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Posted: 8/13/2005 4:29:08 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/13/2005 6:57:27 PM EDT by DK-Prof]
So my wife just got home to her house in Tenneessee and discovered that water has backed up into her basement.

This happened once before, as a result of a LOT of rain and a broken sump pump. However, this time it is different.

The sump pump is pumping, but the water is coming right back into the basement. The line from the sump goes into a main drain (coming from bathrooms/kitchens upstairs). The line from the washer also goes into that same drain (and connects lower on the main line from the sump).

When the sump pump is pumping however, the water comes right back out through the washer drain and ends up in the basement again - where the sump of course keeps trying to pump it out. When I asked her some questions about the toilet flushing etc, she claimed that the toilets work just fine - but when I made her look a little closer at the washer drain, she discovered that in face, anything that went down the toilet ALSO ended up in the basement - draining into the washing machine, and from there into the basement. Bleech

So - essentially, it appears that her drain is blocked, or at least not draining - and anything (from the kitchen, bathroom, sump pump, etc - that is supposed to go DOWN the drain, ends up in the basement instead).


Is this kind of thing usually just a blocked drain - fixable with chemicals like drano or a mechanical contraption like that snakey-thing that plumbers have? Or is it something more sinister?



I realize that it's probably impossible to tell from such a brief description, or without seeing it, I'm just trying to be helpful in any way I can by drawing on the awesome power of arfcom's incredible knowledge base. She's probably going to call someone to try to fix it tonight (since she's not overly fond of the thought of crapping in her basement until Monday ) - so I also wanted to see if anyone had any warnings about stuff to look out for if a plumber tries to rip her off.


As a final clarification - we THINK she is on the city sewer, but we don't know 100%. She ought to be, since she's in a very developed area (almost 100 year-old neighborhood), but her neighbors recently had plumbing problems and discovered that they were NOT on city sewer, but had a septic tank. Codes forced them to connect to the sewer line which involved digging up their yard, and tens of thousands of dollars. We hope that's not it.


So does it SOUNDS like she needs to call someone to come out to snake her drains?

Any advice (or sympathy) appreciated.



Link Posted: 8/13/2005 4:33:26 PM EDT
Sounds like her main trap is blocked, But if you have no experience with this stuff I recommend you call a plumber or Roto Rooter.
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 4:35:23 PM EDT

Originally Posted By garr:
Sounds like her main trap is blocked, But if you have no experience with this stuff I recommend you call a plumber or Roto Rooter.



I have no idea what a "main trap" even is, and since I'm 350 miles away, she'd probably need to call a plumber even if I did.

As a matter of fact, I just got off the phone with her, and she is definitely calling a Roto Rooter/plumer guy.

Are Roto Rooter a national kind of chain/franchise? Are they pretty good?

Thanks!
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 4:36:02 PM EDT
Yea, what garr said!
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 4:37:00 PM EDT
Well you are her husband, GO FIX IT.....
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 4:37:21 PM EDT
Sump pump?
Or lift pump. That just pumps to get level to your sewer/septic line.
If is a lift pump(maybe my definition is incorrect) it could just be clogged--USUALLY TAMPONS--shut it down or you will burn out your pump.

Don't understand how water is getting into the washer from the toilets. That makes no sense at all. ZIP.

Sewer v septic is a major question here.

Link Posted: 8/13/2005 4:39:11 PM EDT

Originally Posted By 1shott:
Well you are her husband, GO FIX IT.....



I offered to pay for the plumber


Link Posted: 8/13/2005 4:39:50 PM EDT
Roto Rooter

But you need to find out whether it is hooked up to a sewer line; if it is a septic tank that would be a different guy.

You have my sympathy.
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 4:40:44 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/13/2005 4:44:49 PM EDT by fxntime]
Tell her to get everything of value out of the basement or it will be ruined due to bacterial contamination, [anything porus] Get a plumber there quick, it will still be cheaper in the long run. Sounds as if the main line is plugged, or if a septic full. NO WATER should be running anywhere in the house. no toilets flushing, no taps used, nothing. If there is anything of value at all or sentimantal value get it out NOW. Right after you call a plumber. Then call your Insurance claims adjuster, I'm serious about bacterial contamination, a friend at work lost 30K worth of old antiques, TVs and all the rest of the stuff because of the same thing.
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 4:41:51 PM EDT
Rereading, it sounds like your main sewer line from the house is clogged. I'd shut down the pump.

If it is a septic system it may be FUBARED permanently. May need septic tank pumped. People often don't understand that you have to treat a septic very different from a city sewer system. VERY different.

Link Posted: 8/13/2005 4:42:38 PM EDT
YUP sounds like you have a plugged drain line to either city sewer or septic tank which ever it may be, but if she is not on city sewer and they require her to hook up to city, they will install by city or state code a back flow preventor to keep just such a thing from happening. That is a serious health hazzard. I would contact city hall and ask, if you do live in the city. County if you dont live in the city. The County should have a record of sewer hookup if she is tied into it.
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 4:43:39 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Rebel_Marine:
Sump pump?
Or lift pump. That just pumps to get level to your sewer/septic line.
If is a lift pump(maybe my definition is incorrect) it could just be clogged--USUALLY TAMPONS--shut it down or you will burn out your pump.

Don't understand how water is getting into the washer from the toilets. That makes no sense at all. ZIP.

Sewer v septic is a major question here.




I'm pretty sure it's a sump pump, since I replaced it myself a few years ago.

I imagine that the main line is clogged lower down, so when the sump pump is active, or the toilets flush, bathtub drains, etc - the water escapes out of the point of least resistance lowest on the main drain - which is the pipe that the washing machines is supposed to drain OUT of, but instead flows back into the washer. (I'm probably explaining it really badly ).

But that's probably the whole "main trap" kind of clog that garr is talking about.



ETA: She called a plumber, and he's on his way - will be there in 20 minutes. I'll tell her to mention "main trap" to sound knowledgable
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 4:43:46 PM EDT
if you're on a sewer system, it's the line to the main. needs to be snaked.
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 4:45:44 PM EDT

Originally Posted By DK-Prof:

Originally Posted By 1shott:
Well you are her husband, GO FIX IT.....



I offered to pay for the plumber






You are learning fast......
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 4:47:29 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Rebel_Marine:
Rereading, it sounds like your main sewer line from the house is clogged. I'd shut down the pump.

If it is a septic system it may be FUBARED permanently. May need septic tank pumped. People often don't understand that you have to treat a septic very different from a city sewer system. VERY different.




Pump was turned off as soon as she realized the problem.


She'll ask the guy if there's any way to tell if it's sewer or septic, but let me ask you a different question. IF she doesn't know, is there any HARM to putting the septic tank chemicals (yeast or whatver) into the drains if she really is on sewer? In other words, if she doesn't know, should she just use that stuff anyway?


Thanks for all the feedback everyone. I'll update when she tells me what happens.
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 4:52:06 PM EDT
A common stoppage in houses with an older septic tank is roots growing into and blocking the line from the house to the tank.

An easy clear with a snake once the septic tank guy is on site.

Good luck, you newlywed, you.
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 5:09:02 PM EDT
In either case, you may have to make some changes. Before the plumber arrives, have your wife disconnect the sump.

If you have a septic system, it may be ruined. Never run a sump pump into a septic system. It will fill the tanks and force particulate matter (shit & TP) out into the leaching field and clog the pipes.

Many cities/towns have severe fines for connecting sumps and drain pipes to the sewer line. If you have city sewer, sometimes you get an ass for a plumber who will report you.
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 5:10:56 PM EDT
She's in nashville, tell her to call music city sewer and drain. Cheaper and a better rep around here.
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 5:12:35 PM EDT

Originally Posted By garr:
Sounds like her main trap is blocked, But if you have no experience with this stuff I recommend you call a plumber or Roto Rooter.



That sounds so wrong
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 5:13:21 PM EDT
She didn't try and flush one of your wooden shoes, did she?
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 5:21:51 PM EDT
septic chemicals will not do anything to sewer system.

The guy who said connecting a sump pump to a septic system is a bad idea has sure got that right. That would make me wonder whether it is even a septic but Hell, see dumb shit all the time.

I am no plumber BTW but I have learned a little about septics in having one. You have to or it won't last long.
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 5:37:20 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Rebel_Marine:
septic chemicals will not do anything to sewer system.

The guy who said connecting a sump pump to a septic system is a bad idea has sure got that right. That would make me wonder whether it is even a septic but Hell, see dumb shit all the time.

I am no plumber BTW but I have learned a little about septics in having one. You have to or it won't last long.




Thanks for the info - that's good to know!


Link Posted: 8/13/2005 5:50:23 PM EDT
It's eithre a clogged main drain line (either system) or if a septic, the leach field may be clogged up with soap grease. Major mess, and time to install a new septic system.

I doubt that the sump pump discharges into a septic system, this is MAJOR bad juju. She shoul dalso install grease traps if she's on a septic system. Septic tanks don't like grease.

IM if you need more details.

Ops
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 5:55:55 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/13/2005 5:56:38 PM EDT by AROKIE]
is this a trick question?? "my wife just got home to HER house" wtf?
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 6:05:20 PM EDT

Originally Posted By AROKIE:
is this a trick question?? "my wife just got home to HER house" wtf?




Nope not a trick question at all, I will leave it to DK to explain if he wishes....
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 6:06:22 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/13/2005 6:07:30 PM EDT by DK-Prof]

Originally Posted By AROKIE:
is this a trick question?? "my wife just got home to HER house" wtf?





Not really - habit and circumstance.

Habit, because we were engaged for 7 years before we got married (two weeks ago), so it's always been "her" house in TN and "my" house in MO.

Also, since we live and work in separate states, it's just easier to keep things organized that way. Thus she has bank accounts in TN and I've got accounts in MO, and we each pay separate mortgages - but obviously it's all "our" money. For example - over the past six months, we've spent about 14 grand out of "my" account in MO for renovations in "her" house in TN.

ETA: Thanks, 1shott
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 6:08:22 PM EDT

Originally Posted By DK-Prof:

Originally Posted By AROKIE:
is this a trick question?? "my wife just got home to HER house" wtf?





Not really - habit and circumstance.

Habit, because we were engaged for 7 years before we got married (two weeks ago), so it's always been "her" house in TN and "my" house in MO.

Also, since we live and work in separate states, it's just easier to keep things organized that way. Thus she has bank accounts in TN and I've got accounts in MO, and we each pay separate mortgages - but obviously it's all "our" money. For example - over the past six months, we've spent about 14 grand out of "my" account in MO for renovations in "her" house in TN.




And so it begins.
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 6:57:07 PM EDT
UPDATE:

The guy just left, and he pulled a big ROOT out of the main line outside the house - which had grown in and blocked it.

So, everything is now fine, and even having to pay a weekend/evening rate, it really wasn't too bad.


Of course, now that there is a hole in the line, new roots will probably come in, but since we'll most likely be selling the place within the next two and a half years, I'm not sure the (large) expense of a new line (and the city's involvement) will be worth it. We'll see.


THANK YOU to everyone for advice!
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 7:37:08 PM EDT

Originally Posted By DK-Prof:

Originally Posted By AROKIE:
is this a trick question?? "my wife just got home to HER house" wtf?





Not really - habit and circumstance.

Habit, because we were engaged for 7 years before we got married (two weeks ago), so it's always been "her" house in TN and "my" house in MO.

Also, since we live and work in separate states, it's just easier to keep things organized that way. Thus she has bank accounts in TN and I've got accounts in MO, and we each pay separate mortgages - but obviously it's all "our" money. For example - over the past six months, we've spent about 14 grand out of "my" account in MO for renovations in "her" house in TN.

ETA: Thanks, 1shott



sorry bout that, congrat on that!!!
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 9:08:06 PM EDT

Originally Posted By AROKIE:

sorry bout that, congrat on that!!!




No need whatsoever to apologize - it did sounds very odd.

And thanks!
Link Posted: 8/13/2005 9:22:35 PM EDT
Where my parents live its against the law to hook the sump into the sewage system because they didn't want this situation or taxing the sewage system. That city has had a history of sewage problems brought on by their own stupidity.

The town upgraded their capacity. Then invited companies into the city which had alot of sewage output. The city also gave them a price break on said sewage service. Those companies overwhelmed the new processing plant right away forcing an emergency upgrade costing the city a huge amount of money. The companies didnt pay a dime extra.

-Foxxz
Link Posted: 8/14/2005 1:22:40 PM EDT

Originally Posted By DK-Prof:
UPDATE:

The guy just left, and he pulled a big ROOT out of the main line outside the house - which had grown in and blocked it.



I've got a problem like this. There's a big tree growing out by the curb right next to the sewer line and every few years the roots would clog up my main line and every drain in the house would back up. It was ugly. RotoRooter could clear it, but it takes 2 guys and their largest machine fed down an air vent on the roof to reach the roots all the way out to the street. Each visit was $300+.

Legally the tree belongs to the city, so I can't cut it. I could replace the old 1940's sewer line with a new one made from modern materials that resist roots better, except I'd have to jackhammer up the $12k concrete driveway I put in.

What I've been doing for the past 6 or 7 years is every few months I flush a $6 container of "Root Destroyer" crystals down the toilet and haven't had a clog since. These gravel-sized blue chunks are almost pure copper sulfate and are a terror on the roots. I cannot believe how well these work.

Sometime in the future when I have an extra $20k and nothing to spend it on, I may break up the driveway and replace the sewer line. But in the meantime I'm gonna keep flushing the magic blue crystals.
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