Plumbing problem

Lived in this house 23 years, bought it 6 years ago. 1913 built, it has some problems.
The plumbing's old but it always worked until this summer. Some work was done updating the downstairs shower, so I had to use the upstairs one and found the drain clogged. Couldn't unclog it. It seems that the vent to the drain is blocked about 3 feet above (!) where it meets the tub drain. That's where a snake stops cold. So, I decided I won't be using that tub/shower anytime soon. For now, it's just plain clogged and drains very slowly. The toilet up there works OK, but the sink didn't drain well a few times (while I was having problems with the tub this summer) and then was working again (?!).
Under that bathroom the living room ceiling shows considerable damage evidencing a flood in the bathroom (or that's what I always thought caused it). Once or twice I may have witnessed water coming down from that ceiling, but it's so long ago now I can't remember what happened.
Today, I finished installing a new sink in that upstairs bathroom (which is over the living room). The sink isn't new, but it may as well be. I got everything working fine, no leaks and find that the sink isn't draining well (same as happened a few times earlier in the summer when I was fighting the tub drain problem). I reach for the plunger today and try to force the water down the sink. I hear something funny and try to figure out what it is. It turns out to be water pouring down from the living room ceiling again, seemingly the same place as it had before a long time ago!!! Depressing!
OK, so I put a bucket down and mop up and think. I'm wondering what all this means. I turn off the shutoffs for the sink and figure that sink's out of commision until I either have the plumbing replaced in the house or at least the drain from the sink (which will necessitate opening up the bathroom wall and no doubt tearing open the living room ceiling and doing extensive repairs). Sad, because I just this week finished my first platering job ever - repairing a nasty botchup under the newly installed sink.
Maybe someone has an idea exactly what's going on here. I'd appreciate an explanation. When the other sink was installed there, it seemed to drain fine (except for a day or two this summer, as noted). Is it just a coincidence that the drain pipe busted now? Was it busted before and miraculously stopped leaking? I'm just confused. I see no water or leaking where the drain stubout connects to the drain pipe at the wall. If I use the sink now, even without using a plunger, water starts coming out of the living room ceiling.
Dan
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Dan_Musicant wrote:

My guess: Old pipes and joints are weak. Slight movement opens the joints. ( I watched a competent plumber work on neighbor's old system and a joint far removed from the work opened up. TB
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I forgot one other probable/possible clue:
Yesterday, when turning on the water in my newly installed sink and it was draining, I heard a distinct glug_glug_glug from from the toilet! I never heard that before. I had to leave, and I was thinking it over. I remembered that the sink had drained slowly for a day or two in the summer but then seemed alright, so I figured maybe I had a trapped air problem in the sink drain that was causing it to drain slowly. I thought that maybe if I flushed the toilet, the sink would drain again OK. If only my problem could be so easily solved. Of course, flushing the toilet didn't help!
Dan
PS Yes, it's pretty obvious that fixing this one will be no easy fix. At the very least, tearing open floor/wall and replacing bad drain pipes and considerable repair to repair floor/wall. The whole house could use a plumbing upgrade. I think I'm going to be soliciting quotes soon. Thanks for the answers.
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If you tear up walls, it may be a good time to upgrade electrical as well.
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: :> :> PS Yes, it's pretty obvious that fixing this one will be no easy fix. :> At the very least, tearing open floor/wall and replacing bad drain pipes :> and considerable repair to repair floor/wall. The whole house could use :> a plumbing upgrade. I think I'm going to be soliciting quotes soon. :> Thanks for the answers.: :If you tear up walls, it may be a good time to upgrade electrical as well.
No lie. In fact the smartest m.o. would be to do things in this order:
1. Remove brick and stone siding.
2. Remove old foundation, replace with new foundation (brick and stone has to be removed in order to do the foundation work, anyway).
3. Install completely new electrical service and wiring with whole house surge protection and properly grounded outlets.
4. Install new and updated plumbing, both supply lines and drains throughout house.
5. Install new siding and repair interior walls and floors as required after installing the plumbing and electrical.
Maybe I should just do all that and stand back and think about additional work, which would include remodeling the kitchen and bathrooms, painting the interior and exterior, refinishing the floors, etc.
Financing all this coordinated work is worisome. I'm unemployed and don't know if I'm going to get a job or figure out a way to have cash flow. I'm sitting on some invested money which gives me a small income.
If only I can figure out how to do some of this in an intelligent manner without doing all of it as described. Maybe I can do the plumbing and electrical now and wait on the foundation and siding. I'm thinking that the plumbing and electrical would be easier when the exterior siding is off (brick, mainly because the stone is only on the front). The time to redo the siding is obviously when the foundation is replaced.
Dan
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Dan_Musicant wrote:

You have a couple of choices, neither pleasant.
Tear open the walls and ceiling to that upstairs bath and fix everything. Don't forget to correct the vent pipe problem as that is probably over 1/2 your problem right there.
Close down the bath and forget it is there. Try to shut off any water lines leading into it.
Harry K
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Does sound like you'll be opening ceiling/ wall- in house this old, vent can be rusted away if it's cast iron. Could be a long weekend, or else get quotes. You might want to open ceiling, since it probably needs to be replaced where leak was anyway- might let you or plumber see better what needs doing, more accurate quote.
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wrote:
: :Dan_Musicant wrote: :> I forgot one other probable/possible clue::> :> Yesterday, when turning on the water in my newly installed sink and it :> was draining, I heard a distinct glug_glug_glug from from the toilet! I :> never heard that before. I had to leave, and I was thinking it over. I :> remembered that the sink had drained slowly for a day or two in the :> summer but then seemed alright, so I figured maybe I had a trapped air :> problem in the sink drain that was causing it to drain slowly. I thought :> that maybe if I flushed the toilet, the sink would drain again OK. If :> only my problem could be so easily solved. Of course, flushing the :> toilet didn't help!:> :> Dan:> :> PS Yes, it's pretty obvious that fixing this one will be no easy fix. :> At the very least, tearing open floor/wall and replacing bad drain pipes :> and considerable repair to repair floor/wall. The whole house could use :> a plumbing upgrade. I think I'm going to be soliciting quotes soon. :> Thanks for the answers.: :You have a couple of choices, neither pleasant. : :Tear open the walls and ceiling to that upstairs bath and fix :everything. Don't forget to correct the vent pipe problem as that is :probably over 1/2 your problem right there. : :Close down the bath and forget it is there. Try to shut off any water :lines leading into it. : :Harry K
The tub and sink are useless, but the toilet seems to work OK.
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