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Plumbing question
Old 11-10-2013, 09:12 AM   #1
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Plumbing question

Some things I know about home maintenance; others I don't—not much experience with plumbing since it's seldom gone wrong, so here goes...

We have a 2" laundry basin sump (because the 4" sewer line is so long it exits the basement 3' above the basement floor). Last night when it turned on, water (sewage) backed up and leaked out of the pipe higher up, and backed up into the shower directly above it, suggesting the line is clogged, and we have to get it snaked.

Since the 4" PVC horizontal drain is leaking like that, something needs to be done—it's right over the laundry, and we have to have the toilet above it reseated because it's got some minor leaks too.

I know that if there are any cracks in the PVC, some things will have to be replaced. However, if the leaks occured only at the joints, can they be sealed somehow rather than replaced (which would save us mucho bucks considering the complexity of things in that area)?

We're getting a plumber in here asap, and just don't want to get BSed into having unnecessary work done—it's going to be an expensive contingency anyway.

Many thanks,

Tyro
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Old 11-10-2013, 09:32 AM   #2
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Correctly done at the beginning PVC joints ought not to leak. ever. I'd suspect the leaky toilet has water running down the lines and making the joints look like they are leaking. Fix toilet, snake line, clean; all should be good. If there are still leaks I'd cut out the offending sections and glue in new bits, maybe using Fernco connectors to make the job easier.

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Old 11-10-2013, 09:58 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Tyro View Post
suggesting the line is clogged, and we have to get it snaked.
"Get it snaked . . ."?? Where's your sense of adventure? You can buy yourself a very nice power snake and do the job yourself, and you'll have the tool available the next time you need it. It's a messy job with a bit of danger to boot (do NOT let the snake twist up between the spool and where it enters the offending pipe--it can grab a part of you/your clothing and the rest of the story ain't pretty). Even if nothing goes wrong you'll have a great story!


$230 at Harbor Freight, 50' long. Find one of the ubiquitous 20% off coupons before you buy it (chime in here if you want one). Less than the plumber will charge, you'll have it forever. Don't tell the neighbors you have one.

Quote:
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I know that if there are any cracks in the PVC, some things will have to be replaced. However, if the leaks occured only at the joints, can they be sealed somehow rather than replaced (which would save us mucho bucks considering the complexity of things in that area)?
PVC is very easy to work with. Remember that the "glue" isn't really an adhesive, it is a solvent that melts the pipe and as it evaporates the pipe re-forms. So, it is sometimes possible to add solvent to a leaky joint and have it seal up. Or, a slightly more reliable way is to buy a slip coupling that doesn't have the internal "stops", cut it lengthwise (so you can open it up and get it over the existing pipe), wet down the leaky joint with solvent and rapidly slip the coupler up against the "hub"of the leaky fitting. Similarly, if a pipe is mildly cracked it is possible to >try< to fix it by adding a "scab" to the outside (a slip-fit coupling will work, same idea as above). I'd never try this with a pipe that will be under pressure, and it might not hold forever, but in a non-critical drain application one of these hillbilly methods might work in a pinch. It's usually much better just to remove the faulty/broken pipes/fittings and replace them. Again, PVC is a dream to work with compared to iron, etc.
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Old 11-10-2013, 10:15 AM   #4
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I have a rental property that when I bought it had leaks in the abs pipe (looks like pvc but black) sewer in the crawl space under the house. It turned out that the joints where slipped together without glue.

Some pvc pipe is glue joint and some is rubber gasket. My guess is that you either have the same glue problem or you have the gasket type pipe and the pipe has moved for some reason and pulled apart some.
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Old 11-10-2013, 10:27 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by calmloki View Post
Correctly done at the beginning PVC joints ought not to leak. ever. I'd suspect the leaky toilet has water running down the lines and making the joints look like they are leaking. Fix toilet, snake line, clean; all should be good. If there are still leaks I'd cut out the offending sections and glue in new bits, maybe using Fernco connectors to make the job easier.

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Agree. If it only "started leaking" then it's unlikely the PVC joint became unglued; once solvent welded should be good until you take a hammer to it. Spent a lot of time "thinking like a water drop" trying to chase down where a leak is actually originating. Once snaked and all appears good, make sure all is dry and then see if you can follow the wetness up. It is possible that a joint was not properly welded to begin with and only started leaking once surcharged from downstream. In that case while not really proper, if I found the exact spot I'd consider touch up solvent (if it will work it MUST be totally dry) or some type of glue that adheres to PVC, of which there must be something out there but I am not familiar with it. I'd run it all around the joint. Good luck; most of my worst repair experiences have been chasing water from poorly done plumbing or poorly done flashing around windows. Recently redid upstairs bathroom to the walls; tiled shower enclosure using membrane system. Was absolutely anal about every joint and detail. 6 months later the dining room ceiling is still pristine (having repainted it after rebuild where stains had come in)
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Old 11-10-2013, 11:46 AM   #6
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I'm agreeing with a few posts above that mention that PVC is usually glued properly, or it isn't. It would be unusual to just start leaking.

So, someone mentioned that it is probably from the toilet seal. That's a good theory - because these things are many times the weakest link (OP even said so), and a leak from them can run along the pipe and pop out downstream.

If I understand the setup properly, here's what I think is happening. The 4" line is indeed clogged downstream. The ejector pump from below is very strong and has good lift. It is jamming sewage in under pressure into this line. That is literally pushing the sewage column up in elevation. You see sewage coming out in the shower above. But, ah-ha, the toilet flange is nearly at the same level as the shower. If that baby is leaking, it's gonna come out there too, run down the pipe, and then appear somewhere. (Think like a water drop - well said.)
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Old 11-10-2013, 12:04 PM   #7
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Bear in mind that video cameras are now small, plentiful and cheap. I've noticed they are commonly used now as selling devices.
Typically, plumbers like to use easily obtained video images to sell their pipe-bursting services for big bucks. So watch out for this.
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Old 11-10-2013, 05:54 PM   #8
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If a line plugs up, a poorly seated toilet will start to leak. As long as the line is clear, the flushed water just jumps down the pipe past the (poor ) seal. Once it backs up, the poor seal allows it to leak sideways, then follow the pipe downward on the outside of the pipe.
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Old 11-10-2013, 06:07 PM   #9
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Thank you for the replies. I am now disabled, and while I could/would have handled this myself when I was younger and abled, this job is not one that I can undertake myself even if I wanted to. We'll try to check if the "water" came from the toilet seal, but it appeared to be originating from joints further away from that vertical. It's also possible that there are cracks somewhere in the PVC that cannot be readily seen from below. I'm too unsteady to do ladder/step-stool.

I'm still a bit unclear; is the answer that leaky joints can be sealed without tearing out & replacing all the connections? We will have to rely on the plumber & his warranty that the job be done correctly.

Tyro
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Old 11-10-2013, 07:06 PM   #10
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Yes, you can attempt to reseal ABS joints with ABS glue, and leaks/holes/cracks can be patched with epoxy putty or similar goo. But as you say, your plumber has to stand behind her repairs with a warranty, and so a quick-and-dirty patch is not likely to be the recommended fix.
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Old 11-10-2013, 07:32 PM   #11
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Tyro, I was thinking you may be right that there are some issues with your pipes. Two possibilities come to mind:
- The joint is broke on top and won't leak unless the pipe is filled, which it will be if there is a clog
- The weight of all the water in your suspended 4" line is causing some stress which cracked or caused a poorly glued joint to loosen.

In any case, please to try to "think like a water drop" and at least see if the toilet is the cause. However, even if that is it, resetting a toilet takes some strength and you'll either have to call a plumber or get a friend to help. This job is not rocket science, but does take some gut strength.
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Old 11-10-2013, 07:34 PM   #12
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I'm still a bit unclear; is the answer that leaky joints can be sealed without tearing out & replacing all the connections?
They can sometimes be made to seal up without taking everything apart, but it is hit and miss. I agree with scrinch: a plumber won't try the "might work" approach, he'll take it apart (as much as necessary) and put it together so he can be 100% sure it will work. The good news is that a plumber can work quickly with PVC (if access is good) and it won't take long to make the repair.
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Old 11-11-2013, 01:21 PM   #13
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Plumber was just here to assess the job—said there shouldn't be any problems; he can snake the 4" line and has a camera to find the clog.
He'll be back after getting some lunch and start.

The only glitch is that he didn't have a laundry sump in stock. We'll find out the cost & wait, or get one ourselves at Home Despot—I think I can handle that part of the job; it's two 2" PVC connections readily accessible and below 3' high...

Thanks again,

Tyro
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