Crazy Situation that started with a clogged toilet

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by DencoPablo, Jul 3, 2021.

  1. DencoPablo

    DencoPablo New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2021
    Location:
    DFW, TX
    I used to have an account here on the forums and got some help when I was remodeling two bathrooms and a kitchen in the early 2000s. Anyway, it is gone, so I signed up again. So I guess I am a newbie, as I have not had to seek plumbing help for over 10 years. I am pretty handy on most things home-related--plumbing, electrical, flooring, woodworking, swimming pools, etc.--but this is a real stumper.

    Of course, it happens over the 4th weekend!

    So this all started when my master toilet clogged up yesterday afternoon. I was rushing out the door for an appointment, so I left it. I brushed my teeth, washed my face and hands, fixed my hair, and was on my way. Came home a couple of hours later to standing water around the toilet. But the toilet did not overflow from the bowl, it was leaking around the bottom (water in bowl same height as when I left). For history, I set that toilet myself 15 years ago (Toto one-piece) when I remodeled and re-tiled the bathroom. Flange in good shape despite age (house is 45 years old, owned for 25), the floor was level, nice drop on new wax, did not wobble, has worked flawlessly since installation other than having to replace the seat and the flapper a couple of years back. Hmmm...

    Mopped it up and grabbed the handy plunger and NOTHING. Worked and worked at it and no luck. This from a toilet that has stopped up maybe three times since it was installed and always cleared with two or three pumps from the plunger. So I grabbed the wet vac and emptied the bowl of water and debris. Flushed and still clogged. Worked it more with the plunger and still no luck. But no water was running out of the bottom of the toilet. Went to bed, knowing I have a second toilet.

    Woke up this morning to an even bigger puddle of water on the floor around the toilet. Interestingly, the water level in the bowl and the tank was at the appropriate level. Cleaned up the floor, shut off the water to the toilet, and used the wet vac to get all of the water out of the tank and the bowl. Washed up and got the house ready for guests coming later. Came back into the bathroom to find water on the floor again and this time I spotted it was streaming like a fountain from around the bolt that attaches toilet to flange. BUT the crazy thing is that the bowl was again full of water (to proper fill level). But not the tank. That water is shut off and is not refilling. Where is this water coming from?

    So the plumbing layout is as follows: The master bath is at the end of the run for both sewer and water. For sewer, the sink is the last drain, runs about five feet across to vent, then another three feet to the toilet, and then another five feet to shower drain. Then this branch runs 25-30 feet where it meets the gang of drains near the guest bath and proceeds another 15 feet to the outside wall and the main sewer line. The kitchen and washer area comes in separately from across the house and ties into the two branches near the guest bath. (Or do they tie into the master bath branch before proceeding on to meet the guest bath branch? Maybe this and the slow drain from the washer could be related? I will keep that in mind when I get the current issue fixed.)

    So then it dawned on me: I have continued to use the master sink and since that comes last after the toilet, was that where the water is coming from? The water that is refilling the toilet was clear and fresh, so is it possible that the clog in the line is right where the sink meets the toilet or immediately after? If the draining sink had nowhere to go, would it back up into the empty toilet bowl and when it reached the fill level of the bowl, the pressure compromised the wax ring (plus at times warmer water) and that is causing the leak from around the bottom of the toilet?

    Just for grins, I ran water in the shower, which is after the sink and toilet, and it did not back up water into the toilet or onto the floor. It is draining properly. It only seems to back water up into the toilet when I run water in the master sink. I have now switched to using the guest bathroom and shut down using the master until I get this figured out. Everything drains properly in the guest bath. Thank goodness.

    But here is where it gets even more interesting. I have not used any of the drains in the master bathroom area for nearly 10 hours. And the amount of water I sent down the drain of the sink in the preceding 10 hours before discovering that might be contributing, was not a lot. Maybe 10-12 minutes on a 1.5 GPM Grohe faucet, so 15-20 gallons? But when I went to check the bathroom just a bit ago, the toilet bowl was again full and there was a small puddle of water around the toilet. But no water in the tank. Could this still be residual water from running the sink earlier? I guess I will shop vac the toilet again and see if it fills back up. Or is there somewhere else that this water could be coming from that I am missing? This has me perplexed.

    My next step is to pull the toilet on Monday. Since the wax may be compromised, I would prefer to reseat the toilet. And I would rather not use a closet snake on the toilet for fear of scratching or breaking the china. Since I need to do that I will try to snake the line from the open floor drain with the toilet removed. I have never done that, so I don't know if that is going to help me much if I cannot guide the snake into the line where the sink and toilet meet.

    So from any pros or those with more knowledge than I, any thoughts or suggestions? Could this be a bigger problem, even as the drains in the guest bathroom, closer to the main sewer line, are running just fine? I will call a pro if I have to, especially if it comes down to snaking or jetting the main sewer line and multiple branches. But if I can get this done myself, I would prefer that. For the accomplishment...but also for the savings (I am still catching up with dropping over $2500 on new pool equipment from the February freeze that killed my power for five days.)

    As if this is not long enough already, two notes that might help with the diagnosis/solution:

    1. Last summer, I was having (still have) a slow drain issue on the washer drain and gurgling in the kitchen sink when the washer went to the drain cycle. So I went on the roof and used my rubber bladder drain blaster and blew out all of my vent stacks. So I think those are clear. I have three. One that rises from the master bath area (toilet, sink, shower), one from the guest bath area (toilet, sink, tub/shower, HVAC drain line), and one from the kitchen/utility area (kitchen sink, washer). I guess it could be vent-related but I don't imagine in less than a year there is a new clog. Especially with this one, as there are no trees near it. All my vents are 1.5" as is the plumbing for each branch segment. (This may be an issue with the washer drain but cannot imagine it is related to this issue...but you never know!)

    2. About two weeks ago, my AC condensate line was backing up onto the floor near the HVAC closet. I had never had that happen in the 25 years living here. The drain is 1" PVC from the air handler pan that is dropped several feet into a 1.5" PVC pipe in the floor. When blowing out the 1" PVC did not work, I used my bladder drain blaster on the 1.5" line running into the slab and within five minutes, I heard the line clear. Now, I attributed this backup to having never cleaned that out and an exceptionally humid spring/early summer in which the AC was producing a lot of condensation to drain. BUT, where this line meets the others, it is possible that it comes before the guest bathroom in the layout. But if there is clogging near there, why is the master shower draining properly? I think this is just coincidental but thought I would mention it since it was a recent occurrence.

    Sorry for the novel. I just wanted to make sure I presented all the relevant info. And thanks in advance for any assistance or insight anyone might provide.
     
  2. James Henry

    James Henry In the Trades

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2019
    Occupation:
    Plumber
    Location:
    Billings, Montana.
    Get your shop vac and a mini flashlight and bring it with you to the bathroom, vac out the toilet and dry the floor around the toilet with a towel. Run the water in the sink and watch around the base of the toilet for leaking water and also watch for the toilet water level to rise. If either one of those happens you need to pull the toilet and snake the drain.
     
    Reach4 likes this.
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  4. DencoPablo

    DencoPablo New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2021
    Location:
    DFW, TX
    Thanks. I am pretty sure that it is coming from the sink. But I haven't used that sink for nearly 12 hours now. So what has me befuddled is that the toilet bowl but not the tank is refilling on it's own. I am in a holding pattern right now not running sink and clearing water from bowl with shop vac when it rises and hoping it is just residual water from using the sink previously. But it keeps filling back up. Twice now since I first posted a couple hours ago. Crazy.
     
  5. James Henry

    James Henry In the Trades

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2019
    Occupation:
    Plumber
    Location:
    Billings, Montana.
    The only way to be sure if it is coming from the sink is to turn the sink on and watch the water level in the toilet rise, if it doesn't then turn a different fixture on that is on the same floor and watch the toilet level. Is their a practical joker in the house?
     
  6. DencoPablo

    DencoPablo New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2021
    Location:
    DFW, TX
    Update Sunday morning. After going to dinner, came home to full toilet bowl and more water on floor. Cleaned it all up and went to bed. Woke up with full toilet bowl and water on floor. Adjacent sink and shower was not run at all since early on Saturday. So, yes the water must be coming from somewhere else. Overnight, no water was run/drained from anywhere in the house but still the bowl filled. Fill like I cannot pull the toilet until I figure this out or I risk a rush of water flooding the bathroom and house.

    No practical jokers. Just me in the house. Now a ghost? That could be...
     
  7. DencoPablo

    DencoPablo New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2021
    Location:
    DFW, TX
    Oh and thanks, James Henry. Additional info: single-story house. I am currently running a washer of wet towels from the cleanup...thank goodness for my propensity to not throw away old towels, especially beach/pool towels. Has kept me from using the good towels for this!

    Anyway, doing wash on hot, so hopefully if the water rises this time and is a bit warm, that might lend a clue. The water thus far filling the toilet bowl has been cold and clear. Watching toilet now and will report back.
     
  8. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
    You might run a garden hose into the open closet flange. You may need a helper to close the faucet valve if the water rises.

    AC condensation?

    It's not vent related. A bad vent does not keep water from draining.

    I would look for a drain cleaning specialist, although nothing great-looking turned up when I searched. Click Inbox.
     
  9. DencoPablo

    DencoPablo New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2021
    Location:
    DFW, TX
    Thanks, Reach. I appreciate your response and the message to my inbox. I have a couple of neighbors who have recently used plumbers, one, in particular, that was very happy with the work and cost. So if it comes to that I likely have a "vouched for" referral! The company that sweated my in-wall plumbing for my three-valve shower (main head, hand shower, body jets) when I remodeled the bathroom 15 or so years ago is still in business, so they are an option. I also have a neighbor that used to work in plumbing and has a few tools that I don't have, including a jetting device that connects to a power washer. He is no expert but he may have some insight I haven't thought of. He won't be back in town until Monday and texted me that he would he help when back and settled.

    But I agree, I would not be comfortable using anything other than a manual snake. Losing a finger or an eye would be far more costly than even the most expensive professional!!!

    Oh and just finished lunch and the toilet bowl was filled again. Seems it is taking about 1.5-2 hours for the bowl to fill back up. I am just going to keep shop vaccing that out before it flows to the floor. Maybe the rate of fill will slow down or cease at some point and give me a clue what is going on. Luckily I am just hanging at the house today, so I can keep a close eye on things.

    To your specific responses:

    1) until I can get the water to stop backing up into the bowl of the toilet, I fear pulling the toilet would just open a big hole that water could freely flow out of, creating a bigger mess than I currently have. So I do not have confidence pulling the toilet until I can get the water to quit rising in the toilet, even if that means quit using ALL of the drains in the house for a period.

    2) could be, but that is downline from this toilet, likely on the branch for the guest bathroom and none of those drains (shower/toilet/sink/AC condensate drain) are backing up. In theory (although an amateur one), if that was causing the issue, it would seek the lowest point to back up, which would be the tub or toilet in the guest bath. In light of a better theory, I am wondering if the source of the water could be from the washing machine after doing several loads of washing the towels used in the cleanup. It doesn't seem plausible that is the source of the water, as that branch seems to run separately from the problem toilet towards the main sewer dump; plus the water is not warm or soapy/dirty as I would expect from a washer dump.

    3) didn't figure it was the venting. Even with a clogged vent, there would not be a water flow backing up in the toilet, just a slow drain.
     
  10. James Henry

    James Henry In the Trades

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2019
    Occupation:
    Plumber
    Location:
    Billings, Montana.
    Vacuum the toilet out again and disconnect the the water supply line to the toilet.
     
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  11. DencoPablo

    DencoPablo New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2021
    Location:
    DFW, TX
    James, I did that. I disconnected the toilet fill line just to make sure that my shut-off was not bad. Nope. Shut-off works just fine. The water filling the toilet bowl HAS to be coming up from the drain pipe.
     
  12. James Henry

    James Henry In the Trades

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2019
    Occupation:
    Plumber
    Location:
    Billings, Montana.
    1. Find your cleanout outside the house, take the plug out and see if their is any water in the pipe. 2. make sure no water is running in the house and look at your water meter to see if the dial is moving.
     
  13. James Henry

    James Henry In the Trades

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2019
    Occupation:
    Plumber
    Location:
    Billings, Montana.
    If that doesn't work, rent a bulldozer.....................................
     
  14. DencoPablo

    DencoPablo New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2021
    Location:
    DFW, TX
    Don't have a cleanout. Haven't used water or drain in the house since I ran a load of towels in the washer several hours ago. The toilet bowl still refilling itself.
     
  15. RobbyDog

    RobbyDog New Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2021
    Location:
    Ontario
    So, what happened with this? I read through the thread like a story book but the ending is missing...
     
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