Could a plumber please explain residential underground plumbing to me?

Discussion in 'Drain Cleaning' started by Deeana, May 11, 2016.

  1. Deeana

    Deeana New Member

    Apr 26, 2016
    I've posted about my sewer line that was sabotaged with mortar by a disgruntled former tenant. Now I am trying to learn what it is that I am dealing with underneath the concrete basement floor.

    I have looked up "house trap" and floor drain and seen pictures/diagrams of them. But I still don't seem to understand the pipe from which I am removing dissolved concrete/mortar.

    Here is what the basement is like:

    The "footprint" of the house is approx. 36 ft. wide by maybe 25 ft. front to back. Built in Western Pennsylvania in 1955 by a tract home builder. It was a VA loan for my father, so plumbing must have had to be to some kind of code, right? Plus it is in a county that has had a Health Department with a Plumbing Division for probably over 100 years.

    Back to the basement. First of all, the main sewer runs along the front street. There are manholes. It must be pretty deep because the yard at the front of the house is level with the street - walk straight up to the front door into the house. Once inside, down a flight of steps to the unfinished concrete floor basement.

    On the back wall of the house (away from the street) is an old fashioned double concrete laundry tub. To the immediate left of the laundry tubs the main stack comes down the wall from above, draining a tub, 2 lavs and 2 water closets. It appears to me to be black cast iron. On the concrete basement floor about 6 ft. or so out from the laundry tray is a floor drain, which I realize has a trap.

    Then, at a point on the concrete floor about 4 ft. out from the FRONT wall (which is on the sewer line side of the house) is a "hubbed" pipe with a threaded cap that sticks up out of the concrete about an inch or so. This happens to be located just to the side of the wooden steps that come down from the first floor of the house.

    In addition to the floor drain over by the laundry try (about 15 ft. away from this "clean out pipe" I see no other clean outs on the floor i the basement area. There is a floor drain in the adjacent garage that does not appear to have been tampered with.

    Any guesses as to what I am dealing with under the concrete as far as a house trap? I have been told that the pipe I have accessed and am diligently cleaning out of softened mortar goes down into the house trap. I understand that the house trap is a big U bend that water is supposed to lay in to keep out the sewer gasses. And that if someone dumped Sacrete into this pipe and then water dumped in on it that the entire trap could be filled level with mortar.

    Also, just out of curiosity, what material would the underground plumbing likely be of? I'm pretty sure there was no ABS in those days. There is a drain line I can see coming from the kitchen sink drain that looks to be about 2" copper. And the first floor bathroom has been replumbed in black ABS ferncoed into the main stack.

    If there was any "saving grace" in all of this, the water was actually shut off to the house at the time of the drain line sabotage. So the only water the SOB had to use was two gallon sized plastic milk jugs. (Thankfully did not realize there was/is 40 gal. sitting there in the water heater in the basement.)

    But back to my question: Other than the U bend and this "stand pipe" associated with it, should the sewer line go on out the other side of the house trap to the main? Would there be any other traps?

    How deep did they put the house trap underneath a concrete basement floor? (Trying to figure out the entire depth of this 'stand pipe".)

    What is a Fresh Air? Where should one be if there is one. Should I be looking outside the front of the house about where the sewer line would come out through the wall for one as another potential source of sabotage?

    Thank you in advance for any help with my questions. I am starting to understand some of this but could really use some info from a very experienced (older like me) plumber!

  2. standardairconditioner

    standardairconditioner HVAC'ker

    Nov 27, 2015
    Montreal, Canada
    Thanks for joining and posting the forums.

    With many new members looking for advice and answers, be reminded that good photos and illustrations always invite an audience that can give faster replies that are less generalized and more suited to your exact needs.

    Try to provide at least two photos. Include a closeup of the attention area so we can identify fine details, and include one zoomed out so we can see the rest of the room and things nearby, adjacent areas, floors underneath. Use a black marker to write on blue painter's tape or bright colored Post-It's to mark areas of interest, there is no need to modify your photos with fancy text overlays. Use a low resolution setting, as the website can reject images too large. Take as many photos as you can, choose the best ones that are clear.

    Do include diagrams for plumbing and supply line projects. A scan or photo of a hand drawn illustration done quick on paper is usually easier for most to create than trying to make one in a computer app. We don't need architect plans, just something simple to help us understand your idea.

    Make sure your location is in your member profile, this tells us where you are so other members here with experience in your area may give you specific recommendations that may apply to your seasonal weather conditions and state code.

    Edit the subject title of this post to summarize the exact nature of your issue. "Second story toilet is clogged" will attract more readers than "Help I am in desperate trouble!" which more will ignore, possibly leaving your post unanswered.

    While waiting for replies, please make some effort and take the opportunity to search these forums extensively, it is likely that many in the past had your similar issue, and you may find solved solutions quicker than the many days it can sometimes take for you to get answers you want.

    As you solve your problem to finish, kindly please follow up on this thread you created and update your progress, so future members with your same problem can see that this may also be used to help and inspire.
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  4. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Sep 25, 2013
    It would be very unusual for you to have a house trap. Each drain has a trap. Each toilet has a trap as part of its discussion.

    I predict cast iron under the basement floor. Just outside the house it may transition to a worse material such as clay tiles, or even worse. Look up and down the street. Do you see yards with signs (yard scars -- a mound or valley from the house to the street, and maybe a line of bad grass) that they had their sewer to the street replaced? If your area had clay or Orangeburg pipes, that would be expected. When the sewers get replaced with PVC, there is normally an outside cleanout installed near the house. However the cleanout will usually be nearly flush with the ground, so you may not see it.

    You may want to talk with the sewer department. They will usually be aware of what neighborhoods have, and usually they are helpful. If there is a sewer backup problem in the area, they will know. There may be programs to help pay for fixes. The gold standard of fixes is called overhead sewers. But there are other remedies that vary from not-so-good to pretty good.

    How many Sakrete/Quickrete bags did you find, and how many pounds in a bag?

    Make the police report.
  5. standardairconditioner

    standardairconditioner HVAC'ker

    Nov 27, 2015
    Montreal, Canada
  6. Deeana

    Deeana New Member

    Apr 26, 2016
    Thamk you so much for the answers.

    It is a house trap. They were required in this county. Still are.

    No, I do not see "yard scars" in the neighborhood. I cannot recall if my late father ever had his outside sewer line replaced. He may have at some point and if he did it was long ago. I am sure that what is underneath the concrete basement floor is the original from 1955

    I also never, ever remember my parents having any kind of a sewer problem. None at all in 50+ years there. But - no dishwasher, no disposal, and my mother was a lady who poured all cooking grease into an empty can that she kept on the countertop. Plus I could guarantee there was NEVER any item flushed that should not have been, not even Kleenex!
  7. Sylvan

    Sylvan Still learning

    Sep 23, 2004
    plumbing - fire suppression - boiler inspector
    New York
    "It would be very unusual for you to have a house trap. Each drain has a trap. "

    NYC requires a trap on every fixture and a trap for the storm lines plus a main sewer / storm trap and in older buildings a bldg house trap can serve for storm and sanitary and before a storm line can discharge into the sanitary system it must have its own trap 40 pipe diameters upstream of the soil line

    I had a job where some idiot had sacrete poured down the drain. It took 9 hours to clear the 4" cast iron

    I used a 3/4 cable with chain knockers to knock the crete off the pipe

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