what if the snake doesn't work?

Old 03-25-01, 08:09 PM
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A couple of days ago, I noticed my toilet wasn't flushing well. "Darn kids," I said. "Too much toilet paper." I plunged the toilet, flushed it, and all seemed well.

Later, I noticed it was flushing poorly again, so I dumped in some liquid plumber (or one of those products). The toilet flushed.

That night (it might have been Thursday but I'm not sure. Today, Sunday, I only know it was back in the days when I had functioning plumbing) after my bath, I noticed that the tub draining caused water to "glug" in my toilet. "Not good," I thought, and went to bed.

By Friday, when the toilet was flushed, water (only somewhat yucky) backed up into my bathtub. I put a note on the door not to use this bathroom (the other one worked fine) and poured more liquid plumber in the bathtub.

On Saturday, I did laundry. Although the washing machine is at the end of the house by the functioning bathroom, when it drained, it all came out of my toilet, along with some rather disgusting sewer water. Lots of it. Because we had plans I couldn't get out of, I left it. Unfortunately, part of the overflow went into a nearby heater vent, and last night it began to rain. With the cooling temperatures, the heat kicked on, and by 3am my house smelled like 20 or 30 cats had made themselves quite at home.

Sunday, and I live in a little bitty town in the middle of the woods. Nothing is open.

I try to snake the toilet, but am not strong enough to get the snake through the trap. So I shut off all the water, flush and bail until the tank is empty, and remove the toilet. My drain pipe is full of water to the floor level. I don't think it's supposed to be.

Fifty feet of snake and still the toilet drain, the bathtub and a freestanding shower are plugged. Next I snake the shower- it drains, as does the tub, but the toilet drain is still full. So then I snake the tub. Fifty feet later, still no change in the toilet drain. If I run water in the tub, the toilet drain begins to leak all over the floor.

I pour half a box of baking soda and lots of vinegar into the tub drain, and leave my homemade volcano to work. 30 minutes later, there's still no result.

I snake the drain pipe from the washing machine- all 50 feet of snake yet again. Back in the bathroom, there's now water standing in the bathtub. I blow up the house. No, no, that's not what I did... I began to search the internet, and found you guys. What's next? Is there something I haven't thought of, or is a plumber a necessity? How long can a person live with this smell? Can you get sick from sewage in your heater vents? Why me? Why on a weekend? Why does this stuff happen when I don't have the money to hire a professional?.... if anyone can answer any of these questions, I'd really appreciate it.

Thank you,
Old 03-25-01, 08:53 PM
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First you are right the pipes should not be full of water. Usually there are two main things that cause a snake not to work. The snake can go up instead of down. This happened to a plumber that helped my brother in law. The snake went up the vent. So they snaked it from the roof. The other reason a snake would not work of you do not go far enough. I know the cheap snakes are generally not ridgid enough to be of much account. Another thing you could do is find a clean out and a good location to try. As far as health goes I am not a Doctor but it is very bad for the health. The fumes and the stress are unreal.

Good Luck
Good Luck

Old 03-26-01, 06:55 AM
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Thanks, John, for your thoughts. My mother wondered if maybe the vent was plugged so I was thinking of crawling up on the roof and trying that this morning (though at least it's Monday and I could call a plumber!)

The snake is a pretty good one, 3/8" coil and 50 feet long. That's not long enough to go all the way out to the septic, though.

Again, thank you. I'll let you know what finally fixes it.
Old 03-26-01, 07:09 PM
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Angry what if snake doesn't work

Hi, Trish!
I sure sympathize, cause I have similar problem, but not nearly as intense. Both toilets flush, sinks drain, bathtub a little slowly, but when I wash clothes using full load, water comes up in bathtup. Not bad unless someone just used the toilet - well, you know what I mean. Then THAT comes up in the tub, too! I've poured about 1/2 gal of drain cleaner - mainly sulfuric acid, I think - , at different times, varying amounts, the last one about 5 cups. I thought for sure that would work. I figure drain is plugged between washer and city sewer line ( washer is closest drain to the city line in the alley ). Since I'm single and too stubborn to ask for help and too stingy to pay $328 to have pro do it, I'm going to find the cleanout outside and rent a snake and try from there. I first thought it was in my bathroom, but now I'm sure it's beyond that. Try going outside and looking for cleanout. I'll keep you up on my success, and you do the same!! Good luck,
Mary Jo in Vancouver, WA
Old 03-26-01, 07:28 PM
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This could be caused by a number of things, but let's take first things first, and do them one after the other until your problems are solved.
Do NOT use caustic drain cleaner in your toilet, it may dissolve your wax seal, and you'll compound your problem. You can use it in any other drains.
Trish, dismantle that heater vent, if you can, and wipe it out with watered-down-bleach-soaked towel.
1. Check and clear the vent pipes on the roof of leaves and debris (Momma knows best), and flush with a water hose sprayer.
2. Snake the vent pipe to the bottom.
3. Rent a longer (100') snake, and snake all clean-out plug lines.
4. Have the septic tank pumped ($125 here). You're supposed to do that at least every five years, anyway.
If these things don't work, come back. We'll try to help you.
Good Luck!
Old 03-27-01, 06:21 AM
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I can't really help you with your current problem but I did want to add this.
First, I've been through this same situation & I would look for a possible cleanout in the basement too. Mine was in the floor near the water heater but I didn't find that out until the guy had charged me 200.00+ to remove my toilet & snake the line & replace the tiolet ring.
Second, a little secret I found out about by accident. I called the 800# on a bottle of "pipe snake" to make sure there were no toxic fumes to worry about when using it & the nice lady told me " It's completely harmless really... it's just peroxide & bleach & when they mix it makes a foaming reaction. Don't tell my boss I told you that though." Needless to say I went out & bought those 2 things & I just pour that into my toilets when they get clogged & in about 2-4 hours everything is flushing like clockwork. Also it beats paying a ton for dangerous chemicals & it costs alot less than a 7.00 bottle of Pipesnake.
Maybe this will come in handy in the future for you. (but don't tell her boss)
Old 03-27-01, 06:47 AM
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sometimes its not the snake

Hi all,
Thanks so much for all the replies. Lots of interesting information.

I finally called the plumber yesterday and he was as baffled as I. Underneath the house, there's two sets of lines coming into the main drain- one line from each side of the house. They meet in a T junction before going into the drain, and the T is only barely offset. What that means is that when we snake, it doesn't turn to go down into the main drain, but instead goes into the other lines.

There's a cleanout there, but it's below the T so you can't reach that one little stretch of pipe from there, either. We're assuming that in that section is where my mystery object is plugging things up- likely a toy or something like that, not just your normal grease/yucky stuff clog.

Right now, water will run through. The plumber has suggested I put everything back together, and listen for problems. If a clog starts to form around whatever's stuck in the pipe, I should start hearing gurgling sounds in the drains as my first clue. Then he'll come back and go down the pipe with a camera- maybe we can see the object, and as the camera has a 2 inch head, it may push something a snake won't.

The outside clean-outs are clear, so it's not a septic problem- thank goodness. Took me forever to find the outside cleanouts, though. I finally had to call our local health district office, and have them fax me the map submitted when the septic was put in. It wasn't quite where I thought it was. Sure does help to know these things.

So far, the plumber has cost $198 (money I didn't have, but plumbing is a necessity for me- though I spent some time in my childhood in a house without it, we had an outhouse to use. Nothing like that here.)It will probably cost another hundred or so if he comes back- plumbers here in North Idaho get $48 an hour (which is cheaper than what I expected).

Baking soda and vinegar does the same as bleach and peroxide- a wonderful, cleansing, foaming action that's especially good on grease clogs, which make up the majority of kitchen clogs. Every other month or so, I pour a bunch of both down my kitchen drain. After the foaming is done, I run hot water for a while (long enough to melt any grease and send it on down into the septic.)I've also learned never to put potato peels in the garbage disposal- guaranteed to plug up the pipes.

Thanks again for all your help. Mary Jo, when I couldn't find my snake, I went down to our local co-op- got a very nice snake for $14.95. The ones you rent, however, have the benefit of being motorized. Still, one you own is a nice thing to keep on hand.

Now I need to go re-install my toilet, bleach everything in the bathroom down, wipe out that heater vent and try to figure out if the carpet is worth salvaging. (although the pad will have to go).

Thanks again, everyone.

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