Complicated toilet leak, any suggestions?


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Old 05-27-08, 12:53 PM
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Complicated toilet leak, any suggestions?

I have two bathrooms back to back. First leak was the shower drain, big black pipe under the floor. Pipe was cracked so had it replaced and then found toilet in other bathroom was also leaking under the house. I had that big black pipe that attaches to the floor where the toilet sits replaced as well. It had an actual hole at the top lip and water just poured over the edge, probably for years. Then had new toilet installed-total so far over $1K! Big deal to go and work under the house, crawl space only about 12".

A few weeks later, toilet leaks from bolts attaching the tank to the bowl. First plumber won't return calls so new plumber takes apart toilet and finds the bolts and the seal caulked and says the first guy din't "know what he was doing" to caulk a new toilet like that. Replaces seal and bolts and now the toilet doesn't leak where we can see it, additional $200 but this plumber won't go under house to check for additional leak but have terrible intermitent smells so...

Go under house myself again and find that the toilet is still leaking! After 3 flushes, the water pours out behind toilet and down the wood subfloor directly behind base of toilet. No water can be seen standing in the bathroom, can't feel it on the floor but can only be seen from below. Now have puddle about 2 inches deep under the house.

Naturally I don't want to call either of these plumbers again and they were recommended. Now what? Pick out of the phone book? Take the toilet off myself? Any ideas what is going wrong? Thanks in advance for any help!
 
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Old 05-27-08, 01:06 PM
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From the discription it sounds like you have a clogged line.
 
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Old 05-27-08, 01:23 PM
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The toilet always flushes though! Never backs up but apparently just pours water under the floor. You mean that the line/pipe is clogged below the floor? The big black pipe? Wouldn't the toilet overflow if that was it?

I was looking at some toilet repair sites. They did replace the flange too but the way the water pours out under the floor at the base of the toilet, do you think it could be as simple as replacing the wax ring? Wouldn't the water flow onto the floor of the bathroom it that was the problem?

I know I should just take the toilet off myself to try and see what the problem is but then I won't have water flushing to find the leak-ack! Should I call another plumber?
 
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Old 05-28-08, 08:13 AM
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Unhappy

from your description, it sounds like the plumber cut the new waste line too short and the wax ring/seal is not sealing. sounds like a removal of the toilet(not a big deal) and check the discharge pipe/wax ring area. if the pipe is indeed too short, a wax seal with a sleeve on it may solve the problem. i am presuming that the waste line is supported by something to keep it from moving downward when the commode was re-sset? 12 inches of crawlspace is not sufficient which is probably why the price was SO high. Good Luck!
 
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Old 05-28-08, 11:58 AM
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Thanks so much for your replies!

After doing more research, I think the problem is the flange is set too low and the wax ring doesn't actually sit on the flange! I remember looking when they did it and not realizing that it was supposed to be at the same level of the floor. I think it is easily 2 inches below so is there an extender piece I can add to it or would that require a plumber?

I will go back under and make sure the big black pipe is indeed supported in some way. If I recall correctly, it is just hanging in mid air under the floor so I will pick up some clamp type things to attach it to one of the joists, is that right?

By the way, all this plumbing trouble started after a small little earthquake a few months back.
 
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Old 05-28-08, 01:45 PM
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First off, is the flange OK?

If the flange is down 2" that is way too much for just a wax seal. The flange should be re piped up to the proper height. If the flange is ok the pipe should not have moved. It should have been held in place by the flange being bolted to the floor. They do sell spacers an/or double up you wax ring, but I have never done that to a flange that is 2" below floor level.

I think you have a combination problem. I think the drain is partially plugged allowing most to go down drain, but backing up some, and that water is leaking into your crawlspace from the lack of seal at the flange.
 
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Old 05-28-08, 09:32 PM
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I would pull the toilet get an actual measurement as to how far below it really is. also noticed if the wax ring was pressed down or looks like the toilet never even touched it. then as for the possible blockage can you run a garden hose in there and stuff it in the drain when you have the toilet off and see if it backs up?
 

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Old 05-29-08, 04:32 PM
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Thank you all for your thoughtful replies. This weekend I will have to pull the toilet off and get a good look. Luckily, I know enough to ask here and will know just what to look for!

I wil check the level of the flange and especially if the wax seal has even made contact with both things. I am trying to figure out how to pull a hose in through the house to check for a blockage but that sounds like a good idea. At least we will narrow down the issues. I'll post back to tell you what I find out but hopefully, cross your fingers that I won't need any more help.

Thanks again!
 
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Old 05-29-08, 06:06 PM
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Originally Posted by fidoprincess View Post
Thanks so much for your replies!

After doing more research, I think the problem is the flange is set too low and the wax ring doesn't actually sit on the flange! I remember looking when they did it and not realizing that it was supposed to be at the same level of the floor. I think it is easily 2 inches below so is there an extender piece I can add to it or would that require a plumber?

I will go back under and make sure the big black pipe is indeed supported in some way. If I recall correctly, it is just hanging in mid air under the floor so I will pick up some clamp type things to attach it to one of the joists, is that right?

By the way, all this plumbing trouble started after a small little earthquake a few months back.
Surely from all that you have revealed, the two plumbers were neither REAL plumbers, right? Any plumber, even a decent handiman, knows where the flange height needs to be. The bottom of the flange sits on the finished floor. Or extensions are added to make that so, if say the floor height was added on to.

If say the TOP of the flange was even with the finished floor, sometimes they opt for just using an extra thick wax ring you can buy at the home stores.

If ever you move and ever buy a house with a 12 inch crawl space and hardly no way to even combat-style crawl/worm your way to the plumbing - then try to find maybe some moonlighter's teenage age son(s)/friends to dig out trench, so plumbing bill is not so high! On one house we remodeled a number of years ago, we remodeled a house right down to the dirt crawl space and dug out the basement 4 feet deeper by hand using a couple such young lads, who enjoyed earning a few extra bucks. I chipped in also just to challenge my stamina, while I was in my late 40's then. I have also been in crawl space old rentals that already had tunnels dug throughout the crawl space for when they ran radiator lines and plumbing lines.

IF, when you start unscrewing the toilet bolts, that the nuts are unscrewing off the bolt and the bolt is NOT spinning in circles with the nut, but not coming off the bolt, you'd better stop unscrewing! as what may be happening is the cast iron is dropping down!

Am looking forward to reading what you find.
 
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Old 05-29-08, 06:20 PM
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Make sure the flange is actually connected to the sewer pipe securely. If the hole in the floor is large enough for the flange to go through to the crawl space you'll need to insert some shims to hold it above the finished floor. A thin piece of flashing with a "U" shape cut out of one side will slide in between the flooring & the flange. Use one on each side. Trim the outer piece so it does not protrude past the edge of the toilet base. You will of course need a little slack from under the house to raise the flange above the floor.

John 3:16
 
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Old 06-06-08, 01:02 PM
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Update/help!

Finally, I gave up trying to do the toilet myself and called in 2 different plumbers and today, they both finally came after rescheduling a number of times.

First plumber: I retell the tale of how the toilet leaks after the 3rd flush so he is in agreement that it must be a clog in the line. He has a camera and puts in down the outside "clean-out" that is about 70 feet from the toilet-totally opposite end of the house. He says the pipe is old and clay(-remember house is 30 years old-)and has roots and is becoming separated at the connection to the county line and will cost a minimum of $10K to fix, most likely upwards of $20K and we'd have to get permits and close and dig up the street! He is looking from the cleanout to the street, about 10 feet from the street but far from the house.

He says the camera can not look from the pipe cleanout towards the house and he can't figure out why the cleanout is so far from all the bathroom plumbing so he thinks there must be another one somewhere. I don't know where it is or if there even is another one and he can't find it. So he climbs up on the roof and takes the camera to look down the vent. He can't see there either because there are too many twists or something so finally he goes under the house.

(Frankly, I get tears in my eyes over the prospect of the $$$ cost and the plumber gets a little shook up but this week the transmission of our car is $3K and son needs $5K braces-not a good week!)


Then, he comes up from under the house and walks around the outside of the house again and says he will "just" make a new clean out on that side to tie into all those pipes and that will cost $1225. I don't understand how that will help?

He gives me the written estimate and leaves.

Then 10 minutes later, plumber 2 comes and takes off the toilet, finds the wax ring defective-not sealed right in the back of the toilet where it was pouring the water over the wood subfloor and replaces it for $130. He says to "camera" the toilet line will be another $300 and he doesn't think we need that because the toilet is not overflowing when we flush it. He warrants the wax ring for 6 months but won't go under the house to see if it is still leaking.

I forget to ask him if we can use the toilet right away or if the wax has to "set-up" so I am not letting anyone use that one yet. How long should we wait? Tonight or tomorrow, I will get someone to flush while I am under the house to see if it is still leaking. I did look and the flange is the perfect height, not too short and plumber says that all looks fine.

Can someone tell me what plunber #1 was trying to do and do you think I need to have that done as well? How does making another clean out change the fact that the pipe to the street is separated and has roots in it? Does this mean that raw sewage is flowing under the street and seeping out the pipe? How can that be so horrible and then "fix" it with another clean out? I am soooo confused. Thanks in advance for any light you can shed on my problem!!
 
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Old 06-06-08, 02:32 PM
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Well, I guess you have gotten the run around on this.

You can use the toilet immediately.

I still think you have some kind of blockage and when the water got to high it was leaking out the wax seal of the toilet. A long time ago I lost my drivers license for DWI, So I became the sewer snake king for the company I worked with because they always sent 2 people. Do you know how many roots I was able to clean out of a sewer line. LOTS.

When the plumber with his fancy snake looked into the line was it plugged at that time? If not, he should have kept running water to see if it would plug up. Maybe the problem is between the toilet and where he snaked from. Why didn't he pull the toilet and run his cameras from there. If he could run a camera, why didn't he just run a snake and clean out the roots.

Worst case scenario would be if the small earthquake caused the clay pipe to break and then you do need to dig it up. But you may be able to do a repair instead of replacing the whole line.
 
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Old 06-07-08, 11:49 AM
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Thank you plumbingods! Good to know we can use the toilet right away.

Neither one of the plumbers looked into the toilet line as far as I could tell unless the one that used the camera for the vent of the roof was trying to see in the toilet?

I am kicking myself for not asking/insisting that one of them snake the toilet line-grrr, I was stupid! I have a friend that has a long snake and will go borrow it today. I plan to snake out all the toilet lines but should I try and do the cleanout line too where the roots are? Plumber #1 said this clay pipe is cracked at the county hookup under the street but at least if I can get the roots out, it should make that better, right?

I was thinking about this whole long fiasco thing and now that I remember what the shower pipe looked like, (the first one that was worked on) I am really wondering if there isn't some whole system wide problem. When the first round of plumbers cut out that cracked drain pipe, it was full of hard white stuff! What could that be?

The 3 or 4 inch pipe was so full of this white stuff that the opening had been reduced to less than 1 inch. They thought maybe the shower had been retiled and grout had been poured into the pipe. Then when the plumber used the camera in the vent on the roof, he asked if we put kitty litter down the toilet because he said he could see all white gunk in that line. We never did but who knows about the people who lived here before but they certainly wouldn't have put it down the shower drain. What could the white sediment be?

Should I get some kind of drain cleaner and pour it down all the toilets and the outside cleanout hole? I saw they sell stuff called "Root-Away Root Destroyer" but does that go down the outside cleanout hole? Pour it in the toilets too along with trying to snake out those lines?

Thanks again for your help!
 
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Old 06-07-08, 02:41 PM
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Just came up from under the house and oh boy, it's wet! I had someone flush toilet over and over and now there is no one spot to see the drip because it is wet all over-ack!

Called the plumber back who did the wax ring and he will be here in 2 hours but oh man, he is just going to have to go under the house and see where that toilet is leaking from, don't you agree?

Now the wood beam is starting to really rot and the vertical support is baaaad but can't fix that until I can get it dry. At least the subfloor is still looking okay, no rot yet but if I can't fix this leak soon, it will only get worse.

At least while he is here again, I will ask him to snake the toilet. I ran over to borrow my friends and they can't find it.
 
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Old 06-07-08, 03:26 PM
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Well, if it wasn't for bad luck you wouldn't have any luck at all.

I ruined a guys tub once because someone poured grout into the drain. It completely plugged up the tub drain. I poured drain acid into it. The acid couldn't get through the grout so while the acid was in the tub it ate through the porcelain coating. It was a coated cast iron tub. Thank god it was a friend so I did not get sued for a new tub. My point is if someone poured grout down the drain and it hardened, you may be in need of complete replacement of your sewage drains.

The plumber may have put the seal on correctly but, If the drain is backing up, the seal does not hold much pressure back. It's main purpose is to seal out any gases and sewer bugs, and slight drips of water. But not large amounts of water backing up.
 
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Old 06-07-08, 04:06 PM
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Under many circumstnaces, especially if there is adequate drop in the 3 or 4 inch elbow under the toilet, you don't even need a wax ring to keep the water from leaking out! It should all freely flow down the drain if there is no restriction downline. I have witnessed plenty toilets that have broken bolts and are loose on the floor, and rock, and still do not leak on the floor there or down below!

Yes, I agree that a backup is the cause, and misalignment or roots or both. You could google "foaming root killer" as I swear by that product, as it has worked for me. A lot cheaper than the $100-125 roto-rooter man.

You can also buy a rubber attachment that screws on the end of a garden hose (sold in home center's plumbing dept.) to blast free, clogs. They come in 3 sizes that are for 1 1/4 drains, 1 1/2 or 2 inch drains and 3-4 inch drains. Because you have no clean out, you would have to pull the toilet and stick it down there and go up on the roof and plug the vent with expandable plug or Fernco'd cap, so the pressurized water cannot come out the vent. If you want to know more about this procedure, you can PM me to have me do it by PM, or just remind me to go into more detail about this device.

A clean out in your line would have possibly enabled you to even use one of those sewer tapes that can be quite effective in ramming their way through a clog.
 
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Old 06-07-08, 05:16 PM
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Finally, a plumber that actually went under the house and looked! This guy was good and nice too.

Turns out that the leak was again in the bolts at the top of the tank and was such a bad drip that the subfloor and the ground were all wet again so...both that leak and the wax ring leak are fixed! We are officially leak free.

Plumber #3 today, looked at each of the 3 toilets, flushed over and over and none are clogged or backed up according to him. We have great flushing action and while under the house, he listened and said the water flowed great. Then he went out to the clean out, opened it up and watched the water flow as we flushed the toilets. I did tell him about the other plumber saying that the whole outside pipe needed replacement and he said 2 things: if there was a clog from the house to where he stood at the clean out, he would be able to tell because the water would not flow freely and if the pipe from there to the street was clogged, we would see the water backing up right there at the cleanout. He said maybe down the road, if we do have roots and a cracked clay pipe at the street we will have trouble but he didn't think there were any symptoms to warrant his doing the camera for another $300 so we will just wait on that.

He did look at all the pipes under the house and said that "soon" the copper water lines would need some attention at the joints as they were beginning to look "fuzzy" but none were leaking, just something for us to be aware of.

The best part of all is that there was NO CHARGE because he said his coworker yesterday should have caught the bolt leak.

The bad news now is that the main beam, a side beam and the vertical support beam are all rotted out from water damage avout 3-5 feet across so I have to get that fixed right away. When you walk on the floor, you can feel it flex-ack. Who do I call for that type of work, it's beyond my ability, I think...?

Geez, if I get that done right, maybe I can finally put in that travertine tile I always wanted but was told the subfloor was not strong enough, hmmm, see you over at the flooring forum and THANKS again for walking me through all of this mess!
 
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Old 06-07-08, 08:42 PM
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I am very glad to here it all worked out for you.

You had me worried when you metioned the white stuff in the pipe. I should have told you to check those bolts but I was focusing on the floor and drain as being the problem. It is much easier when you are there, as the first plumbers should have figured out. You don't even need to go into the crawl space to find that leak. Lazy plumbers just give us all a bad name.
 
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Old 06-08-08, 10:13 AM
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Plumbingod, the white stuff is surely in the pipes but was not causing the leak. What is that stuff and is there something to pour into the pipes to disolve it? I wonder if it was from the water softener system they had before we moved here-culligan, I think, the pipes for the tank thing are still outside, just capped off. That white sediment was in every black pipe they cut out from both the toilet and the shower drain-looks like concrete or grout?

Can you also tell me what kind of tradesman to call for the repair work to the joists and beam? I looked all over the web and it seems like a pretty straightforward job using jacks to support what is there while they replace the rotted wood but I have no idea what to look for in the phone book. Thanks again!
 
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Old 06-08-08, 10:50 AM
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Hello again,

As far as the white stuff is concerned, I highly doubt it was from a conditioner, but I don't specialize in them so I am not positive. The olny other things I have run into that is white and can be hard are grout, lye, and grease.
If you were to use a drain cleaner it would help with the grease. Lye, also used as a drain cleaner will harden if not flushed out. I did a job once where someone used lye, and I had to drill it out of the trap. It will also cause chemical burns if not careful. If it is grout, well I already told you my story about grout. Drain cleaners won't touch it.

As far as I would get a reputable framer, one that knows his stuff about structure and support. If you cannot find one in the phone book or by word of mouth, you could most likely ask your town or city builing department for a list of reputable framing contractors. They usually have a list. Just tell them you are looking into doing some work and need to talk to a good framer. Don't tell them you ARE going to do anything unless you are ready to pull a permit and have inspectors crawling through your property. Even though it is just a simple repair.
 
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Old 06-12-08, 07:04 PM
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Just another update and hope you send me luck! I called 4 or 5 contractors and one finally showed up today. He went down under the house and said it was not too bad, 2 joists, a small part of the main beam and one pier that are rotted and gave me an estimate of $400. Frankly, I was overjoyed at the price because I thought it would be a LOT more considering the horrible access.

The BAD part is that he said it is still dripping and needs to be fixed before he does the work! He could not tell where the leak was coming from and said the floor is not soft enough to cause the wax ring to come undone with movement. He said he could not duplicate any movement since the plywood subfloor is 1 1/2 inches and is still in good condition, not rotted but does have a black spot? from the water.

I called back the plumber and he is coming again tomorrow but I feel like crying-ack! Why can't anyone fix this leak?!

(At least this guy will also shore up my deck and will do it tomorrow afternoon! We have a big "old time" hot tub and there is decking built all around it. It looks like a fiberglass type pool and the wood on top is fine but the joists are baaad and the whole box has collapsed. The deck really needs to be replaced but that is big $$ so I just wanted someone to make it safe for the little kids to play in the hot tub. They think it is their swimming pool because it is so big and they are sooo happy it will be fixed. Hopefully the plumbers will find and fix the leak so he can move right into that. I was please with that price too-$250 to put in 4 or 6 new pillars/post and sister to the rotted joists new beams. )

Compared to the patio cement work, this stuff is affordable. The concrete people want 1200-ugh! Why does everything break at the same time?

Any tips or hints for the plumber tomorrow? Is there some easy way to find out exactly where the leak is coming from? I was thinking of putting different colored food coloring in each thing but then I realized that it's so dark under there, you'd never be able to see it. How do you find what exactly is leaking? Remember there are 2 back to back bathrooms...
 
 

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