Gurgling Toilets

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    • #278436
      Avatar photopsas

        Plumbing Drainage Symptoms:

        The following plumbing main drainage problem came on suddenly, in the midst of winter. Until recently, there has been no drainage problems in the history of the present owner, 15 years. The home once had a septic system, which is detailed in the attached drawing, but the home was converted to city sewer. However, it is not known if the septic system was properly bypassed when the conversion occurred. Located outside, between the house and the septic tank, there is a cast iron cleanout “Y” that sweeps away from the house and towards the septic tank.

        The house is on a concrete slab. Except for the outside cleanout “Y” mentioned above, there appears to be no other cleanouts except on each stack near the bottom. There is one floor drain near the washer.

        The problem begins to occur while draining the bathtub. Both bathroom toilets begin gurgling, followed by the slow suction of water out of both toilet traps. Sometimes, after waiting some time, you may be able to flush either toilet a few times before the toilet that is being flushed begins to fill with water farther than it should. Plunging the affected toilet is totally ineffective. Flushing again would almost certainly cause the toilet to overflow. When this occurs, running the washer machine will cause raw drainage to flow up and out of the floor drain.

        Realizing that the initial suction of water out of the toilet traps must be somehow related to the lack of equalized air pressure in the in-floor waste pipes, I suspected blocked roof vent stacks. I used a solid, flat wire snake (1/16” thick ½” wide) to clear all three roof stacks (continuing into the in-floor waste pipes for some 60 feet.

        After snaking, the in-floor waste pipes back and forth several times, via the roof stacks, the problem seems to clear up for a few days. The washer can be run continuously for several hours afterwards and the bath will drain properly afterwards. After a few days, the problem will then re-occur.

        After several snakings, I have come to the conclusion that the problem lies in the main bathroom under-floor waste pipe between the main bathroom stack and the outside (or beyond) since snaking this one stack/pipe combo fixes the problem for a few days. There seems to be a couple areas of resistance while snaking this section of pipe, but an assistant can definitely hear the snake pass through to the outside by listening to the floor. The resistance at the end (where the snake stops) feels somewhat mushy. Once, after some progress against this mushy area with the snake, I heard a gurgling come from deep within the main stack and definitely heard the flow of water, presumably opening a clog .

        Since this area corresponds to where the septic tank is located, I am wondering if the septic tank was properly bypassed.
        I have used several pounds of Copper Sulfate in the suspect waste pipe to kill possible roots. I have also used a gallon of stack cleaner (caustic soda). Both did not seem to work.

        Does anyone have any ideas on what might cause this re-occuring problem. It seems strange that at one minute a tremendous pressure sucks water out of toilet traps and soon afterwards, there appears to be a clog that causes the water to back-up so that flushing a toilet
        or running the washer causes water to back-up.


      • #298519
        Avatar photoLane

          Robin: Problem not in vent it’s in sewer line between house and street. Pull the cap off cast iron c/out and work from there. Stoppage is most likely caused by roots. Drain cleaner would charge approx $75 to clear.

          If problem persists you can have line viewed with camera to determine source of stoppage. Approx cost $150. Good luck, Lane.

        • #298520
          Avatar photoGuest

            I would pull the suspect toilet and start rodding from there. A camera is a great idea from Lane and I would even consider running it down the stack as this is not nearly as big a deal as the cable machine.
            I too think your problem is out in the yard between your house and sewer main connection.

            I’m just glad I’m a plumber and not a home owner….

          • #298521
            Avatar photoGuest

              You have described my exact situation. What I have been told is that the trap needs to be removed (my house is approx 75 years old) I guess it is illegal to use traps these days. The only problem I have with the trap being removed is why didn’t I have problems a few years ago. This problem is relatively new. I have been told that this is going to cost me approx $2000. I might sell my house instead.

            • #298522
              Avatar photoGuest

                You have described my situation exactly with the exception of the septic system being replaced. I have been told that the trap needs to be removed (I guess traps are illegal now – my house is 75 years)
                This is going to cost me Approx $2000. It will be worth it if it fixes the problem. Only thing is, why wasn’t this happening a few years ago? Why would it happen relatively suddenly? I’m confused.

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