Sewage/Plumbing backup

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by cmc, Apr 9, 2006.

  1. cmc

    cmc New Member

    Messages:
    21
    Plumbing backup

    Hi,

    I read the thread someone else posted about a sewage backup, but did not want to take away from their question, so I'm posting a separate one.

    Please keep in mind that I know absolutely nothing about plumbing, so please dumb down your responses to me. ;)

    I had a house built 1 yr ago. I do not have a basement and the drain in my laundry room is the lowest point in the house. Three weeks after moving in, I was in the shower and heard the toilet bubbling. When I got out, I saw that water had come up from the bottom of the toilet (where the toilet connects to the floor, not in the bowl itself). I cleaned that up and then walked into the laundry room, which was flooded with water. I called the plumber...they came out and after checking the main cleanout outside, could not find anything wrong. I informed him that I've also had problems with the toilets (master bath and 2nd bath) not flushing all the time. The plumber said that since there was construction going on around my house, it could have been construction debris and that it probably won't happen again.

    6 months later, it happened again. During all that time, I was still having problems with the toilets not flushing and would have to use the plunger at least twice a week. Anyway, this time I was washing clothes and the floor flooded again. This time, the smell was awful. I called the plumber and they came out. After checking the drain where the water heater goes to, which is also where the backup is coming from, they could not find anything wrong. I asked about the toilets not flushing all the time and was told that it was common in low-flow toilets or whatever.

    Keep in mind, during all of this time, I was keeping the construction field manager of my subdivision up to date on what was happening. The plumber, however, was not informing them of what was happening.

    This past December, it happened again....3 times in a year, in a brand new house! I was in the shower, heard the toilet bubbling, went into the laundry room and it was flooded with the sewage. The plumber came out again and again, found nothing.

    Needless to say, I was NOT HAPPY, so I called the field manager and informed him that it happened again. He intervened and called the plumbing company. They sent another plumber out a couple of days later to put a camera down the line to see if there was anything they could find. They found nothing. The plumber showed me what the camera was seeing, which was water flowing smoothly down the line. He also took the camera about 30 ft into the front yard and found nothing.

    At that time, he declared that it was not the plumbing that was causing the problem, and that it might be the main sewage.

    I called the field manager again, and told him what was said. He called the plumbing company to get more details. The field manager had sent the sewage company out previously and they haven't found anything either.

    Ok, so about a month ago, I heard the toilet bubbling again, but this time, there was no backup. Since I figured it was just a matter of time, I called the plumber again. I thought maybe someone might be able to see a problem before it happens again. This time I was told that since it's not their problem anymore, I need to contact the sewer company. I called the field manager again and told him what was said and he said that we will get this problem fixed no matter what....even if it goes past my 2 yr warranty. So he sends the sewage company out again and....of course, no problem to be found.

    My toilet has bubbled about 2 more times, and luckily no backups, but I'm getting VERY frustrated. Oh and I still have the problem of the toilets not always flushing.

    Does anyone have any idea what else can be checked and what I can ask?

    I apologize for the very long post, but I thought it was important to get all of the information in.

    Thanks for any help or advice.

    - Colleen
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2006
  2. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,814
    Location:
    New England
    A couple of things...it is true thatnot all low-flow toilets are very good. But, the better ones work nearly all of the time the first time.

    You indicated they ran the camera 30 feet into the front yard, but didn't say how far it is to the street where the sewer is. There could be a problem further out. It is also possible that the line is not sloped properly; that would not show up with the use of the camera, although if the water was flowing, it is probably okay.

    When this happens, is it near the time when it has been raining? They may have combined sewer/storm sewers (unusual in a new complex) that are overloaded when it rains. They could also have a baulky sewage pump (if you need one - is your complex low compared to where they pump your sewage?).

    Do any of the other people in the complex have similar problems?
  3. Bob NH

    Bob NH In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,317
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    "Does anyone have any idea what else can be checked and what I can ask?"

    Did they run the camera all the way to the main line? If your drain was constructed with a sag or a hump in it on the way to the sewer, it could cause intermittent backup. There would be no vent and a slug of water could prevent flow from your place until the pressure builds up enough to push through. Any standing water in the line all the way to the sewer would indicate a problem with the sewer grade.

    Another problem could be if there is a break out in the vicinity of the main. Construction operations could damage the sewer. Is there any correlation between the backups and wet weather?

    Is there a pump station in the sewer system? If there is, they could be doing something with the pump station during construction that might cause temporary backups.

    Are there any other houses near you, especially upstream of you on the sewer line, and have they had any problems? Houses higher than yours are probably upstream of you on the sewer.

    I assume they have checked the vents in the house.
  4. Mikey

    Mikey Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek

    Messages:
    2,713
    Location:
    Central Florida
    Have you called your lawyer?

    You definitely want this fixed before your warranty runs out. I would get your junkyard-dog lawyer involved ASAP to thoroughly document what has happened, the attempts at remedy, etc., and put the contractor on notice that this is a long-standing defect that you expect to be fixed, warranty or no warranty.

    The low-volume toilet defense is 100% bogus. True, they often require a couple of flushes to handle the more impressive "Jeff Foxworthy" loads(see http://www.jokesmagazine.com/managearticle.asp?c=815&a=14), but should have no problems whatsoever with liquids alone.
  5. cmc

    cmc New Member

    Messages:
    21
    Hi Jim,

    Thanks for your reply!

    As for how far they ran the camera out, I will have to check with the plumber to make sure, but I believe he told me that he ran it to where the main sewage line would take over.

    As far as I can remember, it has not been happening after rain. In fact, we've had very heavy rain the last couple of weeks, and the backup has not happened.

    I've asked a few neighbors and they have not had any problems.

    I have no idea. How can I find that out?
  6. cmc

    cmc New Member

    Messages:
    21
    Hi Bob....thanks for the reply!

    I'm pretty sure they ran it to the main line, but I will double check. And I'm sorry, but I'm not sure what you mean by 'vent'. I really am plumbing illiterate, but I'm trying to learn.

    Thanks for your questions. I don't know the answers to all of them, but I will certainly ask. I'm printing this thread out and will email the information to my field manager.
  7. cmc

    cmc New Member

    Messages:
    21
    Hi Mikey, and thank you also for your reply.

    No, I haven't called a lawyer yet and I hope I don't have to. I will be emailing my field manager and calling the warranty hotline tomorrow. If I feel that I am getting the runaround from either of them, I will be calling a lawyer.

    That's what I've been hearing from other people as well. Not being able to handle the "Jeff Foxworthy" loads...lol...would be ok, but that's not the case....it won't flush at all sometimes.

    Thanks again to you, Jim and Bob for replying. You all have given me some very good information and questions to be asked.

    I will post here with updates.
  8. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    When it backs up do you have to get the line snaked or does it go down on it's own?

    If there is an outside cleanout, and if it backs up again, you need to look in the cleanout at that very moment and see if it is backed up there.

    If you can't see anything drop some pennys, one at a time, down the cleanout and carefully listen to hear if the pennys plop/hit water or just clang into the pipe. A plop would indicate water, a clang an empty pipe.
  9. Mikey

    Mikey Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek

    Messages:
    2,713
    Location:
    Central Florida
    Dropping pennies...

    Probably wouldn't hurt to make a wish as you drop them...
  10. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    I ahd a customer whith a cronic back up. When we cameraed the line there was a 50' electricians fish. It was cloging in 3-4 different places.

    I guess the electricians and plumbers werent getting along on that job.
  11. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,264
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    backup

    You need to have the camera sent all the way to the city's main line in the street, not just to where the plumber connected to it. Without being there to check the city's sewer when it happens, we cannot tell you if it is something in your line or a city problem, but a good plumber might be able to if he were there. Normally, however, if it was a city problem, unless you are the last person on the street, any problem there would also affect the neighbors and you could also have the backup without using any water in your house, so it indicates a problem in your sewer system.
  12. cmc

    cmc New Member

    Messages:
    21
    Hi Cass,

    Once it backs up into my laundry room, the outside cleanout is empty. Of course, it's usually a few hours between the time the backup happens and the time the plumber arrives.

    So, if it happens again, I will go check the cleanout immediately.

    Thanks for your reply.
  13. cmc

    cmc New Member

    Messages:
    21

    LOL Mikey! :)
  14. cmc

    cmc New Member

    Messages:
    21

    Hi hj,

    Thanks for your reply! I will mention the camera needing to go out further.

    I called the builder's warranty hotline today and they are sending out a different plumbing company on Thursday, so I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.

    To you and everyone else who replied.....thank you very much. I'm very glad I found this forum. I will let you know what the other plumber says.

    :)
  15. cmc

    cmc New Member

    Messages:
    21
    Update

    Well, since the last time I posted, I've had 2 more backups. :mad:

    It's all a very long story and I don't want to bore you, but finally I have a plumber who actually investigates. I received approval from the builder to hire an independent plumber (one that doesn't work for the builder) and they came out and think they know what the problem is.....vents.

    Unfortunately, they need it to happen again, so they know for sure and then can fix it. That's ok though....at least now, there is hope.

    On a side note, my construction field manager came over to my house to dicuss the plumbing issues and he told me what both previous plumbing companies told the warranty office......that all of these backups were my fault, and that I was doing something to cause them!! :mad: What an idiotic thing for those plumbers to say. Seriously, it's time for them to use their heads.....if I was doing something, don't they think that I might, after oh I don't know, the 2nd time, would stop it??? My field manager made a mistake by telling me that, because once this is all over, that admission, along with all of the paperwork will be included in MANY letters being sent to the builder, the plumbing companies, the BBB and anyone else I can think of.

    Those other plumbers will never get my business again, nor anyone that I know who knows the problems I've been having. One lost customer may not be a big deal to them, but word of mouth is something to be taken seriously.

    Also, I was going to name the plumbing companies in here, but thought that might be frowned upon. If it's not, let me know, and I'll post them. :)


    - Colleen
  16. cmc

    cmc New Member

    Messages:
    21
    Btw....

    Before this new plumber came out, the vents in the attic had been checked once.....that's all. That "check" consisted of him going in the attic, looking at them, and saying they looked fine. He didn't do any tests, which this new plumber did.
  17. Gouranga

    Gouranga Software Engineer

    Messages:
    79
    Location:
    Gaston County, NC
    Actually, it is a good thing your field manager told you that BUT if he were going to, I would have brought it up to the client immediately when I heard it. There are some wierd people out there which is probably why he believed you were doing it yourself (we once had a woman at McDs who would drop ice all over her hotcakes, and then bring them back saying they were cold, no idea why). I wonder with the other plumbers though, (maybe you guys can answer this) is there an approval process they have to go through for any work/diagnostics under warranty? I know with vehicles we needed to get Fords approval for ANY work. I am wondering if this is why the plumbers didn;t fully diagnose a problem. You'd think they would want to stick around all day, looking at different things to charge the warranty company with.
    Once resolved, I would definitely have an in depth discussion with the builders and demand something for this trouble. You have had to deal with backups, down time, cleaning sewage, etc. Ask them how much they would charge to come in and clean sewage out of your laundry room, or your bathroom.
    As for posting the companies name, I would not see anything wrong with it as lng as you do not post anything here that is slanderous/untrue and make clear distinctions between opinions and facts. Truthfully, I would like to know if you were in my area. However, that may be one to float to Terry. His site, his rules.
  18. cmc

    cmc New Member

    Messages:
    21
    Hi Gouranga,

    Thanks for the comments! And yes, once this is all resolved, I will be having many conversations and many letters will be sent.


    To all,

    I had to call the new plumbers out again this past Friday. The same guy came out, along with his supervisor. His supervisor was the guy he was on the phone with a couple of weeks ago, when they were saying that it sounds like a vent problem.

    The first thing out of the supervisor’s mouth this time was to ask me what kind of toilet paper I’m using. He then proceeds to go into this long explanation as to why cotton based toilet paper will cause these backups, and that with the regulations with plumbing on new construction, people really need to change their habits (ie: type of toilet paper used).

    This never came up two weeks ago…..it was all venting issues….never toilet paper. (The only mention of toilet paper was from the guy who came out, who said that I should be able to use any kind I want.)

    However, even after saying it’s the toilet paper’s fault, he installs an air relief valve on the master bath sink drain line. So which is it…..the toilet paper or the air?

    I have a couple of questions….

    1. Can the type of toilet paper being used really cause these chronic backups? Keep in mind, I live alone and I’m on city sewer, not septic?

    2. Based on your opinion, does adding an air relief valve sound like it could solve my problems?

    Thanks!
  19. Pewterpower

    Pewterpower New Member

    Messages:
    262
    Location:
    Tampa
    The more I read of this, the more PO'd I get.
    I went thru a similar nightmare with my warranty company.
    My advice to you is to DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!!!!!! No matter what he tells you, and how nice of a guy you think he is, as soon as your 2 years are up, and you are out of warranty, he is gonna wash his hands of you.......

    My brand new house leaked during heavy rain and flooded my living room several times. They would come out with a caulk gun, for the next year and a half, and assure me that even if it went past the 2 years, I would be taken care of. Sound familiar?

    As soon as my warranty was up, they stopped taking my phone calls. Six months later, my wife was on the front page of the newspaper, holding up the corner of a saturated carpet, and telling our story.

    The next day, an army of people showed up at my door to find this leak. They found it, fixed it, replaced my carpet, and painted my house.

    Moral of the story....................DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!!!!!
  20. toolaholic

    toolaholic General Contractor Carpenter

    Messages:
    874
    Location:
    Marin Co. Ca.
    this isn't going away,is it?

    insist on getting a tape of your sewer when it's camered. Be present . and have the tech do a running dialog on the footage about swales, standing water, and foot locations at suspect problems ect. you keep the tape, I'ts evedence :rolleyes: good luck Tool :rolleyes:
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