I have been asked often what it is like living in a earth sheltered home. Here are some general questions I have been asked and some of my thoughts. You can see More »
How to prevent raw sewage from backing into your house
Here is how we learned how to prevent raw sewage from backing up into our house, wish we had done it when we installed the water and sewer lines. When we built our house I had asked the plumber about installing a emergency shutoff for the sewer system in case there was ever a issue with the sewer main. He told me it was against code and we couldn’t do it. So we buried the plumbing and finished the house.
Well last Thursday I was getting ready to go work on the yard when my wife came and said the toilet was gurgling. I went in and tried flushing the toilet and nothing. So I grabbed the plunger and started plunging.
45 minutes later and nothing. What the hell.
I had my wife run the kitchen sink for 10 minutes to see if it was draining and it was.
We had installed all the plumbing in a straight line
the kitchen sink is after the red toilet flange so I assumed the blockage was between that and the toilet. We had installed a clean out in the washer drain
so I grabbed my 25 foot snake and ran it down the drain and hit nothing.
I had my wife go and grab a wax ring for the toilet, I figured it was between the toilet and the main line, so I ripped that off and snaked it down. Nothing, what the hell!?
So I went into the utility room and pulled the cap on the clean out to the line to the street, as soon as I started unscrewing it I could hear pressure being released. That’s not good. So I ran my snake down the line, went and tried flushing the toilet. Nothing.
So I got on the phone with the guy who had done the rough in and told him what was going on, he said he would grab his 75 foot snakes and be right over.
About 15 minutes later he showed up and we started uncoiling the snake down the clean out and wasn’t hitting anything. He looked and said you better call the sewer department, there has to be a clog in the main line. Just as he said that the most vile sludge came bubbling up into the utility room. He quietly commented this aint good.
I asked what do we do now, we have a 75 foot snake down the line and raw sewage filling my utility room and overflowing into my bedroom. He said you got a wet vac, uh no.
So we started ripping the snake out of the drain as fast as we could.
This is the style of snake we were using
if you have ever used one, you know how much tension are on them and you normally wind it back on the reel as you haul in the line.
We finally got the tape out of the drain and quickly put the cap back on. I called the sewer company and got a answering machine. It was 4:01, they closed at 4:00 and of course there was no emergency number.
I hollered for my wife to grab some towels, she came rushing into the room and said the shower stall was filling with sewage now to. Really? This keeps getting better.
I told her to run and grab a wet dry vac, while I called the town office.
“Town Office, how may I help you?”
” Do you have a emergency number for the sewer dept?”
“what is this in regards to sir?”
“There’s a block in the main line and my house is filling up with raw sewage!”
A few seconds later she gave me a number and said this is the only number I have besides their main number.
So I called that number which was a private number for one of the workers, told him what was happening and he said he would be right there.
My wife showed up with the wet dry vac and we started sucking up the mess, when my phone rang, it was starting to back up in the restaurant. Really? This just keeps getting better by the minute.
So I ran up to the restaurant and it was just trickling out of the floor drain, so I had my guys just work on mopping it up and I closed the restaurant till further notice.
I went back outside and the sewer guy was here and a pump truck. They popped the lid on the manhole and the box was full to the brim.
They started sucking it out which stopped the back ups in the shower and the restaurant, so i went back to the house to see how my wife was doing. She was sitting on the steps crying, I gave her a hug and told her it would be alright, we will fix what ever is damaged.
The plumber was finishing up sucking up the shower and there was nothing more he could do so we wrapped up his stuff and sent him on his way. Before he left I made the comment, see why I wanted to put a emergency shut off in now?
I walked back up to the street and they had finished pumping out the manhole and they found the problem, a tree root. The guy from the sewer was very apologetic and said he would fix whatever issues there are and wanted to know if we wanted to stay in a hotel for the night.
No I said, I have a feeling we will be cleaning all night.
The outcome, the utility room and closet got it the worse
it had flooded under our bed
So the wife and I spent the next 8 hours hauling out all the sewage soaked stuff and starting scrubbing and bleaching everything.
I had called my friends who had helped framing and such with the house and they rearranged their schedule and showed up the next morning at 7:00 am. They ripped up the baseboard and trim in the utility room, closet and our bedroom and cut the first couple of inches of drywall, sprayed bleach behind it and rehung some dry wall and new trim.
I don’t know what else to do besides that. We were lucky to have contained it in those three rooms. The Shower pan never overflowed I think because that drain sits up higher and once it got level with the sewage in the manhole it was done.
I was talking to the Sewer guy and asked him what happens in a extended power outage like back in 98 during the ice storm and some areas were without power for over a month. Oh don’t worry we have generators he said. What happens if you run out of fuel I asked. He didn’t really have a answer for that.
I needed to figure out a way to stop this from happening again.
The Sewer Company said I could install a backflow device
So yesterday morning the water and sewer department showed up to shut off services so we could dig up the sewer pipe and install a backflow device. The water dept guy had a dowsing rod and started walking across the yard and driveway, I looked at him and said are you serious? He replied, I can’t explain it, it works for some people and not for others, I have had success with it. A couple of minutes later he pointed at the ground and said dig here
a couple of minutes later we found a old sewer pipe, unfortunately it wasn’t ours, it was one from the old house we had torn down to expand our parking lot
So the water guy walk around with his dowsing rod and 10 seconds later points about 2 feet to the right of the old pipe and says dig here
two swipes of the bucket
I was impressed with the dowsing rod
We grabbed the backflow device, this is a much simpler design then the vid I posted, it just has a simple flap that opens when stuff flows downstream and keeps it from backing up
so they started cutting the old pipe
and slid the fitting on, I made sure it wasn’t installed backwards
and tapped on the extension and connectors
we did a couple of test flushes to make sure it was working properly
and set crushed rocks around the fitting
I needed to be able to access the lid in case there was any clogs or anything, so we got a 10 inch piece of pipe to act as a access hole
we set some bricks around the fitting and stood the pipe on top of it
and proceeded to backfill around it
we cut the pipe flush when we got the height we needed
and proceeded to compact around the hole
the sewer company had a old manhole cover they gave me for free
and we set that on the access pipe
and backfilled around it
should never be a problem again, if you are building a house on public sewer, ask them to install a backflow device for some peace of mind.