Multiple Clogs in Cast Iron Drain Line

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by feyd83, Oct 10, 2011.

  1. feyd83

    feyd83 In the Trades

    Messages:
    14
    Location:
    Atlanta
    Hi all,

    I posted on here previously about a back-up we had that was affecting one of our bathrooms. The toilet was removed and the drain line was routed with a powered auger. That was back in mid-August. We are in a small two bathroom condo, both are on a slab with cast iron drains in the slab.

    We had another back-up today that affected both bathrooms (toilets were gurgling and draining, washing machine was backing up into shower, etc). Everything was draining slowly, and neither toilet would flush. We had the same plumbing company come out again, and we went through the same routine of removing the toilet and snaking the line. The clog was in almost the same place as last time, although this time it was just far enough to affect both bathrooms instead of just the one. The plumber said it might be catching right at a Y joint where the two bathrooms come together, but the first time it didn't get far enough to affect the second bathroom.

    He is recommending that we get a camera inspection and thinks that some of the cast iron might be "bellying" in the soil, causing toilet paper etc to build up. The house was built in 1973 which apparently seems to be the latest of the cast iron that's out there, so it shouldn't be incredibly rusted yet.

    The snaking didn't bring back any roots or other indications that the whole drain line was rotting according to the plumber.

    Just wondering what you guys think..is it likely that our cast iron is going bad at around 40 years? Is it possible this is all caused from too much toilet paper or something more innocuous? I'm wondering if maybe we ought to get some sort of cast iron pipe lining. Does this floor have to be torn up for this and is it ridiculously expensive?
  2. feyd83

    feyd83 In the Trades

    Messages:
    14
    Location:
    Atlanta
    I have one other question also..we have a ground-level cleanout in front of our house. The plumbers have told us that it is much cheaper to do drain cleaning if we have one of these, yet every time they end up saying they have to pull up the toilet. Are ground-level cleanouts just useless if the clog is somewhere inside the house?
  3. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,510
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    IF you have a "clueless" plumber, or one who wishes to create a larger fee, he will not use the outdoor cleanouts. I have cleared a blockage through the toilet maybe a dozen times in the past 60 years, but have used the outdoor cleanouts thousands of times. Going through the toilet ALWAYS costs a lot more.
  4. feyd83

    feyd83 In the Trades

    Messages:
    14
    Location:
    Atlanta
    Ok, so we had a different plumbing company out today that charged a lot less for the camera inspection. They went through the same toilet and the way I understood it is that they could not go through the cleanout because it only sweeps toward the street main line.

    I watched while they went through the pipes and they said everything looked good except that the pipes are corroded on the inside. They seem to still all be intact and there was only one or two places where the corrosion had started to take up some of the pipe. Also maybe some slight bellying but nothing too bad. No roots.

    I found out that between the two of us here we are probably flushing too much toilet paper (Charmin Ultra Strong). We could see a clump of the toilet paper stuck to the pipe in one spot on the camera.

    They have recommended that we have them do a hydro-jetting service for $500. They think they might be able to work the machine through our existing cleanout but if not then they would have to install a double sweep cleanout. That would cost $1000 for everything.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 12, 2011
  5. specialneedsadvocate

    specialneedsadvocate New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    Fort Sumner, NM
    Charmin problems

    I have an older home with what i believe is cast from house to black main line. I believe my main line is in rough shape and have cleaned it multiple times. As the weather gets colder the problems get much worse. I ran across several posts saying Charmin is much worse for clogged lines. I ran a test of my own with two bowls of water. one with ice water, one with warm water. The ice water turned the Charmin into a gooey, sticky ball. the warm water broke up Charmin. I ran test with Pom paper (from Sams club) and in ice water it became small gooey, sticky clumps.
    I have been doing experments on ways to break down the Charmin. Bleach worked by far best. Baking soda/vinegar is 2nd. salt did nothing. Anyone with ideas I would love to hear from you. I dread renting the man eating 10' section machine again.
    Now I have a clue as to why public restrooms have filthy piles of used toilet paper.
  6. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,334
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    It is my understanding that Charmin and some other expensive brands of TP are made with a large amount of rag content. I have found through my own inaccurate and unscientific tests, that the less expensive house brand TP works very well. All chain super markets have their own brand names, but it appears to me to be virtually the same quality. This may not be the total answer to this particular problem, but it is certainly worth considering.
  7. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,510
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    There is almost NO reason for cast iron pipes to "belly", but they will create stalagtites and stalagmites which are very difficult to remove and will snag paper. "Jetting the line" will NOT prevent it from happening again if that is the cause of the stoppages. Your installing plumber must NOT have been a very good one, because he should have installed a two way cleanout originally, OR there is an upstream cleanout near the toilets which the plumbers are not using.
  8. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    I second Gary's comments about the TP. My own observation...not scientific testing.....shows that cheapo scott, or kirkland from Costco, works best. The soft ones do not absorb/dissolve as well.

    On an older house, you are luck to have ANYcleanout. Not unusual in my experience to find that it is not a 2-way. Given the troubles you are having, it might be worth the expense to have a two way cleanout installed ; jetting the line can't hurt either. Maybe they would give you a package deal for that.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2011
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