Start digging…

Date:1 June 2012 Tags:,

Q The sink and the toilet in one of our bathrooms don’t seem to be draining properly, and I’ve noticed a mushy spot in the backyard, between the house and the septic tank. I’m thinking that the pipe is clogged or broken, but give me your take on this.

A My take is that you’re right.

The pipe between the bathroom and the septic tank is cracked, broken or infiltrated by tree roots. Any type of sewer pipe (cast iron, asphalt-impregnated fibre or clay) can fail after decades of use, although, generally speaking, cast iron and clay are far more durable than the asphalt-impregnated fibre. There’s no easy repair. If the pipe is cast iron, you can cut out the damaged section and splice in a new piece of cast-iron pipe and no-hub fittings (fittings with large, bolt-on rubber gaskets that seal the joint and prevent leaks while maintaining flexibility). You’ll need to rent a special tool to cut the cast-iron pipe, though. The most important piece of equipment will be a soil-pipe cutter (also called a snap cutter).

If the pipe is clay or asphalt-impregnated fibre, you should replace the entire run of pipe from the house to the septic tank. Unless you’re an accomplished do-it-yourselfer, hire a plumber to do this, and maybe a couple of labourers to tackle the heavy digging.

One word of advice: if you’re brave enough to make this dirty, smelly repair yourself, be sure that no one in the house drains a sink, takes a shower or runs a dishwasher while you’re down in the hole ““ not to mention flushing a toilet.

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