Basement floor drain in 100 year old house

Old 03-15-14, 01:11 PM
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Question Basement floor drain in 100 year old house

Hi everyone. This is my first time here. First, let me say that I'm a woman and pretty handy, but I know nothing about plumbing. So forgive my ignorance, but at the same time, I should be able to understand and discuss this intelligently.

This will be fairly lengthy, but I want to make sure I provide enough information. But it gets a little complicated.

My house was built in 1916. I bought it two summers ago. My basement walls are made of cinder block and the floor is poured concrete. It's unfinished and one big room. I live in the city and am tied into the city sewer.

Before going into the long explanation, here's what I'm trying to figure out. My basement drain is clogged, and for life of me, we can't figure out where the drain pipe leads. And what needs to be done to fix it.

Long explanation:

The basement floor has just one drain. It's in the middle of the room. It's basically a little bowl cut in the floor (a couple inches deep) and a 2 inch horizontal pipe leads away through the floor. There's no vertical pipe involved at the drain. The horizontal drain pipe appears to run in the direction toward the corner of the room where a 4" pvc main drain pipe leads from upstairs and down into the floor. We thought the 2" pipe tied into the 4" pipe, but figured out it does not. And incidentally, the 2" pipe leads toward the back of the house, not toward the front of the house where we tie into the city sewer.

When I bought the house, the floor drain worked, but drained very slowly. Then a year later (last summer) the drain quit completely. A friend had a hand crank snake. The drain is about 10 feet from that 4" vertical pvc. We definitely ran the snake that far. So we figured we made it into the 4" pipe and were good to go. It still didn't drain.

There's a little metal cap on the floor with a wing nut. It's a few inches from the 4" pvc. (in front of the 4" pipe, toward the front of the house) And it appears to be right about where the 2" pipe leads. We opened that cap. It opened into an old horizontal 4" metal pipe that leads out to the street (where we tie in to the sewer). We flushed a toilet and saw water run by. So we know that's the out going sewer pipe. We ran the snake through the 2" pipe from the drain and it never appeared. So it does not seem to tie into the main outgoing sewer pipe.

Last night I had some minor flooding in the basement. I have cracks in the walls and water seeps in during the spring thaw or if we get multiple inches of rain. At the drain there was a small pool of water (about 8 inches in diameter) and just filled that little "bowl" of the drain. So a small amount of water was visible. I have a small, cheap wet/dry vac. I began sucking up the water. My vac became full, so I dumped it outside. It holds 2 gallons (it's small). I went back into the basement and ran it again. It became full and I dumped it. I did that 9 times and finally gave up.

9 times means I pulled out 18 gallons of water. I did the math. That's 4158 cubic inches of water. In a 2-inch pipe, that would fill 110 feet of pipe. Where the hell is all that water sitting?

My front yard is very small and the front of my house sits just about 20 feet from the street. Without knowing anything about plumbing, or how things were done when this drain was built, I wonder a couple things.

First, remember that the 2" drain pipe leads toward the back of the house. Is it possible that there's an old septic tank in the back yard and that floor drain goes into that? If that's the case, then it seems like it would be full. My backyard has not shown any signs of an overfull septic tank (soggy ground, etc).

Second, could there be a different 4" pipe that it's tying into that starts at the back of the house and then runs to the street? That seems odd, but that could explain how that much water could be sitting.

If there's a clog, it's nowhere near the drain, since I pulled out that much water. It has to be quite a bit down stream. Or there's a tank or holding area somewhere that is holding it all.

So that's the whole story. Anybody have any idea what would be going on with this nearly 100 year old house? My basement floods pretty bad in the spring and it would be nice if the drain worked.

Thanks everyone!
Melissa (Mizzy)
Old 03-20-14, 07:16 PM
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First thing I would like to point out is I have never seen a hand crank snake clear much of a clog especially one like you describe. A power snake would be needed if it is something that could be unclogged. Does it run to the back yard to a septic tank? Who really could say. I have a process if I do not know for sure how it is ran almost anything is possible. The 2 inch pipe should go to t he main line (the 4 inch under slab) that does not mean it does. If it were me I would price the cost of someone coming out. I know where I live I have rented snakes and called a pro. There is only a 40 dollar difference.
The main line is not clogged and the drain line wherever it leads is.
It sounds like the house has had the plumbing redone as PVC is not found in a original 100 year old house. I really believe (and it is only my guess) if it is snaked properly one of two things will become clear. It will unclog and be fixed. Secondly it will become clear a new line needs to be ran. One other thing is there anything in the basement (like a washing machine)? If so all washing machines need a lent filter on the drain hose as it is common to clog old cast iron pipes. Also if it were me I would look into fixing this water in the basement issue.

Good Luck

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