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Thread: Waste System Questions

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  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member wetzelja's Avatar
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    Default Waste System Questions

    Hi, I'm trying to figure out how to proceed with a project and hope I can get some feedback. I'm a DIY who learns mostly by reading forums, so I'm not an experienced plumber, though I have replaced supply and drain lines before.

    Here's my long story: I've got a small cottage (800 sq ft) in a rural area that has been added to throughout years and years of updates, and I don't believe it's all up to code. All the plumbing is in a very tight crawlspace under the house. A few years ago, right before I bought the place, the township put in a sewer system. I was told by the previous owner that everything was hooked up to that system and I no longer had to pump out the septic tank. So I hadn't been.

    Recently, my bathroom sink and shower drains began draining slowly. I decided to put a snake down there through a cleanout valve outside the house, and after progressing for a bit, it promptly got stuck. To the point (again, long story) where it would not come out for anything, even attaching a winch to the snake's line (the cable eventually snapped multiple times through multiple attempts). While trying to figure out what to do about getting the cable out, I did some investigation and realized some odd things. It appears that my cottage has two waste systems. The bathroom sink, shower, and laundry lines all tied together in a 1.5" line, went outside and into the ground, and (my guess is) into the old septic tank. The toilet and kitchen sink tied together in a 4" line, and after a bit of redirection, tie into the township's sewer cistern in the back yard.

    The good news, I think, is I can leave the snake cable in the old pipe, and make new connections into the sewer cistern also. My options are to tap into it by digging and extending the 1.5" line that goes out into the yard, then connecting it to the 4" line that goes to the sewer cistern, or connecting the 1.5" line to the 4" line under the crawlspace.

    Here are some of my concerns:
    1) Neither the shower nor the laundry line have p-traps, and none of those 3 fixtures are connected to any vent (possibly why it was draining slow in the first place?). If I just run that combined line and connect it to the cistern out back, I will need to provide venting for them, right? Otherwise the gases will just run right out of the cistern and into the drains, and they'll continue to drain slowly? I don't think I have room to vent each one. Where they all connect and come out of the house before going down to the ground, I wouldn't be able to just put a tee there instead of an elbow, with a stack outside the house, would I? I've read about AAVs. Would I be able to install three of those, one at each fixture, instead? I understand the code varies on those.

    2) When I followed the 4" drain, it goes downhill from the toilet, past the kitchen sink, and then down into the ground. It appears that somewhere near where it turns and goes into the ground, there must be a connection for a vent that comes out of the house. Is that proper venting? Isn't the vent stack supposed to be uphill from the fixtures, not below them? So if I connected the three additional fixtures (bathroom sink, shower, laundry), and they're uphill from that vent also, that wouldn't work, would it?

    Sorry this is so long. I realize that the system could probably use an entire rehaul, but it's a cottage bought extremely cheaply a number of years ago that I'd rather not put much money into. Any feedback or observations would be appreciated.

    Jamie

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    You must install p-traps and vents for things to work and be safe once connected to the town's system. EACH trap needs to be vented, but you don't need separate vents going through the roof - you can combine them in the walls, or the attic (there are rules on where and how to do this). If you're going to be crawling under there to do some work, I'd change that 1.5" line to at least a 2" line. Most places, you need at least a 2" line once it goes underground.
    Jim DeBruycker
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  3. #3
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    1. You should NOT have a "cistern" if you are connected to a city sewer.
    2. The fixtures need traps and vents even if they are NOT connected to the city sewer.
    3. We cannot tell you how to reroute the piping because we are not there to see the situation as it exists.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

  4. #4
    DIY Junior Member wetzelja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    1. You should NOT have a "cistern" if you are connected to a city sewer.
    2. The fixtures need traps and vents even if they are NOT connected to the city sewer.
    3. We cannot tell you how to reroute the piping because we are not there to see the situation as it exists.

    Wow, I was under the assumption that this forum was a bit more DIY-friendly. That response seems a bit harsh. I understand you're not physically at the location, isn't that the point of a discussion forum?

    I'm aware that the fixtures need traps and vents, in my post I was asking my options for venting, not how I can get away with not venting.

    And apparently I'm using incorrect terminology by using the word cistern (did I mention I'm not a licensed plumber?) Here's what I meant:

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  5. #5
    In the Trades Tom Sawyer's Avatar
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    Where does that pump tank pump too?

    To do it right, you will probably need to open up walls and such to run vents
    [B]No, plumbing ain't rocket science. Unlike rocket science, plumbing requires a license[B]

  6. #6
    DIY Junior Member wetzelja's Avatar
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    This was put in when the township put in the sewer system, so I'm assuming it pumps it to the main waste lines?

  7. #7
    DIY Junior Member wetzelja's Avatar
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    So, with the understanding that vents and traps are required, I would appreciate any feedback on one of my earlier questions:

    Quote Originally Posted by wetzelja View Post
    2) When I followed the 4" drain, it goes downhill from the toilet, past the kitchen sink, and then down into the ground. It appears that somewhere near where it turns and goes into the ground, there must be a connection for a vent that comes out of the house. Is that proper venting? Isn't the vent stack supposed to be uphill from the fixtures, not below them?
    With this setup, is this even functioning as a vent?

  8. #8
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    To be a vent, it has to go up from the trap. Anything that comes off the drain line after it is below the trap can't be a vent. The whole idea of the vent is that it must be able to move air in the system while waste flows out...if it's below, then the waste could block the vent from operating.
    Last edited by jadnashua; 09-04-2012 at 07:35 PM.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    DIY Junior Member wetzelja's Avatar
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    Thanks for the reply. So really, neither of the lines are really vented at all. Argh.

    I had gotten a quote from a local plumbing contractor (before coming to this forum) to connect the three latter fixtures to the main line. This information helps me know that I need to make sure that quote includes venting, not just hooking up to the main line.

  10. #10
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    As I said earlier, once a drain, always a drain; or, once a vent, always a vent. You can't mix functions - they are separate and distinct. They must be joined properly, or they don't work properly.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  11. #11
    DIY Senior Member wjcandee's Avatar
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    Maybe dumb questions wetz, but...

    I understand from reading the pros' (and friendly engineers') comments that it looks like you need some dwv system revisions, particularly re venting and traps.

    But do you know for sure that this line of greywater (interesting to me that that's what it is) is connected to your old septic tank? Michigan is an IPC state, so (okay, reaching the limits of what I should be talking about...) if I understand it can sometimes be used for underground irrigation and toilet flushing. (I also know that, notwithstanding the IPC, in my jurisdiction, "washings" from the human body are considered sewage. which has to go in a public sewer if it is available, so this would still be verboten where I live.) Any chance that your local jurisdiction was somehow *not* interested in collecting it? Any chance that those lines go somewhere else? Have you popped the top of your old septic tank and seen whether anything is running into it? (Or is it not accessible? Where we live we are required to have a lid at ground level that meets certain requirements both for access and for limitations on access.) Dye tab in the shower or whatever?

    Actually, the more I think about this, I know that in the jurisdiction in which lies our family home outside NYC, when the sewer system is expanded and people are connected to it, it is not only customary but in fact legally-required that the old septic tanks be caved in and filled in. Wonder why they didn't (if they didn't) do that at your place?

    I'm thinking that at the end of the day if the local jurisdiction wants it, you are probably already required to be giving it to them. But I'm just intrigued that the greywater is running in a little dinky line off somewhere, maybe; and before you pay to do this work at least you probably want to be sure that it isn't already running into your lift station (or somewhere that it's expected to be running).
    Last edited by wjcandee; 09-04-2012 at 08:59 PM.

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