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Old 03-16-2013, 03:35 PM   #1
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sewage smell and and history of backup in floor drains


This house is new to me, though 60 years old. I'll try to give a basic description of what I know of the relevant parts of the plumbing and then describe my problem.

The house is situated on a hill, with the city sewer line down front at street level. The house is set back up the hill maybe about 75 feet. There's some sign that a portion of the main drain line from the house to the street has been replaced, as there is a white PVC cleanout and vent cap in the front yard. At least I'm assuming that's a sign of recent line replacement.

In the basement, I've got 2 floor drains. Near one is a utility sink, which the washing machine drains into.

I've got 2 issues with the floor drains: first is that when we run several loads of wash, a slight backup will occur at the floor drain nearest the washer/sink. The second is that we have a recurring sewage gas smell coming out of the floor drain that is further away.

The backup got particularly bad 2 weeks ago. If we ran more than 1 load of laundry in a row, laundry water would back up onto the floor, making about a 3-foot diameter pond around the drain for a while before slowly subsiding. I tried snaking from that floor drain with a 50-foot manual snake and didn't hit any big obstructions. All I fished out was a dryer sheet and some goop.

Since we have a home warranty, I decided to pay $60 and make a claim to get a plumber out. A local plumber was dispatched -- 2 guys showed up with a 75-foot powered snake. First they tried snaking from the cleanout outside in front of the house, didn't hit anything, and said they extended enough line that they should have gone clear out to the city line.

Then they came in the house and snaked from the floor drain that backs up. This time, after a LONG time (the guy running the snake said he was about to give up on finding anything), they hit what wound up being some small roots with a clump of hair. The perplexing part here is that they were near the end of their 75' snake when they hit this, but the distance from the drain to the exterior cleanout (which they'd already snaked) shouldn't have been that far. It makes me wonder if they just somehow missed this obstruction from outside, or the layout of the line is really weird, or I don't know what. Also, if the exterior line had been replaced, then where are roots coming from?

The guys told me that once they hit roots, per the terms of the home warranty they have to consider their job done. We tested a load of wash and it went down with no signs of backup, so I crossed my fingers hoping they'd eliminated the entire problem.

No such luck -- when my wife runs multiple loads of wash, we still get a small amount of backup when the washer drains. Not nearly as bad as before, but still happening. And the other floor drain still sometimes emits a sewage smell. I go down every few days and dump a few gallons of water down, which seems to help, but obviously that's not enough. It seems that drain dries out especially fast, as every time I encounter the smell and go look, the water level is no longer visible. Also, I think I can actually feel a breeze coming out of that drain.

My guess is I've still got some amount of obstruction somewhere. I think that could account for the line not being able to drain multiple loads of wash quickly enough. Could that also explain the foul air coming out of the other drain? What should my next move be?

Thanks in advance,
Jeff

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Old 03-16-2013, 04:18 PM   #2
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sewage smell and and history of backup in floor drains


Hi Jeff

I suspect that the lateral that runs from your house out to the sewer main was not completely replaced. If you go out to your yard and look, you may be able to see a linear depression where the old pipe was dug up and backfilled after installing a section or two of PVC pipe. The roots the so called plumbers hit probably grew since work was last performed. If you cant see anything during the day, go out there at night with a strong spotlight, and place it down at a low angle. That really makes depressions, and irregularities show up. You should be able to run the camera down the cleanout.

I can tell you one thing, the last thing that you want to do is throw dryer cloths, swifter clothes, or disposable wipes (That really arent) down the toilet. You mentioned that they drew one out of your system. If you have even small roots growing in your pipe, these will catch and block up the works.

Any plumber that says he has to quit if he hits roots does not deserve to be called a plumber, in my opinion. You may want to get a camera down that lateral and see what you have. You could have still have some Orangeburg or Clay pipe if that house was built in 1953.

If you put up some pictures of the outside and inside, and the basement we may be able to guess the year pretty close.

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Last edited by jagans; 03-16-2013 at 04:23 PM.
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Old 03-16-2013, 04:27 PM   #3
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sewage smell and and history of backup in floor drains


If the plumbers got roots back with the snake,you have a problem and the best way to find it and fix it is with a camera to pinpoint the problem.
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Old 03-16-2013, 05:06 PM   #4
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sewage smell and and history of backup in floor drains


Here's a first round of pictures, showing the position of the cleanout and vent in front of the house, and taken from another angle to show how far set back from the street. I opened up the vent to make sure it was clear -- it's a long way down, too far for my iPhone camera to capture, but I could see sudsy water down at the bottom. Is that in and of itself a sign of a/the problem? I'd have expected to see dry pipe running horizontally.
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Old 03-16-2013, 05:17 PM   #5
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sewage smell and and history of backup in floor drains


Here are pics of the inside. First is the washer/utility sink setup. Next is the floor drain closest to that, which is where the backups occur after multiple loads of wash are done. Next is the drain a bit further away, which is where the sewer gas smell comes out. Lastly is a perspective shot that shows the stinky drain in the foreground, the washer drain in the background, and a blue arrow I drew into the picture pointing towards where the cleanout would be outside in front of the house -- I'm guessing those drain lines join like a Y somewhere and somehow a diagonal path is taken out through the foundation.
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sewage smell and and history of backup in floor drains-photo-1.jpg   sewage smell and and history of backup in floor drains-photo-2.jpg   sewage smell and and history of backup in floor drains-photo-3.jpg   sewage smell and and history of backup in floor drains-photo-4.jpg  
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Old 03-16-2013, 05:42 PM   #6
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I'm guessing that the usage of a camera would mean I've got to call a (better) plumber with the equipment & expertise to do a camera line inspection?
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Old 03-16-2013, 06:10 PM   #7
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What city are you in?

Judging from the looks of the vent pipe in the picture with the washer and the style of floor drain I would say the house buiilt late 40's, early 50's.

As far the odor, make sure you keep the drains fed with water. Dump about a cup or two of water down them once a week if they do not receive any other water.

Rick
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Old 03-16-2013, 06:31 PM   #8
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[QUOTE=jeffzap;1138744]I'm guessing that the usage of a camera would mean I've got to call a (better) plumber with the equipment & expertise to do a camera line inspection?[/QUOTe


Absolutely find a better plumber,sometimes the yellow pages will tell you if they offer that service.
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Old 03-16-2013, 06:33 PM   #9
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Get a professional plumbing and drain company JUST MAKE SURE ITS NOT ROTO ROOTER! call around get quotes on inspecting the line and locating the problem, then get the estimate for the repairs, you might find one that will wave the camera charges if they do the repairs,
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Old 03-17-2013, 07:57 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by bcgfdc3 View Post
What city are you in?

Judging from the looks of the vent pipe in the picture with the washer and the style of floor drain I would say the house buiilt late 40's, early 50's.

As far the odor, make sure you keep the drains fed with water. Dump about a cup or two of water down them once a week if they do not receive any other water.

Rick
This is North Strabane, in Washington County PA south of Pittsburgh.

I pour water down the drains every other day. There's something funky going on with the one further away from the washer, in that I'd have to almost constantly feed it water to keep that smell at bay. Something almost seems to be sucking the water out of it.
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Old 03-17-2013, 08:21 PM   #11
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Hydro jetting guy. i use to have mine done like you did. Power rodding. But then went with hydro jetter guy. No problems since. Finally i think they just installed a clean-out in front yard. Nothing more. My hydro jetting guy also told me power rodding usual the blades only opens up to 4 inch. So with 6 inch pipe there would still be roots hanging down. Not to mention those pipes probably have years of scum caked on them. Hydro jetter will scour them clean.

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Old 03-17-2013, 08:42 PM   #12
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Hydro jetting guy. i use to have mine done like you did. Power rodding. But then went with hydro jetter guy. No problems since. Finally i think they just installed a clean-out in front yard. Nothing more. My hydro jetting guy also told me power rodding usual the blades only opens up to 4 inch. So with 6 inch pipe there would still be roots hanging down. Not to mention those pipes probably have years of scum caked on them. Hydro jetter will scour them clean.
Jetting is great but do not use it on orangeburg pipe or you'll be digging up your yard. A jetter will disintegrate OB
Get a camera down there first.
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Old 03-17-2013, 09:20 PM   #13
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This is North Strabane, in Washington County PA south of Pittsburgh.

I pour water down the drains every other day. There's something funky going on with the one further away from the washer, in that I'd have to almost constantly feed it water to keep that smell at bay. Something almost seems to be sucking the water out of it.
what do you see at the bottom of the drain when it's dry? someone may have merely installed an elbow and not a trap.

as TheEplumber said, scope it out ...... then you'll know what's wrong and what is needed to fix the problems

Good luck!
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Old 03-17-2013, 09:49 PM   #14
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Hi Jeff,

I hate to tell you this, well maybe not, but my dad built his house in NJ in 1948 right around when yours was, and I would be willing to bet that all of you interior Galvanized drain pipes are mostly clogged up. They are galvanized steel and they corrode from the inside. I would be willing to bet that yours are nearly shut off from scale and black muck. Your main soil stack and closet bends are probably 4 inch cast Iron, so they should be fine. The vents should also be OK

I replaced all of my dads galvanized drain lines quite a few years ago due to this. My sister lives in the house now and I was tired of her always having an emergency when I was visiting during the holidays, as I live in MD. It is time for you to replace those lines. You cant get to the floor drains so just delete them. Put in a test plug and fill with cement.
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Old 03-18-2013, 12:29 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffzap View Post
This is North Strabane, in Washington County PA south of Pittsburgh.

I pour water down the drains every other day. There's something funky going on with the one further away from the washer, in that I'd have to almost constantly feed it water to keep that smell at bay. Something almost seems to be sucking the water out of it.
Hey neighor! I am in Pittsburgh so we are not far and looks very similar to my house's plumbing.

The house I grew up in and my house were built in 1950. My parents and I moved into the house I grew up in when I was 1 year old in 1974 and at some point prior to that the basement drains were dug up and replaced for some reason. About ten years ago I purchased and moved into the house next door and noticed the same concrete patches and path in the basement as my parents house assuming they had the same drain replacement. I recently had an issue with some drains in my basement and had to dig up the basement floor from the bathroom stack to the mainline. I found that the bathroom stack was cast iron and tied into a basement toilet that was terra cotta pipe that ran over and tied into the, I assume replaced, mainline that is now cast iron. I found when I was digging in the basement that the old terra cotta was put in what appeared to be backwards. I found an old terra cotta wye that was placed backwards from where the main exits the house which is why I assume they had to replace it. Not sure if when building the house the builder changed where the mains tied in or something.

My parents passed away and there house is now being sold by the bank but they recently replaced the mainline to the street and when it left the house is was a 4" cast iron tied into a 6" terra cotta that then ran to the street.

Sorry for the long post but I hope something in there helps. I think the camera is the best way to go. I briefly thought of having mine camera'd but didn't think it would tell me anything I didn't alread know but I was quoted a price of $150 for the cameraing.

Rick

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