Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Smell of DJ

The Spousal Unit and I moved into our house a little over 5 years ago. We really love it. It's a small (about 1700 sq ft) ranch house on an acre and a half with a big ravine in the backyard. It's close to town but feels far away. It's on a little dead end street so there's no traffic, the back is all wooded and when there are leaves on the trees we can't see any of our neighbors. Anyway, we love it.

The previous owners were a couple who lived here for 25 years. They raised their kids here and everything. They decided to move to a new-build house further in the country. The house used to be a bit smaller than it is now. The previous owner, who shall be called DJ, built the addition himself. The portion he built is our living room, master bedroom and master bath. Now, DJ was no contractor. The portion he built is nice but we periodically find things he did that are, shall we say, not quite up to code. We usually say, "fucked up".

Here's the most recent example, which I'm mentioning because it has ruled our lives for the last week:

A couple weeks ago we started having problems with our septic system. Fluid (use your imagination) began backing up into our basement shower, since that's the lowest part of the house. The septic system, installed by DJ, needed a major rehaul. Having an actual DJ do the installation may have been a better idea. A wad of cash and a septic repair company with backhoe later and we were ready to go, so to speak. Until a couple days later when we start to notice a sewage sort of smell in our master bathroom and in a corner of our basement. The septic guys came back and said everything seemed fine septic-wise. We started reading books and looking around on the internet to find a cause and a possible solution for the problem. Everything we read lead to dead ends. Blocked drain vents? Nope, although we learned which vents went to which drains but couldn't find where the master bathroom drains vented- yet. Bad wax ring in the toilet? Nope, although I learned how to take a toilet apart and replace the wax ring which is pretty much a disgusting job. Bad trap in the sink? Nope, although I replaced the S trap with a P trap which really needed to be done anyway. There we no signs of leaking pipes anywhere and nothing we came up with as a possibility made sense. The smell persisted but still only in the master bathroom (which by now we had basically abandoned and kept the door closed) and one area of the basement. It was the area of the basement which contained the drain pipe from the master bath on its way to the septic tank. Clearly there was a connection between the two but we couldn't figure it out. Desperation set in and we started grasping at straws. Maybe a squirrel or something found its way into the cubby-hole where the pipes run and the squirrel never got back out, if you know what I mean. So I pull the base of the vanity under the sink out so I can look under there. Nothing except sewer smell. The only other place I could try to look without ripping apart drywall or cutting the ceiling of our basement was the hole where our drain came out of the ceiling and went toward the septic system. So stuck my hand up there with a mirror (donated EXTREMELY generously by The Spousal Unit, straight from her purse) and shone a flashlight up. At first it was tough to see anything but after steering the mirror around for a minute I saw it; a pipe opening. Just the opening. The end of a pipe, just dangling there. No other end anywhere. I cut a square out of the ceiling so I could get a better look. Sure enough the drain (the drain FROM THE TOILET) had a "T" in it with the upward pointing end connected to nothing. Except the air which lead directly to our master bath. I stuck my hand in front of it and could feel air pouring out of it. Air isn't the right word. Septic gas. That's what it was. And it smelled like it. So we plugged it up with a rag and, wouldn't you know it, the smell began to go away. That's right. DJ vented the bathroom drain of HIS house, a drain right near the septic tank, into the cubby-hole between the ceiling of the basement and the floor of the living room/master bath. Why did it just start to smell now? Because the septic system is finally working right so the fluid is now draining instead of providing a liquid barrier between the septic tank and the T to nowhere. It's really amazing and fortunate that we found it. We were about 12 hours (literally) from calling a plumber to come and figure out what the hell was going on and it would've take him (or her) forever to find the problem because who would look THERE for a septic vent? We put a check valve (a one-way vent that will let air into the system but not back out into the cubby-hole) in the mystery T and that was that. So, it's done, it's fixed (at least it'll hold us over until we remodel the bathroom), we know a lot more about plumbing and our house in general, and life can continue in a greatly odor-reduced world.


Zoe said...

Holy crap. You're so lucky that you found that. And check you out, Mr Handyman.

Phollower said...

Yep, that's me. Sylvia had no idea my hands were good for anything but cooking and pleasuring her. Sorry for her they're much better at cooking.

limpy99 said...

I was going to suggest that you quit shitting in the bedroom, but your idea was much better.

Phollower said...

LIMPY- Great. Now you tell me.