Help! Mysterious, intermittent sewer backup issue

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Old 01-31-13, 08:11 PM
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Exclamation Help! Mysterious, intermittent sewer backup issue

We live in a 1920s house with bathrooms on each of the three levels. The basement bathroom is never used, but drains fine when we test it.

However, we have had two instances over the past six to eight months where water has literally surged and splattered in the basement shower stall. This was NOT due to use of the basement bathroom, but a temporary backup / spill caused by using the bathroom / kitchen in the floors above. The first instance the backup was limited to a splattering of water from the basement shower stall, which we found because of the staining of the water splash. In the second instance, it was a bit worse in that some water spilled out of the basement bathroom. However, in both instances we did not witness the surge or backup - only found out after the fact based on the small spill of water or the stain. Further, the situation seems to returns to normal immediately and we can now use any of the toilets just fine. In other words, we cannot reproduce the problem, and therefore, are not sure what to fix.

Any help or suggestions on how to troubleshoot and solve this intermittent issue would be much appreciated.

Thanks much!
 
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Old 01-31-13, 08:20 PM
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Water seeks the lowest level. So when your septic has an issue.....the sewage will come out at the lowest point regardless of where the water was used in the house.

It sounds like a septic system checkout and cleanout is in order.
 
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Old 01-31-13, 08:30 PM
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Forgot to mention in the post...the drain was recently cleaned out to the city sewer line. And it seems to some rare combination of events that causes it to backup, since It works fine 99.9% of the time.
 
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Old 01-31-13, 08:40 PM
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I'm sorry.....you did say sewer.

In some sewer systems those "rare" combinations of events occur with great regularity. The city sewer system backs up and then into your house. Many people have a valve installed in their sewer line to the street that allows sewage to leave the house but not return. Basically a one way valve.

You may have to do some sleuth work.
Are you low in your area ?
Check with your neighbors.....have they experienced this issue ?

If you are in a low spot in town you would be susceptible to sewage backups.
You may need to contact your sewerage authority and tell them of your concerns. They may be able to shed some light on your problem.
 
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Old 02-01-13, 03:50 AM
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May be partial blockage. Roots? Probably best to have a video inspection of the sewer main. That will answer a lot of questions.
 
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Old 02-01-13, 04:48 AM
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Given the frequncy that this occurs, and the conditions that you described, I would suspect that it is a vent issue. In the absence of proper venting, vacuums will occcur in the drain lines, akin to trapping water in a straw by holding your finger over the end of it, and when this happens water can be pulled from other traps, often followed by the backwash that you have witnessed. Were the vents cleaned at the time that the drain lines were cleaned? It is not as common for vents to become clogged, but they can, whether by accorns, leaves, birds, or other debris. So, if they weren't cleaned, I would start there, since that is a relatively easy thing to address. That said though, I would suspect that the real issue is the design of the system, whether the result of techniques used when the house was originally constructed, or of insufficient methods used during subsequent renovations.
 
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