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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I got a call from a tenant yesterday about the water level rising in the landing area in front of the entry door in a bermed home. I asked if the sump pump was running and he assured me that it was and he didn't think the water level in front of the door would go high enough to go inside anyway. So we figured it could wait for today.

Some of you may know we have been getting a lot of rain in the midwest.

Then the tenant calls early in the morning and he decides the pump isn't working.

I keep an extra pump on hand and it was an exact replacement for the one in the sump pit. It took less than 10 minutes to replace it. It was a standard depth sump pit, maybe 3' deep. There was water up to the top and some water coming in the house, but no big deal. The pump worked continuously for maybe 20 minutes before it shut off the first time.

There is one tile line coming in just below the slab, at the normal height. The builder mated the tile up to some 3 or 4" pvc, then a 2" trap. I thought that was interesting as a way to keep any smells out of the sump pit when things were dry. Then down at the bottom of the pit there was another tile line.

I pondered this for a moment. This meant that when it was dry or the pump was working, this was set up to keep the ground dry almost 3' below the slab. So there was 3' of saturated ground below the slab.

I'm not sure the sump had ever run before. The pump I replaced was dated 1987. I decided to find out where the discharge was.

Where the discharge was, I could only see a pool of water forming right beside the wall, then draining away from the house. Because it is a bermed house, this is right under the soffit, which is maybe 2' above grade.

Where the discharge was, there was a 1 1/2" pipe passing through the wall and going down. I was thinking, "what the hell? why would someone bring the sump discharge up the wall, out, then back down?"

The tenants brother and I got busy pulling out some carpet, then we quit for the day. In the evening I went out again, because there was water seeping in the house below the discharge. I didn't have a good feeling about this, because I couldn't find the discharge point, only a pool of water.

So I got this brilliant idea to cut through the 1 1/2" pvc line so I could reconnect it and get it to flow away from the house nicely. Sparks flew and I realized that there was a wire in the pvc! ****!

I was finally able to reach down in the discharge puddle and find the pipe about armpit deep. There is a bit of a cavern down there and the pipe seems to just come straight up and not have any other pipe around it (which it might have blown apart from). It spews brick chips when it runs.

So I'm planning on going back tomorrow with some proper tools and figure out the rest of the mystery. I'm not looking forward to the digging, because it will be muddy and it is in an arbor vitae forest.

I thought it was priceless that someone would put an electrical line in a pvc line right next to the sump discharge.

3,311 Posts
"Joseph, the basement toilet is plugged." She always calls me Joseph. When my wife is angry, she calls me "Joe". If I don't get that toilet unplugged, and soon, I'm gonna be "Joe" among other things.

The basement bedroom and bath is for guests and my twenty-six-year-old niece and her six-year-old-daughter barely qualify. They've been staying recently, and I'm figuring they're somehow related to the plugged toilet. A six-year-old? C'mon, it's a no-brainer. Besides, the guy I bought the house from told me that he had just replaced the leach field, to the tune of five grand, a year before I bought the place. This was due to his daughter's disposal of certain feminine hygiene products, despite his repeated warnings. I'm not a sexist; I'm an amateur plumber.

The toilet in question is below the leach field, so it flushes into a holding tank and when the tank reaches the 18" level, the electric pump kicks the effluent into the leach field above. Put a ladder in the hallway, remove the access door, climb over the busted-out concrete wall, put a ladder on the other side and you're in the pump room. With a lead light, it's not too bad a place. I gotta go rent some tools. I love the tool rental place.

I pull the toilet and run he snake all the way through. This toilet definitely doesn’t have a recalcitrant Sponge Bob Square Pants hiding in the trap. It's clean. I snake from the flange to the pit, all clear. I hook it back up and give a flush. It almost overflows but not quite.

"Sounds like a vent problem", tool rental guy says. I love tool rental guys; maybe I'll be one in another life. Makes sense, but this toilet has worked perfectly for sixteen years vented the way it is. I check the stacks outside anyway; all clear. I disconnect the pipes which let some air in, shake the pump wires and it kicks on and the toilet flushes and fills perfectly. Cover the access, pull the ladders and I'm done. That was last week.

"Joseph, the downstairs toilet is plugged again." Damn. Maybe I'm gonna hafta put one of those vent things in the line. Ladders, lead light and access removal and I'm in the hole again. I run the shower and watch water seep out of the pit cover. That sucker is full and the pump's not kickin' on. I climb out; plug the lead light into the pump receptacle and it's hot. Bad pump.

I remove two of the bolts holding the lid on the pit and have to Sawzall off the other two as they are rusted solid. I disconnect the pipes at the check valve and pull a black slimy stinky sixteen-years-in-the-pit- submersible pump out of the pit. I splash a bit when I work so I've got some goo on me. O.K., I'm lying a bit, I'm covered in "effluent".

I call my wife and niece to bring a large trash bag to cover the business end of this pump so I can hand it out of the room to them. Apparently years of breathing Methylmethacrylate in the solid surface business dulls your sense of smell, because I didn't think it was that bad but my wife and niece both gagged and damn near hurled into the trash bag before we got the pump in it. We hauled it to the front yard to hose it off to make it acceptable for the trash guys and I still had to pull useable parts, which I did.

If you want to piss off your wife, walk through the house carrying a bag dripping poop and dropping same off your clothes and shoes. She conveniently forgets the big bucks I'm saving us on a plumber. Good thing we have porcelain tile instead of carpeting. A little bleach water and we're good to go. I decide to change my clothes before I leave the house, you never know who you may run into at Home Depot.

Thank God Home Depot carries Sewage pumps and is open Sundays, or we may all be going in the woods next door 'till morning. And there's 'skeeters big as hummingbirds in those woods too. $200.00 Sewage pump, not those wimpy little $89.00 sump pumps, either.

I've got to drill out those rusted and sawed-off bolts to put the lid back on, can't do it without splashing on my freshly-changed clothes. I broke one of the pipe holders on the lid, but one rusted screw is still holding it. Got 'er all hooked back up and I'm not spreadin' the Carpet Magic around the pit until I hear the sweet sound of pump hum and effluent slosh. I plug 'er in and hear both. Done. I put everything away and I'm goin' for a dip in my lake and hopefully soak the stink off me. This works pretty well but I still need a shower and shave. After all this I can still smell my fingers as I type this. EEEwwww.
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