septic system cleanouts


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Old 05-29-14, 02:13 PM
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septic system cleanouts

Hi folks –

I had a blockage from my house to my septic system. I just cleared it with a 50 foot ½ inch Mini-Rooter drain snake. I used the Arrowhead attachment to bore through the blockage. But my question is “how much standing water should you see in the sewer line cleanouts?”

Here is why I am asking. I have a cleanout in the basement floor and another cleanout close to the septic tank about 40 feet away from that cleanout in the basement floor. When I had the blockage the cleanout in the basement floor was full of water, maybe 3-4 inches below the floor level. However, the cleanout near the septic tank had no standing water at all.

My understanding is that if the cleanout near the septic tank has no backup, then you know that water is not making it to the septic tank and so the blockage is in between the house and the septic tank. So following that logic I rented the drain snake, and lo and behold, using the drain snake on the cleanout in the basement floor I was in fact able to clear the blockage. I flush toilets and everything drains fine. Before that the toilet in the basement and the cleanout in the basement would overflow with sewage.

After snaking now I see only about ¾-1 inch of water standing in the cleanout in the basement floor whereas before I snaked it was about 8 inches. And now, unlike before, I do in fact see some water standing in the cleanout near the septic tank (I can’t tell the depth of the water there, unless I drop a weight on a string or something like that.)

So are you always supposed to see a little standing water in all cleanouts, or only some cleanouts? I’m not clear on what you should see.

Also, is there a really good test to see if the drainage is working properly other than just flushing some toilets?

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!
 
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Old 05-29-14, 03:38 PM
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As a practical matter, shouldn't all drainage (except for traps within heated areas) be devoid of all standing water/effluent, just to avoid frost/freezing damage ?
 
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Old 05-29-14, 04:41 PM
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In a perfect world all drain lines would be properly pitched so you'd have no standing water visible in your cleanouts. Unfortunately low spots do exist so sometimes you'll see water. It's also possible that you've only partially cleared your clog and it is acting like a dam and holding water.

What size what the head on the snake you used and do you have an idea what caused your clog? An undersized snake can poke a hole in a clog without clearing the whole thing. It's especially possible with clogs caused by grease or roots. Multiple passes often don't help much as the smaller head finds it's way through the previous hole without removing the rest of the clog.
 
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Old 05-29-14, 06:22 PM
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Thanks guys. I used the Arrowhead on the snake at first, but then after I made that first post I went back and used the attachment that they call the “U Cutter” that looks like jaws to try and do a more thorough job. This is a ½ inch snake. I am in fact concerned about how good a clearing job I accomplished. But after I used the “U Cutter” now there is no standing water in the cleanout in the basement. Everything seems to be flowing fine – but I guess as you suggest, that could be deceiving.

I had a block on the same pipe between the house and septic 3 years ago and cleared it with the mini-rooter also at that time. The house is 1967 so I’m wondering if the pipes aren’t just getting rough on the inside causing build up, if that’s possible. I don’t put anything down there at all so I can’t baby the system any more than I do now.

Here is a link that got me thinking that you should in fact see standing water at the cleanout near the septic tank. I also found another company that basically says the same thing.

There's a Backup: Plumbing or Septic Tank Problem? [Video] | Van Delden Wastewater Systems

So that’s why I’m a little confused. Do they design the entire system so that there is always standing water in the cleanup near the septic tank? That’s what they seem to be implying. But other cleanouts in the line should be devoid of standing water?

The standing water I see in the cleanout by the septic tank is down at least 6-7 feet so I guess freezing wouldn’t be a problem.
 
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Old 05-29-14, 06:42 PM
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Here is a link that got me thinking that you should in fact see standing water at the cleanout near the septic tank.
Video says you should not!!!!!


So that’s why I’m a little confused.
Your statements are confusing me too.....


You should see no water...
 
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Old 05-30-14, 06:03 AM
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How big was the cutter head you ran through the system? If it was a 1 or 2" cutter then it's possible that that is the size opening it cleared through the clog. Sometimes a smaller cutter can remove the entire clog but it takes a bit of skill and persistence. First you have to feel for where the clog is. Then continue working that area until no bumps or restrictions or felt. The drain will be flowing prior to that so it takes some skill to recognize that there is still some clog in there.

A septic tank is always 95% full. Whether or not you will see liquid in a cleanout near the tank depends somewhat on where the cleanout is located. The tanks outlet should be lower than the inlet so the pipe should be empty when you look in the cleanout.

Old pipes, especially clay pipes can settle over time forming low spots. They are also prone to having roots grow in through the pipe joints which will cause reoccurring clogs.
 
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Old 05-30-14, 09:55 AM
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Video says you should not!!!!!
So that’s why I’m a little confused.



Your statements are confusing me too…
You should see no water...

OK you are right again Mike. I just looked again at that link. I know where I made my mistake. I forgot that the entire tutorial was about “if you have a backup”. He didn’t mean on a normally functioning system you should see backup in the septic cleanout. Makes a whole lot more sense now. Thanks. (now I can go through the weekend un-confused! lol)
 
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Old 05-30-14, 10:41 AM
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How big was the cutter head you ran through the system? If it was a 1 or 2" cutter then it's possible that that is the size opening it cleared through the clog. Sometimes a smaller cutter can remove the entire clog but it takes a bit of skill and persistence. First you have to feel for where the clog is. Then continue working that area until no bumps or restrictions or felt. The drain will be flowing prior to that so it takes some skill to recognize that there is still some clog in there

Pilot Dane it was just what they call a 50 foot ½ inch mini-rooter you can rent at Home Depot. The invoice says the U-cutter is 1 ½ inches. Last time I didn’t use the U-cutter, this time I did. I had the same problem exactly 3 years ago and used the same snake to open up the line. Last time I felt the clog, but this time it felt like there was some resistance but not a whole lot (but my feel for that is probably not good).

I went back and forth very slowly with the Arrowhead and then the U-cutter attachment. The flow seems very good now, but I don’t know for how long. Out of ignorance I rented the ½ inch 3 years ago so that’s why I rented the same one again.

It seems both times the blockage really didn’t clear until the snake was out very close to (or in?) the tank about 40 feet or so from the house. What I mean is that I didn’t see the water level drop in the basement cleanout until the snake was way out near the tank. If that means anything.


As a practical matter, shouldn't all drainage (except for traps within heated areas) be devoid of all standing water/effluent, just to avoid frost/freezing damage ?
Vermont as you can see I was way confused. lol
 
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Old 05-30-14, 12:28 PM
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I don't think you're confused at all . . . . most people don't want to spend one moment even thinking about this subject; let alone devoting themselves to a hands on involvement, followed by some serious analysis.

These are the subjects that, unfortunately, never ever seem to come up for conversation at any of our recent Cocktail Parties . . . . despite the fact that all attendees benefit by having these systems properly function everyday.
 
  #10  
Old 05-30-14, 05:14 PM
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Good points Vermont! .....................................
 
  #11  
Old 05-30-14, 08:41 PM
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These are the subjects that, unfortunately, never ever seem to come up for conversation at any of our recent Cocktail Parties .
Well have me over for a cocktail or two...(7).... Ill bring it up...LOL
 
 

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