Toilet won't flush.. Not clogged.

Discussion in 'Toilet Forum discussions' started by Randy Strye, Jan 12, 2014.

  1. Randy Strye

    Randy Strye New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Michigan
    So I was taking a shower today and I heard the toilet starting to bubble. Afterward, whenever the toilet is flushed, the water won't go down and the bowl just fills more and more... then it will slowly drain down to nothing. Any following flushes result in the bowl filling then slowly draining down to nothing again.
    Any ideas? Thanks in advance...
    -Randy
  2. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    2,066
    Location:
    IL
  3. Randy Strye

    Randy Strye New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Michigan
    of course, that's the first thing i tried.. hence "not clogged"... the water will go down if i pour water into the bowl quickly... so again, it's clearly not clogged
  4. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    2,066
    Location:
    IL
    I thought you may have meant not totally clogged.

    Open the tank lid. Flush. Hold the flapper open until the water drains. Do you get a good flush then?

    Also, try filling a bucket or plastic waste basket with water. Hold it as high as you dare and dump the water into the bowl rapidly. Does the toilet flush vigorously?
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2014
  5. SteveW

    SteveW DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,052
    Location:
    Omaha, NE

    Seems to me the key is the toilet bubbling during the shower -- suggests to me that your main drain downstream from the toilet is at least partially blocked.

    Are you on a septic system or city sewer?
  6. Randy Strye

    Randy Strye New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Michigan
    septic...
    and the house is on a cement slab.. no basement, no crawlspace.. i have no idea how to access anything below the tub or toilet
  7. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    21,889
    Location:
    New England
    Your description of what's going on doesn't seem consistent.

    For a toilet to bubble while taking a shower implies there's a main line partial obstruction. If it were total, the shower would back up. WHen you flush the toilet, it tries to dump a lot of water fast, then stops. If it goes down, as you said, the blockage is not complete. But, you still have a blockage somewhere. Since it does drain, there is at least some room in the pipes for some water to be added when you flush. If, after not draining anything or flushing, you then try to flush the toilet, if the clog is a ways away, the toilet may flush, but a second or third try within a short time may fail since what was there has not had a chance to drain away yet. How many flushes could give you an idea about how far away the clog is.

    If liquids, but not solids will flush in the toilet, then that implies something caught in the trapway that is allowing the liquids to pass by, but when there are paper and solids, they get caught up on the obstruction. Common ones are a comb, pen, pencil, crayon, small toy, etc. Those probably will not be removed with a plunger...you may need either a toilet auger, or to pull the toilet and then try to remove it.

    SO, sort of sounds like you have more than one problem.
  8. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    2,066
    Location:
    IL
    Had your septic tank pumped lately? You don't want to neglect that, or you could plug your leach field.
  9. Randy Strye

    Randy Strye New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Michigan
    all the other drains in the house are fine. when i flush the toilet, nothing goes down and the bowl fills as if it's plugged. if i let it sit, it slowly drains down to nothing. if i take a large bucket and pour water directly into the center of the bowl, it will go down for the most part.
    so it's only the toilet that's giving me trouble

    define "lately".. i've lived here between 3 and 4 years and i haven't done it yet.. not sure about before i lived here
  10. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,889
    Location:
    New England
    The toilet bubbling is saying something else!

    But, you have the classic symptoms of some object caught in the trapway that will allow liquids to pass, but slows them considerably when toilet paper and waste try to get by. A plunger will NOT (usually, anyway) resolve that. You need something to either break it up, or catch it and pull it out. IF a toilet auger doesn't do it, you may need to remove the toilet and go from that end.
  11. Randy Strye

    Randy Strye New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Michigan
    i will see what i can figure out on that..
    the only other strange thing i've noticed is that when i plunge the toilet, you can hear it in the bathroom sink and water kind of sprays out of the drain..

    thank you for your input
  12. SteveW

    SteveW DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,052
    Location:
    Omaha, NE
    Again sounds to me like something blocked downstream.
  13. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

    Messages:
    2,066
    Location:
    IL
    "for the most part" Normal would be to go down fast, though it might leave the bowl low.

    3 or 4 years is pretty typical to need pumping, but that varies according to your usage. Figure about $200 depending on local variations. It is good to do this well before there are any symptoms. Consider asking your neighbors for a recommendation. I think the independent owner operator tends to be the better choice. Ask him for advice too.

    I agree this problem is probably not related to a full septic, but I really would get the cleanout anyway.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2014
  14. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,816
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Or find a truly reputable septic company to come and pull the lid off your tank and see what's in there. If the county came out to test it, they would stick a device in that would measure the depth of sludge in the bottom, the depth of cleanish water in the center of the "sandwich" of schmutz (sludge on the bottom, scum on the top), and the depth of the scum layer. When the middle layer is narrower than optimal (or the sludge is above optimal), time for a pump. They will also measure on the "cleaner-ish" side of the baffle, where the cleanish-water flows. There will be a small amount of sludge on the bottom of that side, and there should be no scum. If the scum layer is deep enough that it's flowing across the baffle, then that's another reason to pump.

    If they are honest, they will tell you the truth. If they are not, the worst they will do is tell you to pump it. If it's properly-sized for your residence, pumping after three or four years is a good practice. We do ours annually-ish, because our City will pay for one pumping a year. We would probably do it every two years otherwise. Having been through the process of replacing the old (50-years-plus) septic system, we want to prolong the longevity of this new one by treating it right, as we did the old one.

    PS One thing that I have seen in our area about independent owner-operators and septic system service is that some regional or national companies buy them up, and then leave the name on the trucks. Kind of like what has happened with funeral homes. You think you're dealing with some relative of Frank DiGrazzi Sewer Service (or Joseph Callahan Funeral Home) that still owns the 50-year-old local family business, but you're not. Word of mouth, recommendations from a trusted plumber or septic contractor (there are some folks that build them but don't service them) or Angie's List might be a place to start.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2014
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