I called the septic guy yesterday, and he said he would be in the area and could come over this morning.
He came a lot earlier than I expected!
While he was here, I spent most of my time distracting kittens, but I couldn’t help but notice he was having issues.
He actually went rifling through the pile of poplars left over from when we cut them to build garden trellises with, 2 years ago, to find one long, straight and strong enough. Something was blocking the opening at the top of the tank, and he couldn’t get the hose into one of the compartments. You can see on the ground behind him, there is a heavy gauge metal wire. That’s his, and he’d tried using that, first.
He was able to get the hose through the opening and start pumping, thankfully! After he was done and packing up, I asked about it, and he said it was pipe. !!
I don’t know how this system looks beyond the very top, where there are openings to each compartment that he pumps through. I’ve tried looking up diagrams for dual compartment septic tanks, but they are all tanks that have two covers. Only one site I found mentioned some dual tanks might have only one, like ours. They also all have a gravity based outlet that would lead to a septic field or some sort of treatment system. Ours has an outlet leading into the pump in the basement, which pumps the effluent all the way out to near the barn, where it is expelled through an above-ground pipe. What I call our “septic field” is basically the area the greywater pours into, not a real septic field.
He didn’t seem particularly concerned about the block; more frustrated because it made his job harder, I think. Still, I’ve passed it on to my brother. Something like this, I have to rely on his knowledge and expertise. I hate to do it at the best of times, but right now, he’s out of the province for Thanksgiving with the grandbabies.
Everything seems to be working fine, though, so this was a bit of a surprise, that’s for sure!
My main concern is that someone is going to have to go down there to check it out. And if it’s something that needs repair, likely an excavator will need to be brought in. That’s a massive expense.
Last night the forecasts had changed, saying that we wouldn’t get much accumulation of snow, as it would melt on contact.
Well, that didn’t last long.
I made sure to top up the trays in the kibble house, late last night, because I knew they’d be extra hungry. It was raining fairly heavily, and the kibble tray on the ground was full of water, as the one under the shrine would have been. I’m so glad we built that kibble house, so the cats could have a dry, sheltered place to eat!
The trays were completely empty by morning, of course. Not a lot of cats were about, and I noticed several coming out of the cat shelter.
By the time I was done putting warm water out for them, Potato Beetle had emerged from somewhere. He ate a little – then followed me into the sun room.
He’s still there.
We will have more shoveling to do, I think.
This is how things look all over the place; that slushy layer of snow built up on all the standing water.
We’re still getting rainfall alerts, though.
Rain with isolated thunderstorms continues this morning. However, a strengthening northerly wind will bring falling temperatures today. The rain will turn to snow this morning and then taper off this afternoon or evening as the Colorado Low departs the area.
Wind gusts of 70 to 80 km/h will also weaken this evening. Only minor accumulations of up to 5 cm are expected as much of the snow will melt on contact with the ground.
This much precipitation over frozen or saturated ground may lead to localized flooding including basements, underpasses, and the like. For larger scale overland flooding risks, please consult the provincial flood forecast.
I don’t know that we got any thunderstorms in our area last night, but before I went to bed, I was reading about the different areas with flooding and power outages. Thousands of households were affected by outages, mostly in the south east corner of our province, but also a few not all that far away from us.
In our case, I am actually happier with the snow instead of the rain. The ceiling in the sun room has stopped dripping, and this is what our basement looked like this morning.
Which is not too bad at all. In fact, I’d say it was better than when I last checked it at about 1:30am. My daughters checked it some time after that, too. Because of how lumpy-bumpy and uneven the concrete floor is, we sweep the standing water into the drain. There are those two drains chipped into the concrete that are helping, and there is a steady stream of water flowing through them, but water still puddles.
The drain for the weeping tile goes through here and into the septic tank, and there is enough water draining that the septic pump is triggered quite often. Our septic system is basically our sump pump right now. On the one hand, that’s a lot of wear and tear on the pump that I’d rather not have. On the other, this is pumping the excess water well away from the house, and into a low area out by the barn, rather than by the house.
My daughter shocked the hot water tank with hydrogen peroxide last night, which means it got partially drained into the sump pump reservoir. I checked the level, and it’s looking just fine. On that side of the basement, the only place I’m seeing water seeping through the concrete is a tiny patch near the furnaces, where there is a new layer of concrete on top of old, and the edges are broken up.
Right now, we are hovering around the freezing mark, and the high of the day being forecast on my desktop app is now a bit colder. Tomorrow was supposed to have a high of -5C/23F. Now they’re saying tomorrow’s high will be -3C/27F – then in just 3 days, we’re supposed to reach a high of 11C/52F! It’s supposed to drop down again to 6C/41F the next day. The 14 day trend shows our highs slowly warming back up until reaching 11C/52F again by May 5, and then just staying there. Of course, the app on my tells me something different, so we’ll see which one is the most accurate.
Interestingly, while on Facebook yesterday, I got one of those reminders of things posted on that day, years ago. This time, it was a photo I posted 14 years ago. We were still living in an apartment building at the time, and my daughter was in the lounge, standing on a chair by the window, trying to see over the snow drifted against it.
Mind you, in that city, it was not unusual get snow any month of the year, or have green grass in the middle of winter. Mountains on one side, and open prairies on the other, makes for some pretty dramatic weather changes in very short time frames. We’re actually a bit more south now, compared to the city we lived in before moving here, but here we are surrounded by lakes. It makes for some pretty significant differences.
Well, it is what it is. For now, we’ll keep monitoring the basement, and think warm thoughts.
Excuse me while I have another mug of Rooiboos tea!
addendum: just as I was finishing up this post, I paused to pop outside and give the cats a treat – and had to chase 2 deer away from the kibble house! Then I got a call from my brother, following up the email I sent last night, about how things are going here. Their sump pump is going off every 15 minutes or so, but they also have a sump pump they set up outside, to pump water to the other side of their dike. It broke down. He’s been trying to find one, but the entire city is sold out of sump pumps. They’ll be okay for now, and he does have a spare pump he can rig up to use instead. It does remind me that I had been looking at getting a spare sump pump to have, just in case. It’s not like we can pop over to a store if ours breaks down. I think a spare septic pump would be a good idea, too. That’s something I’d have to talk to my brother about, to make sure I get the right one for our system.
All in all, we’re doing all right. I know other areas are not so fortunate, so I am thankful.
When it was almost 4pm and the septic guy hadn’t showed up yet, I called and left a message, asking if he was still going to be able to make it. I got a call over an hour later. He’d had a breakdown, but everything was up and running again, so he was on his way over. It was almost 6pm when he got here!
Then he had the “fun” job of turning his truck so he could back through the gate in the chain link fence and down the newly cleared lane in the snow. He did get a bit stuck a couple of times. Not because he was sinking in soft ground – that was still well frozen. Because he was driving so slowly and carefully, he ended up spinning his tires on ice!
One of the spruce trees at the edge of the grove, closest to the house, died last summer. I’d been thinking that, when we have it cut down, we could leave the stump to use to support one of the tables and benches we want to put in the area, eventually. Or maybe a platform feeder for critters.
I’ve changed my mind.
We’ll get that tree, and the other dead one next to it, cut down as flat to the ground as possible, so the septic truck has more room to maneuver! It’s pretty tight in there for such a large truck!
Then, as he was setting up the hose to the tank, he had to take a blow torch to the lever to turn on the suction.
A blow torch wielding septic guy. I love it.
Meanwhile, I made sure to uncover the tank, and take out the screw that holds the lid in place.
Unfortunately, I had to switch tips on the screwdriver, and the tips were frozen into their holder, so it took a while to get the one I needed out!
I got it done, though, and he was finally able to empty our tank for us.
Shortly after he started, he suggested I check the drain in the basement, which I did. I was happy to see that yes, the water level did start to drop.
The tank did not seem unusually full, but there really isn’t much that can be seen in this type of tank. Still, he made sure to empty both sides as much as he could. For the new folks following this blog (welcome!), our system is not the typical gravity based septic tank, where all the effluent drains into a single tank. The solids sink to the bottom and the liquid, when it reaches high enough, begins to drain through a one way valve to a septic field some distance from the tank. Under such a system, we would have had to put an insulating cover over the tank itself, then along where the buried line is, and finally a wide area where the field is. That’s the system most people have. Our system is a double tank system. The effluent goes into the first, smaller, tank. The solids sink to the bottom while the liquid eventually drains into the larger overflow tank. That tank has a float that triggers a pump in our basement. The pump then suctions the fluid through a pipe to a septic field that is way out by the barn. That outflow pipe is not buried, but sticks out of the ground, and the fluid is ejected from several feet up.
For the septic guy, that means he has to run his hose into both tanks. Several feet down from the surface, deep enough to hopefully not freeze in winter, there’s a top to the two tanks, with different sized holes for each tank that he has to fit the hose through. There just isn’t much that can be seen
In theory, we shouldn’t have to cover this type of tank for the winter at all, but it would be remarkably unwise to take that chance!
It’s not a common system, and plumbers really don’t like them. 😀 However, it does ensure that the septic fluids are nowhere near the house and well.
It also seems to be having all sorts of problems, though some of them would be problems whichever type of system is used.
Like what happened this time, it seems.
After the septic guy was done and the tank was all covered with the insulated tarp again, I quite happily flushed the toilet before heading into the basement.
Only to find the liquid in the drain had increased again. The pipe to the tank was still mostly blocked.
Honestly, I was expecting that to a certain extent, but it would have been nice if it had actually drained properly again.
It was definitely rubber boots and latex gloves time.
The first thing I did was loosen and remove the cap to the access pipe. It, too, had disintegrating toilet paper visible in it.
I’d had previously used the old hose we kept hooked up from the last time we fought with the system and pushed it through the floor drain for quite some distance, though not all the way to the tank. I tried it through the access pipe this time, and still couldn’t get it all the way through.
The other thing we’ve kept handy from before is an old wire chimney sweep. The wire is just the right combination of sturdy and flexible, and we could shove the handle end through the pipes, forcing it through any blockages, even when the pipe was full of roots. So I got the old chimney sweep out and tried to push it through. It was definitely hitting something that didn’t belong! I was able to force it through, and reach all the way to the tank. After I ran that back and forth a few times, I was able to get the hose through the blockage, too. Once I managed that, I finally turned the water on. It didn’t take long, and when whatever was blocking the pipe gave way, I could really tell the difference. Even the sound of the water was completely different. I was able to push the hose all the length of the pipe, until I could hear water splashing into the newly emptied tank.
What a beautiful sound!
After clearing the access pipe out, I moved the hose over to the drain in the floor. I’d already cleared as much of the muck into a garbage can that I could, but it was still pretty… thick. Thankfully, I wasn’t seeing any brown in there! Still, the pipe between the floor drain and the access pipe was pretty stuffed. It made me wonder just how long this had been building up! Especially after I changed directions and ran the hose towards the weeping tile under the new part basement. Yes, things had backed up all the way to there, too!
My main concern with the pipe in that direction was tree roots. Yes, I did find more small tree roots as I was working on it, but not enough to be blocking anything. The blockage was all from the plumbing backing up into it.
So… that took a while, but I finally got water free flowing through the whole thing.
One good thing about having an unfinished basement with a concrete floor is that I can just take a hose to it to clean things up! With the drain clear, the floor got a cleaning before I could finally close everything up again and put things away. The very last thing to do was set up and plug in the blower fan, to help everything dry out faster.
How wonderful it felt to be able to wash up when I was done! Yay, freeflowing water!
For all the work that was involved, it really was just a one person job. Before I’d headed down to start, my older daughter had a proposition for me as their contribution.
Which I gratefully accepted!
So after getting all cleaned up and changed, we got Chinese food for supper. The handy thing is that it takes the same amount of time for them to prepare an order as it does for us to drive over to pick it up. 🙂
We can tackle dishes tomorrow. For today, we’re far more interested in being able to take showers and do laundry!
Meanwhile, there is still the sump pump to deal with. I checked the hose while I was outside. Though cold, the sun on black plastic did seem to make a difference. At least as far as I could tell with the flexible hose. No way to know about the pipe through the wall. When things warm up again, I want to see if I can take the hose off and check the pipe to make sure it really was just ice that was blocking it, and not something else! I don’t want to open it up while things are still cold, and the plastic might crack. Until then, I’m leaving the sump pump unplugged.
What we still don’t really know is, why this happened at all. While clearing the access pipe, which is cast iron, I felt what seemed to be a bottleneck of some sort. Or maybe just a really rough area. There could be damage to the pipe that toilet paper catches on – and once that catches, anything else, whether it’s from the bathroom or the kitchen sink, could start getting hung up on it. We’re forever pulling cat hair out of the drains, so even that could be getting caught, though to be honest, I saw no signs of that.
The only way to know for sure would be to find a plumber that has one of those fibre optic cameras, so we could actually see the problem. And that’s not going to happen, any time soon!
However, it does mean it would probably be a good idea to regularly run that hose through the floor drain and run water through the pipe to clear anything that might be building up, as a regular maintenance thing.
This makes the third time since we’ve moved here that we’ve had septic issues leaving us unable to use our plumbing.
As I write this, it’s coming up on 2pm, and the septic guy has not made it out yet.
I’m happy to say that we did not get any additional flooding in the basement during the night. So far, we can get away with flushing the toilet now and then, and washing our hands, but showers, laundry and doing the dishes are all out. If we do use water, that drain opening in the basement floor does fill a bit, but it’s not overflowing and slowly drains back into the tank again. The septic pump continues to run as usual.
We had a cold night, and the winds were bitterly cold this morning.
It was cold enough to freeze the mud from when the front end loader went through the softer areas. Solid enough that, when I had to drive over it later on, the van didn’t break through the ice at all.
My husband, sweetheart that his is, offered to cover the costs of getting prepared food. His tax return came in yesterday, thankfully. So this morning, I headed into town to pick up a bucket of chicken or something like that, only to find the chicken place wasn’t open yet. In fact, none of the restaurants with take out were open yet. So I went to the grocery store and picked up a bunch of prepared and quick heat foods for the day. The problem right now not being able to do the dishes. We do still have pots and pans to cook with, but nowhere to put dirty dishes anymore.
Note for future: not only do we need an outdoor bathroom in a different location – one that doesn’t collect a lake of meltwater in front of it – but when we build our outdoor kitchen, we need to make sure to have the supplies needed to wash up, then collect and dispose of the dirty water. We do have a few things we can use, if we really get desperate, but they would be quite awkward to work with. Hopefully, it won’t come to that!
After I got back, my daughters took over putting things away and preparing the food while I headed back to the septic tank. I wanted to get the insulated tarp loose, so when the septic guy arrived, he would just need to pull it back and go.
That, of course, turned out to be a much bigger job than anticipated.
We were really, really thorough about making sure that tarp couldn’t get blown away.
I ended up having to dig out the far corner as well, which still had a drift of hard packed snow on top.
I forgot we’d used old fence posts across the fold, to weigh it down.
I finally got it so that the tarp can be pulled back to access the cover. Then I returned it and weighed it down with one of the fence posts, until we need to lift it, since we do still need to keep this area insulated!
It would have been much better if it could have been lifted from the other end, away from the house, but it was easier get the tarp out from under the things weighing it down along the house, and breaking up the snow on it, than trying to chip through that layer of ice.
There is a downspout at the corner of the sun room that we put the rain barrel under. The barrel blocks access into the garden quite a bit, so I’ve been thinking of turning the down spout towards the garden, so that the rain barrel can be put around the corner, instead of on the sidewalk in front of the sun room. If we put a high enough platform under it, we’ll also have room for a tap to fill watering cans from the bottom, too. The diverter we use when the barrel is full currently drains near a rose bush in front of the steps to the laundry platform at the clothes line. If we redirect the down spout, it will instead drain into the old kitchen garden. What I want to do is attach a collapsible overflow pipe to the rain barrel, instead, so we don’t have to worry about using the diverter at all. The whole set up will still be in the way of traffic zones, but not as much as it is now.
Now I’m thinking we need to do the same thing with the downspout on the opposite corner, by the septic tank. The ground slopes downwards to the west, but the downspout runs to the north. If we turn it, yes, it’ll be in the way, since it’ll be running across the path we’ve made along the side of the house, but I’m sure we can work around that. Another rain barrel certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea, either. In fact, we could use three more, just for around the house. We will have to make sure they all have overflow drains. I’d like to have a couple more rain barrels at the garage, too, since we have garden beds that way already, and there will be trees and shrubs planted beyond the garage, too. So we’re looking at at least 5 rain barrels, though if we could get a couple of those big water tanks instead, that would be even better.
One of these days, I need to snag my brother and his trailer, and make a trip to the salvage yard in the city. Along with rain barrels, we want to pick up bricks, blocks and pavers, too.
But that’s something to do in the summer, perhaps. Right now, I just want to be able to take a shower and not flood our basement.
It’s just past 2 am as I start to write this. Normally, I would be going to bed around this time, but I actually went to bed before midnight, for a change.
Before I did, I checked the old basement. Not only was there no increased flooding, but things had actually started to dry up. A good sign. I covered the drain with the plastic sheet that keeps the gases out and went to bed.
Not long ago, I woke to go to the bathroom and heard a strange, quiet rumbling from the basement. It didn’t sound like the well pump, nor the septic pump, neither of which should have been on, anyhow.
It was the sump pump.
The basement was flooded even more than before, the reservoir had filled, the pump was running so long, it was sounding wrong, but the reservoir wasn’t draining.
I threw on some boots and a coat and ran outside with the flashlight. There was nothing coming out of the sump pump hose in the old kitchen garden. I yanked it out from along the house, and it was flexible the entire length. I finally found the blockage, right by where it attached to the pipe from the basement.
I was able to flex the hose and could hear ice breaking up inside, but that did nothing for the rigid bit of pipe through the wall.
So back to the basement I ran, this time with a couple of large buckets. I had to unplug the sump pump, which had been running so long, it was hot.
By this time, my noise had awakened the rest of the family. Even my husband could hear me over the sound of his CPAP.
The girls came down to help. I used the small bucket with a wire on its handle that we used the last time this happened, and a broom handle it sink it, and started bailing water into a large bucket. That went to one daughter, who took it up the stairs. My other daughter took that outside to empty it, while I filled the next bucket.
That reservoir holds a remarkable amount of water.
After many trips, we got the reservoir bailed out as much as could be done with the small bucket.
Once that was clear, I checked the drain in the floor. It had disintegrating toilet paper in it, but not more than before, from what I could tell. I was going to hose that away after the septic tank was done.
The first time we had septic problems in the basement, that my brother and I worked on, we hooked an old hose to what used to be the cold water tap for the washing machine and used it to try and clear the pipes. The last time, when the plumber came with his drain auger, it came in very handy, so I’ve just left it there, with most of the hose rolled up and hanging. I pushed the end of it through the drain, and could get quite far. There is no blockage, that I could feel.
Once the drain cover was off, I could see water from the floor starting to slowly drain away.
Grabbing a long handled scrub brush, I tried to clear the drain opening, and it didn’t seem to make much difference in how quickly things drained.
What concerned me was that I started pulling up thin tree roots. That’s what the plumber had cleared out if there, not that many months ago.
After the tank is emptied, I should be able to run water through the drain in the floor and be able to see better. I’ll also open up the access pipe, near the septic pump, and take a better look, but that requires tools.
The drain cover has been left off. The sump pump remains unplugged. We will have to keep checking the basement more often, and if it starts filling again, start bailing it out again.
My daughter’s and I, meanwhile, have scrubbed up, though we still feel really gross. It’s not like we can take showers right now, though at least we can flush the toilet and wash up.
Now we have to get some more sleep while we can.
I’m not sure I’ll be able to fall asleep anytime soon, which is why I am sitting here, tapping out a blog post on my phone.
Well, it looks like I won’t be getting new glasses anymore, because that budget is about to disappear.
The girls and I started on the horrible job of cleaning up behind the washer and drier.
The primary goal was to access the drain pipe and pour down some drain cleaner, but we had to get to it, first, and that job fell to my younger daughter; the most able bodied and agile of us going into a space barely big enough for one person.
Also, it’s amazing how many things the cats get at that end up under appliances.
First, the dryer needed to be pulled out, unplugged, then pulled out some more.
Then my poor, saintly daughter took care of the mess that cats made back there. Not only did they knock all kinds of things off shelves back there, but they then peed all over it. We ended up throwing out an unopened box of drier sheets, a caulking gun, with a tube of caulk still loaded in it, my other daughters missing wrist brace, and even a strainer basket that I used to use to pick, then wash, vegetables from the garden, among other things. I’m amazed by all the stuff that ended up there.
Then the washing machine got pulled out, and we found the rest of the little things the cats chased under there. Some of them were even cat toys.
After drain cleaner was poured down the pipe, my daughter continued to clean and mop the floor, while her sister and I assisted where we could. I decided it would be a good idea to use the plumbing snake as well, so I went into the old basement to get it.
The basement was flooded.
But only on one side, and not the side where water seeps through during spring melt. No, this was all over near the septic pump.
But not FROM the septic pump. Nor any of the pipes beside it.
What the heck?
The drain in the floor does not have what it should to prevent gases from getting into the room, so there is a sheet of plastic under the drain cover. I moved it aside to allow the water on the floor do drain, only to find the drain was full.
There was also was looked like toilet paper.
What the heck?
I went back up to assist my daughter, we quickly determined the plumbing snake was not going to work out, and kept on going. We had to wait 15-20 minutes before we could pour hot water down the pipe after the drain cleaner. Once we were at the stage of putting everything back again, I went back to check on the basement.
After a while fussing with the drain, it became clear that it was the source of the flooding.
Water was backing up from the septic tank, though the drain, and into the basement.
At that point, I got my husband to call the septic guy and see if he could come out – as well as finding out how much it would cost, and if he could take an etransfer. While he did that, I headed outside to start shoveling a path to the septic tank. With our melt-thaw cycle lately, the snow had a very hard crust on the top, so it needed a lot of tackling with the ice chipper first, then shoveling. Chip out about a foot, then shovel. Chip about a foot, then shovel.
I didn’t get very far when I realized a major problem.
It’s one thing to shovel a path to the tank, but how was the truck going to get in? We haven’t been able to clear the yard for a vehicle at all this winter, and the snow was just too deep, even for a big truck.
I quickly messaged the family to let them know (I love technology!) and my husband cancelled the septic guy.
Shortly after, my other daughter came out and took over the shoveling.
I headed inside and made a call to the renters who have so kindly been clearing our driveway.
I just got interrupted in writing this.
The septic guy was on the road and never got the call about canceling. He just showed up. We talked for a while, and now he’s left, because there was no way he could get through that snow.
Which brings me back to my call to the renters, and spoke to the Mrs.
I explained the situation and asked if I could hire someone to come with their front end loader and clear a path for the septic truck. Unfortunately, her husband and the farm hands had just left and would not be back for several hours. She promised to text her husband (which would eventually get to him; they’re in the same cell phone dead zone we are in) about it. I told her that if it could be done today, we could call the septic guy in for tomorrow, and to please let me know how much to pay them for it. They’ve been refusing payment all this time, but it’s different when I’m going to them for a job! She said she would let me know.
Which is what I just explained to the septic guy; that hopefully, we’ll have someone with a front end loader to clear the snow, and then we’d call him back. He told me that, if the front end loader starts sinking into the ground, not to bother, because he would get stuck. It seems that the snow fell before the ground was frozen, which means in some areas, the snow insulated the ground and kept it from freezing.
I don’t think we’ve got that problem, but we’ll see.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
My husband had found out how much the septic guy would cost – $160 (six months ago, it was $135), and that they did not take etransfers. Which meant, I needed to get cash.
So I updated my daughter that was shoveling, then headed to the town my mother lives in, where there is a branch of my bank, to get enough cash for the septic guy and for clearing the snow. I have no idea how much that will be, so I took out what I hope is extra.
The remains of my tax return for my glasses budget just went *poof*.
I don’t actually mind. I’m thankful that we had the funds at all.
Once I got back home, I didn’t even bother going back inside. I went back to shoveling.
My daughter had shoveled all the way to where the tank is, before she had to go in. She had to fight her way through a drift, so the snow was even deeper than usual for much of it. Just to make things even more unfortunate, the snow under the crust was sticky – and would stick to the shovel! So it was chip, scoop, fling, shakeshakeshake, over and over!
Now we have this area.
Normally, we use straw to cover the tank. A couple of years back, we had to get the tank done in January. I had to dig a path, then got the straw off the lid, and that was it.
It won’t be so easy, this time. We used an insulated tarp this time. It was big enough to fold in half, so it’s double insulated.
The first thing was to find the edge of the insulated tarp. It’s pegged to the ground all along this edge, and the end. I needed to be careful using the chipper, at this point, because I didn’t want to damage the tarp.
I dug my way down to the corner and discovered a problem.
The downspout from the roof was draining near here. All that melted snow from the roof has formed a layer of ice, a couple of inches thick, right over the end of the tarp.
Which means we would need to lift the tarp from the other end.
When putting insulation along the bottom of the house, we made sure the tarp was right up to, and partway up, the wall, then everything was weighted into place.
Well, there was nothing to do but keep on digging.
Hopefully, enough has been cleared that we’ll be able to pull it back to the lid of the tank enough to open it.
After all this was done, I made sure to check the basement again. I’m happy to say that the majority of the water did drain away. Also, the septic pump is still doing its job. So we should still at least be able to use the toilet.
We got the outhouse fixed up just in case something like this happened, yet we can’t even use it. The path to the outhouse is full of water. We don’t even have the honey pot anymore; that got loaned to my mother, and I haven’t seen it since.
This shouldn’t be happening. When I was growing up here, there was 7 of us, and that tank got emptied only once a year. We’ve been getting it emptied twice a year. It’s been just under 6 months since we had it last done. It should not be this full.
On the plus side, it is backing up through the drain in the floor, and not doing what it did last time, which was backing up into the laundry sink, then splashing out the P trap, all over the septic pump. The floor drain was full of roots and silt. Now that it’s clear, the tank is backing up through there, instead, making much less of a mess than the last couple of times we’ve found with it.
Still. It shouldn’t be happening at all.
I don’t get it.
Hopefully, the renters will be able to clear the snow for us, and we’ll have the septic guy back in tomorrow.
I’d posted about being able to get our blocked pipe to the septic tank open, at least enough for things to finally drain. I thought we would be good for a while.
I was wrong.
Things were fine, at first. I got my shower in, no problem. Then my daughters took their showers.
By the third shower, I decided to check the basement.
There was more water on the floor again.
It took me a while to figure out where it was coming from. It turned out to be the laundry sink. Water was backing up into the sink, but this sink isn’t properly attached, and the drain opening leaks around the drain itself, so it was trying to fill and drain from the same area, at the same time. As a result, not only was the bucket under the U bend filling, but water was missing it entirely and splashing onto the concrete floor. I let my daughter know, so she could quickly finish her shower, then started bailing water into the floor drain. The water was slowly draining, but the volume from the shower was just too fast.
Which meant we had to call a plumber right away.
Since we had no way to do dishes or use the kitchen sinks, my older daughter offered to buy us supper, so my younger daughter and I made a trip into town where she could run do some errands she needed, then we picked up some fried chicken for supper. We even picked up a couple of things at the grocery store, just in case I couldn’t make the trip to the city for our monthly shop tomorrow.
Once at home, I started making calls. I first tried one of the plumbers that had come out to check our well. They were very apologetic, but were so busy, they would not be able to come out for at least a couple of weeks. !! I asked if he could recommend anyone, and he gave me the name of a plumber he thought would have an auger, in another town. I called them, but they were also booked solid. I asked for another recommendation, and got the name of a third plumber they thought had an auger.
Third time’s the charm!
After explaining what was going on, he hemmed and hawed a bit, then said that the earliest he’d be able to come out was 9:30.
I was ecstatic! We were prepared to have to wait until morning. We spoke a bit more, then he said he would call me back about an hour before he would be able to come out and get directions to our place.
When he got here, the first thing he did was check things out, and I explained to him what I’d already done, the roots that I’d found, and the issues we’d been having in the past. Among the things we had to consider was how old everything was, and the risk of causing more damage. Not that we had any choice. He then went and got his auger and tools.
Would you look at that beast! What a beautiful machine!
Shortly after he started, he broke though the area that was blocking the laundry sink, and suddenly we had water shooting up the pipe and into the basement! Not much he could do to stop it, either. He just had to keep on going and eventually clear through to the tank.
That old garden hose came in very handy! He made a lot of use of it, and it really helped.
Once he got that pipe done, he worked on the floor drain to the pipe.
In the process, he pulled out a clump of roots and crud the size of a small animal!! You can see it in the above photo. He got more roots out after that, too.
Then he worked in the other direction, clearing the pipe towards the weeping tile, as far as he could go.
It wasn’t until the very end, when he was using the hose to wash everything out as much as he could, that the well pump started grinding, so I quickly got him to turn off the hose. When I explained to him about the noise, and that two other plumbers had already looked at it, but didn’t dare replace the pump, he went over to take a look. Right away, he was saying, “I can see why they would be scared to do it!” The risk of something going very wrong and losing us water entirely is very high.
When he was done with the floor drain, I was really impressed by how much lower the water level now is. It doesn’t fully drain; it was grandfathered into the septic system, and there is a slightly higher spot somewhere in the line to the access pipe, preventing it from draining completely. However, it now drains as much as it can, very quickly, and it’s no longer full of silt and sand. He did such a fantastic job!
When he was done, I took advantage of him being there and asked if he could give an estimate on replacing our tub’s taps and faucet. He tried to look at the hot water tap that is leaking so badly, but it’s so corroded inside, he couldn’t get it off. He didn’t want to risk breaking something, so he didn’t want to try too hard.
In the end, he estimated the total cost to replace the taps and faucet would be around $400 – $500, but we would then have to replace the section of tub surround ourselves. Which I would have no issues with. However, he also thinks they can be repaired, which would cost much less. The only issue is not being able to take the tap off! If we replace them, it wouldn’t matter if he ended up breaking the plastic part, but obviously that would be a big issue if he was just going to repair it.
But that will have to wait for another time.
Before he left, he got my email address, then later sent me an invoice. Much to my amazement, it was less than $300! Considering how long he worked on it, plus coming out so late in the day, I fully expected it to be higher.
Worth. Every. Penny!
While he was working on the pipes, and I told him as much as I could about the system, and the problem with the roots. We know that they will eventually come back. With what he did tonight, though, it should be many years before this become an issue again.
I am so very happy with this guy! Definitely someone we will go back to in the future!
Now we have a cleaned out septic tank for the winter, and cleaned out pipes. These are now all set for the winter!
Well, I can at least say that we can now use our plumbing again.
The septic guy made it over in the late morning. The septic tank was, indeed, very full. When he had emptied it, however, nothing started to drain in the basement, so that – thankfully – ruled out the notion that the clog was due to fluids actually backing up from the tank, into the basement. That could have caused all sorts of problems with our type of system.
Also, when I called for him to come over, I asked what the rates were. They did, of course, go up a bit from when we had the tank emptied in the spring. I made sure to give him a tip, too. If anyone deserves a tip, it’s the septic guy!!!
Once that was done, I quickly grabbed lunch, then headed to the basement. Having helped my brother the last time this happened, I could go straight to where I figured the source of the problem was.
Which is when I had my first problem. I needed to get the cap off this access pipe, but my pipe wrench had disappeared. It should have been on the hot water tank, but I had the vaguest memory of taking it to use somewhere else. Too vague of a memory. I had no idea where it might have been.
While cleaning out the new part basement, we did find a couple of large pipe wrenches, so I decided to try one of those. I grabbed the smaller one, but it turned out to be broken, so I went back to try the bigger one.
Now, situations like this are among the reasons I’m glad we have the opening between the two basements blocked off, keeping the cats out. The mess was bad enough on its own. The mess with cats running through it, then tracking it through the house, is a whole different level of horrific. Unfortunately, it also meant that, to get something that is in the new basement, I had to go back up the stairs to the main floor, go down the other stairs to the new basement, then back up to the main floor, then back down to the old basement.
I don’t do stairs well at the best of times. Having to go up and down the old basement stairs, with its odd dimensions, was not a good thing. But, it had to be done.
So after a few precarious trips with me hobbling up and down the stairs repeatedly, I tried the big pipe wrench. That thing probably weighs about 10 pounds. Thankfully, it was not broken, but I still couldn’t get the cap off. Instead, the entire piece was turning. I realized I would have to take the entire top piece off, and that required loosening the bands holding what appeared to be a rubber seal in place.
That required tools I didn’t have.
At that point, I just hobbled half way up the stairs and called for my husband to bring me the big tool kit Finally, I was able to get the whole piece off the top of the pipe. And no wonder I couldn’t get it off! I knew the metal was rusting away pretty badly, from that last time we had to do this, but my brother did clean it up as best he could. About the only positive thing I could say is that, this time, there wasn’t any actual pieces of rusted out metal that had fallen off, for me to clean up.
I did take a picture, but it is too disgusting to share.
I then brought out the old chimney sweep that my brother and I had found was the only thing that really worked to break through the clogged pipe, last time. The end without the brush could be jammed through, and it’s long enough to reach all the way into the tank. I started to push it through, and barely got more than 10 inches before it was blocked.
I then spent the next… *checks the time* … two hours or so, trying to jam that thing through. I also had an old garden hose we’d used last time, too. It only has a female coupling on it, which works out quite well for a job like this. I could hook it up to the cold water tap that the washing mashing used to be hooked up to – I couldn’t use the taps at the laundry sink, since it was completely full of water… and… stuff. Very happy for the tap redundancy in this basement! Between the wire and the hose, I was eventually able to break through the clog. I knew I finally got it when the laundry sink suddenly started to drain! 😀
I then moved to the floor drain to work on for a bit. I had already had an idea of the cause of the problem, but here, it was confirmed.
There were roots running across the drain from the weeping tile under the new basement, all the way through to the access pipe to the septic tank.
I broke up and tore out as much as I could, but I just don’t have the equipment to do more. We do have a rotary drain snake, and I was able to use that to pull out quite a bit, but it’s just too small to clear the pipes.
Still, I got it to the point where water was flowing freely again, and I could start sweeping the water on the floor, and sweeping up… debris… for the garbage. I got most of it cleared, but not all. Once everything was flowing again, I made sure the dehumidifier that drains directly into the sump pump reservoir was set to maximum, then set the big blower fan up to face the worst of the wet and plugged that in.
Once everything is dry, we’ll be able to clean up the last of the mess and disinfect the floor.
It’s a good thing this is NOT a finished basement! I am also very happy that I made sure everything that we do have down there is up on bricks, not directly on the floor.
As disgusting and messy as the job was, it could have been much worse. Most of what backed up was from a load of laundry. It could have been much, much more disgusting, that’s for sure! Still, when it was done, I was so incredibly glad to be able to take a shower!
We will still need to call someone in to clear the pipes of those roots. Otherwise, we’ll be doing this again before too long. 😦 It could probably wait until spring, though, since the trees are going dormant and there will not be new root growth for a while. We won’t be able to get all the weeping tile done, but if we can just clear the pipes that are in the old basement, that would make a big difference.
Our temperatures have been lurching around quite a bit, lately! Last night, we dipped to 3C/37F, but our high of the day is supposed to reach 23C/73F!
I’m watching our garden beds closely and had a surprise. Not only is our Ozark Nest Egg gourd trying to produce more gourds, so are the luffa!
This is our first – and until now, only – luffa that was developing. It’s withering away, likely due to lack of pollination.
Right near it I found these.
Three new luffa starting to develop!
There are even some male flowers blooming, too. With so few pollinators around right now, I am thinking of pollinating them by hand, to give them a chance to actually mature, but it’s almost October. Normally, I wouldn’t bother, but then, this year it looking like we will have a long, warm fall. I’d like to see how far along they get.
Though last night was chilly, we had no frost warnings, and when I headed out early this morning, to make sure the gate was open for the septic guy, I don’t think I saw any frost damage. I even was able to harvest a couple more zucchini this morning.
The overnight dip did make going to the outhouse during the night rather unpleasant! As I write this, we are still waiting on the septic guy to come by. All he could tell me when I called last night was that he thought he could make it in the morning.
Until the tank is emptied, there is no point in trying to unclog the pipe from the basement to the tank. So for now, we’re not only stuck using the outhouse, but doing things like using a bowl to wash up in, so the water can be dumped outside later, rather than going down the drain.
I’m really hoping we can get this is just a straightforward clearing of that pipe. Otherwise, we’ll be having to call a plumber, and that means dipping into funds set aside for other things. The good thing is, we have those funds if we need them, at least. As much of a pain as it can sometimes be, we’ve actually been able to set aside a bit of cash into a contingency fund. While we were living in the city, that was impossible to do. So I am thankful for that, at least!
It’s past midnight as I write this, and it has suddenly become a rather unpleasant night!
I was returning from the bathroom when, while walking past the old basement door, I heard a splashing sound I should not have been hearing, so I went down to take a look.
The septic backed up again.
The pipe with the P trap was full to the top, and water backed up into the laundry sink to the point of overflowing. Thankfully, we don’t really use this basement much, because the water has spread pretty far. Thankfully, whatever caused it to back up happened relatively recently; the last major use of water was a load of laundry, and greywater seems to be most of what I was looking at down there.
I’ve already arranged for the septic guy to come over tomorrow morning. Getting that done was actually in the budget for next month, which means we would have had it done at the next of next week, when my husband’s disability payment came in on Thursday.
Once the tank is empty, I can see what I can do about unclogging the pipes. I am guessing it is the same sort of thing that happened last time. If that turns out to not be it, we’ll have to call in a plumber.
The last time this happened, we were able to set up a honey pot in the bathroom until we could use the toilet again. We don’t have it anymore; I took it over to my mother’s when we found out she was having mobility issues getting to the bathroom at night. We did, however, get the outhouse cleaned up, and made the entry safe to use. So we do have an alternative.
There’s a bit of a new issue, though.
Once we determined that we would have to use the outhouse, I grabbed the flashlight, some cleaning supplies and toilet paper to set it up. It’s been a while since I’ve gone in there, so I wanted to sanitize the seating area. When I opened the toilet lid to clean it, however, things looked… different. When I was cleaning it out before, I made a point of checking underneath, and saw the contents were composted and level from being flooded out by melting snow over the years. It needed to be emptied, but not in any urgent way.
It’s now full.
After shining the flashlight around, I was able to spot a small hole.
It looks like a groundhog made a den entry leading under the floor boards, filling much of the space under the seat with gravel.
So that’s going to have to be all dug out. It can be accessed from the back of the outhouse, but not very easily.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen the groundhogs; I’ve seen one, once, a couple of weeks ago or so, and that’s it. They no longer visit the bird seed, and we no longer see them around the yard. It seems early, but they seem to have gone into hibernation already.
I suppose it’s good to find this out now, and not in the middle of winter or something.
I am not looking forward to having to clean up the mess in the basement.