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michele bakalar
the drain in the floor....help

First I have watched TOH show since the mid 1990's and was thrilled when Asked This Old House was added,it is a staple of my weekend here in Ohio.

I live in a 1947 bungalow in Lorain Ohio, in 2004 we flooded and thought well 100 year rain...okay. Prior to that we never flooded. Never! We knew our foundation was bad, the walls, drain tile all of it so we had our whole foundation rebuild, new everything and we were disconnected from the city. Our home was connected to the the cities sanitation system which is not allowed any more by code so we complied. Had private contractor do all the work.

Well, we still keeping flooding and it is from the same place, during heavy rains, which is the drain hole in the floor of our basement. To make this very long story short, we became a test house for the city and had a back flow valve aka the flapper installed, this was over 2 weeks ago and now we have a new problem.

The drain hole in the floor now has feces in it from time to time and the smell well....it is awful. We checked the "Flapper" and there was a build up on it of "stuff". So we cleaned it and reinstalled it. The city came out and they TV'ed the main from the back flow outside in front yard to from what I understand to the cast iron connection and there was no blockage. We had the lines today cleaned because the city told us that our "y" in the stack was blocked. Well there is still fecal material where there never was and the basement still smells. When you flush the toilet one wants to yell "man in the hole", because the water in the hole goes up with major force then down and then back up. When we wash clothes we get soap suds all over the floor and our Sump is discharging this soapy water into the street.

Did I also mention that they cut our water main during instillation, that the "Flapper" is not plumb going east to west and that the going north to south that it is over its variance. This would be from front of house to main lateral in street.

Did I also mention that my neighbor who lives in a house 2 doors from me who has done all the same things as we have done with 2 exceptions his back flow is located inside not outside like ours and his is a ball not a flapper, he also has a French drain system as well as external drain tiles but is having the same problem and it all started from what we all have gathered in the same time period. He too has snaked the "y" and his internal drains and now is going to replace the outside main just because. Nothing was found BTW in either snaking cases.

Our homes our built by the same builder in the time frame. We need help because our city has abandoned us. We need to under how these older homes functioned when they were build and what happens to them when they have been altered like these two homes have been. We know that we are the only 2 homes on this street that have the back flows and that are for sure disconnected from our cities sanitation system.

I don't know what else to do my husband and I have gone from anger to depressed to this is just one big huge comedy show. We have kept a blog diary of all the events complete with photos which was part of the deal with the city including paying for the "flapper" out of our own pocket.

Help, we need help. :(

Re: the drain in the floor....help


Maybe it's just me...at the end of yet another exhausting day.....but I'm having a bit of difficulty following along.

If I have this right, you disconnected all of the house drains from the city's sanitary sewer and were then connected to *elsewhere*. Where exactly is this *elsewhere*? A septic system?

Or..... are you saying that you supposedly had only the rainwater/foundation drains diverted to elsewhere. If so, where is that elsewhere? A drywell, perhaps?

Please clarify.

Re: the drain in the floor....help

I'm with goldhiller being at bit confused with some of the facts.

I'm going to attempt my take on what may be the issue.

From the vintage of your home there are city sewer systems that are a single system. Meaning the city's sewer pipes outside are a single pipe that receive sewage from homes and also have the street drains that tie into them. When there are heavy rains the water from the street combined with the sewage from homes will overwhelm the city sewer pipes. When this occurs there is a possibility of sewage and rain water backing up and causing flooding in peoples basements.

It's very possible that the original foundation perimeter drain was tied into the main drain of the home which is discharged to the city sewer system. In cases the older homes may have had the downspouts enter the home and drain into the same system and usually are not allowed to do this any longer. When it rains heavy all this water from the drainage system of your home is being discharged to the city sewer system at the same time the street drains and these two combined overwhelms the system. Depending on your setup the original foundation drains may have ran to the floor drain sump then empty into the main drain discharge out to the street.
Cities with this type of system are looking at minimizing the costs of treating this extra capacity of water. They would rather deal with processing just the waste sewage from houses than have to include extra volume from the rain water. Usually newer home developments will have a split city sewage system. One for the street drains and a separate one for the sewage from homes. This type of system also greatly reduces basement flooding.

Now I'm guessing that when you had your foundation work done the requirement is to have the foundation drain system to be discharged out some other method and not empty into the city's sewer system. Possibly buy a sump pit and evacuated by a sump pump outside the house. This is to reduce the extra volume of water being drained into the city's sewer system which is trying to reduce overwhelming the system.

There are different types of back flow prevention valves that are used in different locations. The common type is one that fits into the floor drain. The common type is a "ball" type which allows water from the top side to push open the ball and allow the drain to operate normally. When water flows back up from the underside of the ball it closes the drain preventing back flow. The problem is if the main sewer line outside is overwhelmed it will back up into your home filling the pipes before this ball closes. In extreme cases if you have a bathroom in the basement you may experience flooding from the toilet , shower or sink drains but not from the floor drain.

The more effective one is the type with a one way flap that is installed in the main sewer pipe inside the home just before it exits the foundation and out to the city's sewer. Discharge leaving the home will open the flap and back flow will close the flap. In the event the city's sewer system is overwhelmed it will only back up as far as this preventer valve and not fill the homes internal piping.

The problem is if the city's sewer system is overwhelmed and is backing up when you flush your toilet the waste can't be discharged ... it's got nowhere to go except back into the homes interior piping.

Hopefully this makes sense.:)

michele bakalar
Re: the drain in the floor....help

In these homes the drain tiles were tied into the sanitation system, when the basement was rebuilt, part of Lorain's building codes is to disconnect. The storm water from the drain tiles is now pumped out by a sump from the basement to the street. We had all new drain tiles installed around our new foundation and these are all tied in to our sump crock.

However in the basement, in the floor drain you can see that there appears to be an opening that leads to the other side of the foundation wall and when it rains - you can see rain water trickling in to the floor drain. So we believe that although we are disconnected from the City sanitary sewers, we are still in someway connected internally from one footer tile to our basement floor drain.

However, in our logic - the fecal material in the floor drain cannot be explained by this. We have never experienced this before 11 days after our external back flow valve has been been installed - and neither has our neighbor.

If you care to, there is way too many pictures and descriptions that may be found at http://thewomblog.com/?cat=84 on our "hole" adventure :o

Re: the drain in the floor....help

Are you only experiencing the sewage back up when it rains or whenever ?

It may be the "flapper" is being prevented to open either by debris on the city side or as you suspect it may be binding not allowing discharge from your house.

It sounds to me the evidence of the sewage you find in the floor drain is because of the restriction of discharge out of the home. This is backing up in your main drain under the basement floor and is finding the least path of resistance ... which is to the floor drain sump.

That's my take on it.:)

michele bakalar
Re: the drain in the floor....help

When the sewage came up through the floor drain we had no rain for 9 days. We checked the back flow outside and found that is was caked with stuff on the house side not the sewer side which we found to be odd. We thought may be for some reason there would be stuff on the street side due to the fact that on the very next block and actually the whole neighborhood except our street they are in the process of putting in extra storm sewers. The new sewers are above the old storm sewers. Why our street is not getting one I cannot answer. So this is why we thought may be something had happened, to cause a failure with the back flow.

The only other house we know with this exact same problem in the same time frame is 2 doors away from us on the same side of the street who has done many of the same if not more than we have in flood prevention. His contractor is very perplex at the whole situation and has many calls out to old time plumbers to try and figure this mess out. We believe that on this street our home and the neighbors home are the only ones that are disconnected from the city sanitation system which makes this all the more perplexing.

Thank you both for all your knowledge and help.

Re: the drain in the floor....help

I'm also wondering if the back flow valve they installed may have settled. In that it may have dropped down on the end toward the house. In other words the discharge may be trying to go up hill .

Just another thought.:)

michele bakalar
Re: the drain in the floor....help

There is talk now that they are going to jet the inside and then TV all the lines inside the house. I'm not holding my breath but for them the city, it would be a very good idea before they try to get every resident in the old section of the city to do this.

Due to the fact that the bloody Back Flow wasn't inspected- that's is a whole different story, I believe that we are going to make them dig it up and inspect it. From my understanding with communication from the building department it is going to fail.
this is due to some issue about state plumbing codes. If it has dropped on the house end at this point it at least can be fixed or it will be removed.

As things just become more interesting everyday. :confused:

michele bakalar
Re: the drain in the floor....help


We here in Ohio have gone through some very wild weather this winter, good news no water in the basement.

This is what was discovered with our back flow valve. With a letter sent to the city we were able to confirm that there was an issue with the instillation of back flow valve. The issue was there was never an inspection done. Our belief was from the start of the 1st back up that the devise was incorrectly installed.

Low and behold after the digging the back flow valve back up, the bloody thing dropped 2 whole inches because the contractor that the city hired (we are a test study) never put any lag under the back flow valve "T", and the second issue was that the "T" was not plumb going drive to drive. The guys to bend the gas line to make that work. :rolleyes:

Picture if you will 3 city inspectors with camera's in hand, 1 building inspector (moral support), 1 safety service director, 1 department head from the sanitation department, the owner of the plumbing company and 2 plumbers (his workers), our contractor who was helping us with some drywall issues, and my husband. It was a party. We passed 2 load tests which shocked some of the city folks because they thought we would fail them.

The moral of the story is back flow valves work fine, so far, when they are properly installed.

Thank you all for all the insight and you were correct in that it did settle. I probably have learned more than I probably want to know about backwater valves, sanitation, basement flooding, drain tiles etc. But as they say knowledge is power and in this case it was a great commodity to have for without it I don’t think that this issue would have ever been resolved.

In the spring we will be installing a series of rain gardens the 1st will be in the now trashed front yard from the contractors digging the whole front yard up to find the sanitation line, it just seems fitting in a strange way. ;)

Take care and thank again.

Re: the drain in the floor....help


Really glad to hear that you found the problem and had a successful outcome. The squeakie wheel gets the grease, eh? :)

And yes....knowledge is power.......but only if applied in a timely fashion. Sounds like in your case the timely fashion was on the second go-round for the installers. Amazing how many "officials" it takes to get a simple job done right. Laughable really. That's your/our tax dollars at work. ;)

Re: the drain in the floor....help

michele bakalar ..... that's great news:)
Glad to help out and thanks for the follow up. ;)

Unfortunately it sounds like quite a hassle to finaly get it resolved. I'll bet there were some red faces all around ( anger and embarassment) when it was discovered what the problem was .:eek:

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