bar or pipe through underground sewer branch

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    • #279415
      Steven Plese

      Hi everyone! I live in a 100+ year old farm house which has a weird assortment of piping, a lot of which has been reused by previous homeowners for different things. We have had a problem with drainage for to past two years (all the time I’ve lived here). In the cellar there is a hole in the concrete floor (house drain) that a plumber put a standing PVC pipe into, but the pipe is not threaded into anything, more like a suction device that isn’t securely fastened. The concrete around it is eroding and this pipe doesn’t prevent the water from the washing maching (old) from backing up occasionally. On the west side is a cast iron cleanout. The kitchen sink is the only fixture that currently enters this branch. There are some pipes laid into the foundation right near here that appear to have been from an old boiler maybe. The kitchen sink is a doulble with garbage disposal, sprayer and drain pipes are PVC. The PVC comes out in the cellar as 4″ CPVC makes a 90 degree turn, no joints and then another 90, sloping all the way, before the drop down to ABS. The ABS is about six feet straight into the cast iron cleanout for the underground branch. This branch is sinking into the concrete floor, which is more like wet rubble now. There doesn’t seem to be any Fernco fitting or any other type unless it melted. There is just dark brown sludge looking stuff where the ABS goes into the cleanout. The other cleanout handles the bathroom shower/tub pedestal sink and toilet. This one is all CPVC and the has a Fernco fitting it to the cleanout. This one seems to be rising up from the concrete. There are also some nice brown stains on the painted concrete floor between the house drain and the bathroom branch. The real question though is about the mystery “bar” or pipe in the kitchen branch main. The city came and scoped out the two cleanouts but not the house drain, and said there was some “weird” bar or pipe running through the cast iron pipe. There is also some evidence of a possible cistern and rainwater collection system and drainfield. I never have to water my lawn or even roses. I just do some laundry, or use water and everything is green. But during the summer we get a very smelly rusty brown sludge under the deck right behind all these fixtures that attracts flies, makes me ill to breath and eventually meanders through the back yard. Last year a maple tree turned the same color and almost died. I’m wondering if we have a greywater retention basin under the deck that is now cross connected to the city sewer and draining into our yard. The house smells terrible and is always very damp. We have tons of valves that are now used for different things so if you need more info, ask me specific questions. Old oil tank and garage piping involved too. Thank you for reading this! I know it seems far-flung, but the guy who lived here in the 70’s to 80’s was a real nut. And the next homeowners were some kids who thought they could do their own gas piping. Any thoughts are greatly appreciated!


    • #300800
      Robert Stephen Morton

      DIYhousewife. It seems to me that all of your plumbing has been done by DIY people & that if you continue the trend then you will continue to feel sick.
      There is only one answer to your question & it isnt DIY.

    • #300801

      Dear DIYHW,

      From your description I conclude that you have a septic system and/or cesspool and/or “drywell” on your property for waste water disposal.

      First, you should make sure that if you have these systems they are code-approved for your property.

      Second, “blackwater” septic waste (mainly from toilets) can only go into a municipal sewer system, a septic tank system, or in some instances a cesspool.

      Non-septic waste, in varying degrees of “grayness,” such as from roof runoff, floordrains, sinks, and laundries, may or may not go into “drywells” or even be diverted to the landscape around the house, but this depends on the specific codes in force in your area.

      Since the proper handling of house drainage is a public health issue, you should consult a licensed plumbing expert to make sure your DWV plumbing is both safe and legal.


    • #300802

      Thank you for your replies. These were my suspicions and thoughts exactly. I know plumbers are required to be licensed for a reason, and would not presume to undertake such a problem myself. I have not lived here that long and obviously know very little about these systems. If you have any suggestions who to call for help in the Chicago west suburban region, I would be most appreciative. It’s hard to find someone with septic system, drainage systems, abandoned UST pipe fitting, boiler and old house heating systems rolled into one. I’d love to find a retired master plumber who might be interested and willing to help for current union wage or whatever, just to look things over and give me his emeritus advice on who to call and what to do. Thank you so much, I have some hope!


    • #300803

      Sorry everyone,
      I forgot to mention that none of this information was disclosed by the seller of the house. We assumed everything was hooked up to the city sewer as reported. That’s why it has been so frustrating trying to figure this mess out. And hence, the DIY part really means “figure it out yourself”. Thanks again, and any advice will be welcomed.


    • #300804
      Retired plbg1

      I think you should locate city sewer and run new line to house and get all the Plumbing installed up to code and destroy all the septic, and what you have in yard and fill it all in, have all those valves checked out and get rid of ones you dont need.

      Art retired plbg

    • #300805

      I think this is a good idea also, unfortunately, cost is a major constraint. When the cuty came out and video taped from the two cleanouts inside the house, they said the cast iron pipes were okay and not broken. At that point I thought they might have been some old clay pipes that had a collapse. They also marked on the sidewalk and street in front of the house exactly where the main runs. Since they didn’t scope out the house drain, but there were suds in the bathroom branch from a load of laundry, I assume that it is tied in with the other two, but really doubt it is trapped in any way.

      I don’t know why everyone that owned this house left all this junk here or reused it. We just opened up the kitchen ceiling to get access to the attic over it and found a huge cast iron gutter-like thing still sealed in. It runs all the way across the house and slopes down. It is between the second story of the front of the house and the first story in the back, which is just the bathroon and kitchen. I think this thing was used to collect rainwater and connects to some of the pipes laid in the foundation.

      I thought it would be pretty interesting to get some septic tank dye pellets or something like that, in diffeent colors, and try it with the different fixtures, see where it ends up in the yard and cellar. I also think I should have a plumber come and smoke test the venting. The stack exits on the roof, and seems to have adequate clearance, but isn’t flashed very well. If I kind of jiggled it one way, it smelled like that cold damp sewer smell, fine in my book, but the other way, a strong, hot, burning rubber or plastic smell. I don’t know what this would be except if the CPVC or ABS was melting somewhere. It wasn’t hot outside, and the roofing didn’t smell at all. Another mystery. Many thanks again!


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