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Jim D

01:50AM | 04/12/06
Member Since: 01/06/01
345 lifetime posts
Bvplumbing
Sylvan, Billhart, Ray Van Zint, Erik – hi, I’ve used the advanced search mode here and read some older posts but still need some advice from the experts. Here’s the situation:

My mother-in-law’s house in Prince Frederick, MD is a 1-story house, at least 30 years old, with 2 bathrooms basically side-by-side at one end of the house. The kitchen and laundry room are at the other end. There’s one bathroom off the hallway and the other is in the master bedroom. Both have older American Standard toilets (large tanks, not the 1.6-gal tanks). It’s only her and her dog, with me staying there during the week and very few other overnight guests.

The toilet in her bathroom (master bedroom one) is experiencing intermittent flush problems. The water in the tank is good, and good pressure when refilling. The flapper stays open so the tank can completely empty during the flush. The water enters the bowl and the bowl water swirls & rises to the lower surface of the rim, then takes about 45 seconds to lower to its normal level in the bowl. Last night, a single sheet of paper towel, left in the bowl for about 3 minutes before flushing, took two flushes to exit the bowl. On the first flush, it simply swirled around but never seemed to head towards the exit. As the tank refilled, it sank to the bottom of the bowl and the second flush seemed to create enough vacuum/suction to make it exit the bowl. Plunging didn’t bring it back up, nor did it bring up anything else.

It happened the first time in mid-Nov. I read here in another thread about how the roof vents could be clogged. The bathrooms apparently share the same roof vent as the only other roof vent is at the opposite end of the house by the kitchen/laundry room area. (No problems with the sink, dishwasher, washing machine at that end of the house.) The vent pipe is 4 inches in diameter and sticks up about 12-18 inches above the roof surface. I didn’t smell any sewer gas when I first went up on the roof and started snaking the vent line. I encountered a couple “blockages” as I fed the snake into the vent and after 10 minutes or so, I’d run about 12-15 feet of snake line into the vent pipe. I started smelling sewer gas after the first blockage. When I pulled it all out, the end of the snake was wet and had some sludge on it. I thought I saw small bits of leaves in the sludge. The toilet flushed fine until probably early Jan.

In early Jan, the same problem occurred. I tried plunging the toilet – nothing came up. I went up on the roof – no sewer smell from the vent. I used the same snake and snaked out the vent line, again managing to get 12-15 feet of line down the vent pipe. Again, I started smelling sewer gas after hitting what felt like a small blockage. Again, the tip of the snake came out wet and with a small amount of sludge on it. The toilet again flushed fine after the snaking.

Yesterday, the same problem occurred. Again, plunging failed to bring anything up. The paper towel I’d managed to flush didn’t come back up with the plunging. There was no sewer smell from the roof vent. Again, I snaked the vent line, started getting sewer smell, and ran about 12-15 feet of snake into the vent. This time, the tip was almost completely dry and there was no sludge on the tip. This time, there was no improvement in the flushing.

So - any advice/tips you can offer are appreciated! I've told her we may need a plumber to video the vent line. Before that, I do think I should try to check the vent line in the attic area to see if maybe the vent from her bathroom has a horizontal run in it that I can't get the snake into from up on the roof...who knows what could have gotten in there and blocked things?! Thanks and regards to all! Jim D/West Point, VA (retiring from the military after 32 years of service at the end of June - thanks for your support of my efforts!)

erik peterson

04:49PM | 04/12/06
Member Since: 06/23/03
224 lifetime posts
Your 30 year old toilet is most likely "limed-up" hard water deposits...I would replace it. You can try to clear the siphon-jet (hole at bottom/back of bowl) and also clear the holes under the rim....venting is way over-diagnosed on this forum and is RARELY the problem. I would caution the amateur using snakes as the snake if not the "correct" size can get caught in the vent/drain line. The stoppages you think you went through on the roof were most likely the joints/bends in the venting. Closet auger is good for trap-stoppage but again I think your dealing with lime/hard water. Erik

Jim D

12:25AM | 04/13/06
Member Since: 01/06/01
345 lifetime posts
Erik - hi and thanks for the reply! Actually, my mother-in-law went ahead and contacted a plumber as she'll have other relatives staying with her for the weekend. She called a plumber who ended up pulling the toilet and eventually removed a lip-liner make-up stick from the trap. She's not sure who might have dropped it in there because it wasn't the brand she uses. But, she also tends to keep small items like that on the tank lid or in a small cabinet installed over the top of the toilet tank (the free-standing type of cabinet you see advertised for just this purpose). So, today she plans to move the make-up stuff and she plans to learn to put the lid down at all times.

The total cost was $255, which was a relief to her. The plumber was there about 2 hours total. I wasn't at home to see most of the work performed but I did get to chat with him for several minutes. Based on the description of his troubleshooting, I can state I'm glad my mother-in-law called in a professional plumber - this would've been well beyond my current abilities! Plus, he saved the current toilet, inspected for lime deposits (none noted), and gave her full explanations of what he was doing.

Regards and Happy Easter weekend to all! Jim D/West Point, VA


Sylvan

08:02AM | 04/13/06
Member Since: 01/24/06
1449 lifetime posts
Me_office1
Q Tips are notorious for this kind of blockage that can drive people nuts as water passes but paper gets caught.

Have a great holiday

Sylvan

08:06AM | 04/13/06
Member Since: 01/24/06
1449 lifetime posts
Me_office1
One your up coming retirement, If I had stayed in when I joined the Navy when I was 17 I would have had 41 years in go figure how time flys

Jim D

11:25PM | 04/16/06
Member Since: 01/06/01
345 lifetime posts
Sylvan - hi and thanks! I also joined up at age 17...I almost went Navy but they couldn't guarantee me nuclear reactor training. I passed the test but no school slots (2 year waiting list!). They did have nuclear weapons training slots, with sub duty afterwards...at the time (luckily) I was 2 inches too tall for subs.

The nice thing is the AF is telling me I have to retire after 32 years of service - I can't second-guess myself about whether or not retiring is a good choice! The bad thing is I now have to "grow up" and decide what I want to do for a living...

And, if nobody's said it recently - thanks for your service in the Navy. All veterans deserve many more "Thank you!" wishes than they've ever received. Regards! Jim D/West Point, VA
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