Main Drain Problems

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by Button, Dec 9, 2010.

  1. Button

    Button New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    PA
    I already called a plumber to look into this but wonder what would cause my problem. I have a split level house with bathroom on 1st floor and one in the basement. I noticed the 1st floor toilet started draining slower than usual a few days ago. Then I noticed a sewage smell in the basement bath and evidence that the shower drain had sewage back up into it. When I flushed the basement toilet it barely drained, the bowl filled up then slowly drained. I figured the main drain must be partially blocked so I made an appointment for a plumber to come out next week. This is a 2nd home for me so I planned not to use any facilities until the plumber checks it. Today I noticed the sewer smell in the basement bathroom again and could see the sewage in the shower drain near the top, usually the water level is 6" down the drain where the trap must be. As I watched, the sewage rose up into the shower then I noticed the toilet leaking at the base, water level in the bowl was normal. I ended up using a garden hose to siphon the sewage from the shower drain to outside the house. So far it hasn't risen again. What would cause the sewage to back up like that when no facilities are being used? I even had the water supply shut off.
  2. rmelo99

    rmelo99 Network Engineer

    Messages:
    349
    Location:
    Connecticut
    If it isn't coming from inside the house then it is coming from outside. What I mean by that is the city sewer is backing up into the house. If what you are saying is correct in that no additional water has been introduced from inside the house I would investigate the city sewer. You can check if other neighbors have the same problem.

    Any rains lately? Sometimes older citys have combined storm and sanitary sewers that become overwhelmed in heavy rains and ends up backing up into peoples basements, especially when there is a bathroom in that lower level.
  3. Button

    Button New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    PA
    I haven't talked to the nieghbors but it does sound like its backing up from the city sewer. No rain in the past 5 days or so. Who is responsible for getting the city to look at it? Should I contact them or should my plumber do it?
  4. rmelo99

    rmelo99 Network Engineer

    Messages:
    349
    Location:
    Connecticut
    I would say you can call up the city or whomever you pay for sewer use. I would forgo a plumber if possible not to incur a charge at this point. Not really sure what he can do if it is coming from the city sewer.

    I have sewer backup protection on my Homeowners policy in case there is damage from a backup. If you have any it may be worth checking your coverage, although it sounds like you have caught it early enough. I'd say a call to the city is in order and a visit to some neighbors. Not sure of the topography where you are. I always forget since it is all flat around me, but you may be the low spot in the neighborhood, keep that in mind if none of the other neighbors are having issues. They also may have sewer lines that exit through the foundation and not below the basement floor, making them immune to sewer backups by 1-3 feet(HUGE difference)
  5. Button

    Button New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    PA
    Thanks, that makes sense. I know my basement shower is lower than the neighbors on either side by at least a few feet. What would cause the city sewer to back up and what can they do to stop it?
  6. Button

    Button New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    PA
    Wow...sewage started rising again so I started siphoning with hose to keep it from getting in the house. I tried calling the township but no one there at night. I guess I wait until tomorrow morning. Luckily there are no houses behind me and my property is on a hill, sewage will have to run down eventually to a stream about 200' away....probably not right but better than in my house.
  7. rmelo99

    rmelo99 Network Engineer

    Messages:
    349
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Hope your not starting the siphon the old school way.....yuck!

    Joking aside, be careful as sewage is very disease ridden. Wear gloves and mask, try to not touch it if at all possible.

    If there is a problem with the city sewer they may not know until someone tells them. Until then your neighbors poop is working it's way into your house. It could be a blockage in their main line downstream and everything upstream of your house is coming in.

    Take pictures and video if at all possible. Just in case things get worse, I would document the times and what has happened thus far including any attempts at calling them. They should be on the hook for fix and cleanup if it is in fact a city sewer backup.
  8. Button

    Button New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    PA
    Thanks for the advice, no damage so far. And no, I didn't siphon the old fashioned way. I filled the hose up with water and held both ends up while I took it outside and stuck one end into the outside vent/trap after removing the cover, then uncoiled the hose as I walked 50' or so downhill while still holding the end up. When I dropped te end to the ground it started flowing. This way I don't have to run it from inside the house with the door open, its about 20 degrees outside but doesn't look like it will freeze in the hose, its flowing too fast. The township recording said to call 911 if it was an emergency...I don't think this is that type of emergency.
  9. Jerome2877

    Jerome2877 In the Trades

    Messages:
    397
    Location:
    BC
    Are you certain that no water is being used, try closing the valves to your toilets if one is running this could be causing the problem. Where I'm from the home owner calls us, we go and either auger or camera the main. If its proven by camera location that the problem is on the city side they take over and you can go after them for our bill. It could be different where you are though, call the city first thing in the morning.
  10. Button

    Button New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    PA
    Yes, I'm positive there is no water being used. I shut off the main supply to rule that out.
  11. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,335
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    Here's what happened to me a number of years ago. I came home from being out of town during the Christmas Holidays to find 6" of gray water in my basement. I only had a floor drain and a washing machine drain at that time. I called the city and they sent a crew out. What they discovered was that my sewer dumped into a manhole. There were a couple of restaurants on the hill above me that also used the same main sewer. Apparently one of the grease traps had failed and a large quantity of grease had gotten into the sewer. It came a couple of blocks down the hill before it flattened out 100 feet from the manhole. When it got to the manhole, the grease coagulated and formed a ball. The ball floated up and against the outlet of the manhole and caused the water to backup into my house. The floor drain had a flapper type backflow preventer but it had collected lint and the slow rising water didn't force it closed. Since then, the city patrols this section of the sewer frequently and I have had no repeats. Might have helped that one of the restaurants relocated.
  12. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,525
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    IF it were the city sewer backing up, AND you are lower than the other houses, there is NO WAY on Earth you would ever drain the backup from the shower with a garden hose, OR that it would not come back IMMEDIATELY when someone else flushed their toilet. In addition, it would have only taken a few minutes before your basement would have been flooded to a substantial level, depending on how extensive the blockage was, and how many homeowners used their sink, washing machines, and toilets. I had one, once, where the stoppage encompassed about a half square mile. The homeowner had an "English basement" so he was the lowest house in the area. The only thing that prevented a major catastrophe for him was that he noticed HIS plumbing was not working at 11:00 P.M. I called the city and got it cleared by 3:00 A.M., before the rest of the area woke up and started using their bathrooms and showers.
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2010
  13. Button

    Button New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    PA
    I actually had to run 3 garden hoses to reverse the flow then just 2 hoses once the level was down. One of them froze up overnight and the level was close to the top of the shower drain this morning until I got the 2nd one flowing. Seemed to rise at peak usage times, 7-8am, 5-6 pm. The township sent a few guys out that didn't believe it was their issue since I'm the only one complaining. They finally pulled the manhole cover and found some blockadge that is restricting flow, they will come back to clean it. They also said I'm near the end of the line, there are 3 or 4 houses between me and the end, maybe thats why it didn't back up severely. I'm lucky to have caught it in time and started siphoning it away.
  14. Button

    Button New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    PA
    looks like that fixed it. Township said they cleared the drain and flow is normal now. Everything drains normally and no sewage backing into my lines.
  15. gary101

    gary101 New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    America
    Hello,
    I live in Toronto and I am having problems with my drain.
    The water am getting at my house is not clean and it looks kind of dirty.
    I have called a plumber to come fix it for me.
    Can anyone give me advise on how much it will cost.
  16. Will Rogers Plumbing

    Will Rogers Plumbing Plumbing Contractor

    Messages:
    57
    Location:
    Moore, Ok
    Button,

    You may want a plumber to come install a back water valve on your sewer to keep this issue from happening again.
  17. Will Rogers Plumbing

    Will Rogers Plumbing Plumbing Contractor

    Messages:
    57
    Location:
    Moore, Ok
    Somewhere between the price of a loaf of bread and the price of a battleship.
  18. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Nope! Prices vary widely all over the country and in your country as well.
    It also depends on how your house Is plumbed and how much work the plumber has to do to be able to get his equipment into the drain line.

    If I told you what we charged here I assure you it would be much higher than what you will end up paying...
    I'd hate to see you hear our price and think you are getting a good deal because you would probably be getting overcharged...
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2010
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