' to the stack (which runs up to the 2nd floor bath then thru 3rd floor to roof). I'm assuming this is supposed to be the vent for that entire wall.

Here's the rub: flush the upstairs toilet, the upstairs sink burps. Drain the upstairs tub, the basement sinks burp. Loudly. When the washer drains, the kitchen sink gurgles loudly. The 2 last pics show the 'vent' tie in to the stack, and the 'trap' under the sink. There is no other vent associated with the sink or that whole wall.

We get 40-50mph gusts (I am 0.5 miles from Lake Superior) and when it does the water in both toilet bowls moves a bit with the gusts. So I'm kinda guessing the roof vent is clear. There is a sewer cover in the floor 2 ft from the stack in the basement. Outside the foundation there is an old downspout drain in line with that cover (nothing connected to it, open to air). I'll get a pic of that later.

So, where should I start? I know I need a real vent for that wall of fixtures, and that wall will need to be taken down to see what all was done. One 1.5-2" PVC can NOT be an okay vent for a toilet, let alone everything else, right? I've been reading old threads for a few weeks, getting what info I could before posting. Sorry I blabbered on so long. Thanks in advance!
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Old 04-03-2011, 05:10 PM   #2
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This old house's plumbing fiasco


That plumbing was not done by someone with experience.

Can you tell if there is a vent near the toilet? Is the only vent that 1 1/2 " pipe above the washing machine?

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Old 04-03-2011, 05:24 PM   #3
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This old house's plumbing fiasco


That pipe above the dryer (top left of top left pic) goes to the kitchen sink. The pipe between the joists is about ten feet over from it. That pipe (laterally between joists) is the only vent (and from what I've read it would be a "wet vent"?) for that whole setup. I'll try to draw a schematic for what I know. Thanks!
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Old 04-03-2011, 05:29 PM   #4
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Sidenote: I plan to live here for a long time, so I want to make sure whatever I do, I do right. I don't have much money, but if I need a professional, then a professional I shall get. I have lots of elec experience (installed wind/solar systems for 5-6 years, lots of wiring, hi and lo voltage) but not much with plumbing. I know a lot of terminology from reading, so I think I can keep up in that regard...
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Old 04-03-2011, 05:33 PM   #5
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Plumbing is not rocket science---There are some top pros here and a lot of experienced homeowners --

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Old 04-03-2011, 05:43 PM   #6
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That's why I joined up... You folks have the best site out there without a doubt!
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Old 04-03-2011, 09:05 PM   #7
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This old house's plumbing fiasco


That's a 'S' trap under the sink. Ever had a sewer smell from that area?
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Old 04-03-2011, 09:53 PM   #8
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This old house's plumbing fiasco


Actually, no, not that we've noticed. And I'm pretty sure the wife would've said something if she noticed. Ive paid close attention to it, esp when the washers draining...sounds like a loudspeaker at some points of the drain/spin cycle.
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Old 04-03-2011, 10:46 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VIPlumber View Post
That's a 'S' trap under the sink. Ever had a sewer smell from that area?
s traps are not code any more they can siphon themself empty and let sewer gas into the house. that cap on the floor looks like it is a 6" cap, probably a backflow valve. I would start with a experienced service plumber with a sewer camera to inspect and diagnose the system. try to avoid the large multi state franchise corporations they usually have inexperienced high pressure sales technitions
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Old 04-04-2011, 09:03 AM   #10
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This old house's plumbing fiasco


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Originally Posted by plumberinlaw View Post
s traps are not code any more they can siphon themself empty and let sewer gas into the house. that cap on the floor looks like it is a 6" cap, probably a backflow valve. I would start with a experienced service plumber with a sewer camera to inspect and diagnose the system. try to avoid the large multi state franchise corporations they usually have inexperienced high pressure sales technitions
I agree. I think the gurgling sounds may have something to do with a blockage or other problems in the building sewer. Have someone run a camera down the line from the house to the city main.

It's hard to tell from your pictures, but there appears to be other problems as well (As someone else mentioned the S-trap). Also I'd be concerned with the structural integrity of the 4" cast iron stack. Why is it wrapped with duct tape?
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Old 04-04-2011, 09:12 AM   #11
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The duct tape I'm not sure on. I did unwrap it and there's nothing of note under it. It was all torn up and it looked like the previous owner had cats in the basement and dogs upstairs. Looked like a scratching post almost. Ha. It doesn't weep or have any moisture, no smells in the basement, etc. The plumber I had come in to inspect the boiler originally pretty much told me the draining in the house was messed up. But like I said, 2100 sq feet in a nice neighborhood with a lake view for what I paid, I'm ready for updating. Thanks again...keep the ideas coming. I'll call a plumbing company I've used before and see about checking the main line.
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Old 04-04-2011, 05:49 PM   #12
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I'm going to pop the cover off the deal next to the soil stack and see what's going on there...it measures about 16" diameter. My folks had a similar setup in their basement.
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Old 04-05-2011, 07:04 PM   #13
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Bummed to the max! While tearing up some carpet to check the condition of the hardwood floor in the 2nd floor hallway found that my house has apparently settled around my soil stack. It takes a 90 degree bend from vertical to horizontal then a 45 towards the bathroom. The 90 elbow is pushing against the floorboards enough to be noticeable. It seems that this is going to get more interesting.
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Old 04-05-2011, 08:03 PM   #14
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Off topic, but that flex tubing you're using for the dryer as a vent should be rigid tubing. That flex stuff is for bathroom vents.
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Old 04-23-2011, 10:02 PM   #15
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Update: I did change the flex on the dryer to rigid metal. I got copies of work orders from the local utility, as they updated the water and gas mains under the street 2 years ago when they tore up the street out front. Here they tend to run water and gas from the street out front and run the sewer line from the back of the house to the alley. They did replace the water and gas feed lines to the house as part of the project, along with everyone else on this block and the next few up and down the street. I thought it was odd that the pipe from my basement wall to the meter looked so shiny new. The sewer planning is all done by the city not the local utility, they've been slower getting back to me. I have the utility coming out sometime this coming week to mark all my lines (I'd just like to know where they run).

As for the house, I've been busy shoring up the 'temporary' adjustable columns in the basement, and had a friend in the renovation business take a look at the beams in the basement...previous owner cut part of one out to make more headroom at the bottom of the basement stairs :-(. That needs to be taken care of, he thinks it's a likely source of the settling around the soil stack.

I'll try to keep this thread updated, with pictures, as I plod along on the plumbing...it's been busy with the kids starting sports and whatnot. And with me trying to fix up the garage enough to make some cash on the side. Thanks for taking the time to read...

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