Toilet Still Misflushes After Septic Pumpout. Help?

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Hi, I'm hoping I can get some advice about this before spending more money. I HATE not knowing what I'm doing! Anyway, we noticed our toilet was flushing slowly, and/or incompletely. At around the same time, we also noticed an odor outside and some dampness. Turns out the septic tank was full. (We've lived here less than a year, and never had a septic tank before.) So we called and had it pumped to the tune of $350.00, which I think was insane for the amount of time it took. Instantly the problem with the toilet disappeared, so we just shrugged it off and were happy all was well.
So here it is three days later and the $%&# toilet is flushing slow again, and sometimes not at all, after being fine since the pumping. I don't see how it could still be the septic tank, if there was a back up in the drain field, wouldn't the tank have to refill up with water first? I don't see any way that two adults can fill a 1,000 gallon tank in three days.
So I'm mystified. If there was a blockage in the pipe, I don't think pumping the tank should have helped, right? And the toilet is only about 10 feet from the septic tank, just the other side of the wall. (BTW, the tank *did* need pumping, badly.) I really don't want to call this company back, the guy they sent out seemed way too eager for me to have a lot of expensive work done. And if I call someone else, I'm just as afraid of getting taken. Any advice as to things I can do, or check on would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks, Robyn
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350 is alot eh , I guess you think he got that maybe 60000 $ truck free and it runs on air. Sure he is compensated, sucking shit all day deserves a bonus.
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In typed:

I did some extensive searching online. Even allowing for regional differences, I didn't find any instances of this work costing more than $200, and most seemed to be in the $100-200 range. So yes, I think I was overcharged, but that isn't the problem. I already said I wasn't worried about the money as long as the trouble was fixed, and it isn't. But I'm not about to throw good money after bad.
Robyn
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Robyn wrote:

Hmmmmmmmmm Tank full of solids could indeed mean that the field has been compromised. That would explain the wet soil. Oh Oh!
Has it been especially wet where you are? Enough to saturate the ground?
What happens when the washing m/c empties? Any bubbles in toilet or sink gurgles? Try dumping several buckets of water into toilet bowl rapidly. See if they go right down. (Just looking for more clues.)
Jim
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In typed:

Hi Jim. :-) No, actually it's been drier than usual here. We've been watering the grass every third day for an hour, but that's not enough to saturate. I want to add that the dampness was over the tank, not in the drain field area.
I haven't noticed anything when the washer empties, but it's in a shed separate from the house and may be connected differently. However, when the kitchen sink drains, the toilet does bubble sometimes. It makes a "bloop,bloop,bloop" noise. I should add that it does this all on its own sometimes after flushing.
OK, I just dumped a 3 gallon pail of water in the toilet. Most of it went right down, but it didn't flush completely like it should. Thats what happens. It starts to flush normally, and just when you think it's going to all go down, it just stops. Then the remainder of the water in the bowl just drains out slowly, sometimes accompanied by "blooping".
I want to reiterate that is was just fine after the pumping, flushed like a trooper; which was less than 3 full days ago. Wouldn't a drain field issue become apparent only *after* the tank refilled and started draining out again? And shouldn't it take a few weeks for a tank that size to fill with water? I'm confused. :-)
Robyn
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Robyn wrote:

From those clues, I would have to agree with another poster who suggested a blockage in the line from house to tank.
To me, it sounds like the main drain is becoming "submerged" (due to blockage), rather than it being a venting issue. If it is convenient to get on the roof without danger, you can look down the vent, or even run a garden hose down to see if it flows freely (have someone inside to warn of water backing up). That will help decide for sure if a clogged vent is to blame (though I doubt it is).
Here's one more thing to try. If you can, take the tank lid off and see if that fixes the burbling and slow flush. If it *does*, the problem would appear to be after the tank. If it does *not* fix it, look into snaking the main drain from house to tank. Or, have someone video inspect it.
While the lid is off, see if the tank is equipped with baffles. It's possible that toilet paper is hanging up and clogging.
Jim
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In typed:

OK, will do, but I need help and can't get any until tonight.

Well, I watched while the tank was being pumped, and saw no baffles. In fact the guy had us flush and I saw where the water came out, so no hangups at that time. The toilet continued to flush fine after the lid was replaced for two days. I really don't want to try to get it off again, it's huge. (Although I will if I have to.) Big hunk of concrete about 3' by 4'. (Even the plumber said it was massive, as lids go.)
I thought of the snake thing, too. I talked to my S/O and he's going to try and borrow one, or failing that, buy one on the way home tonight. The toilet is very near the septic tank, so there's not a lot of distance to cover. Basically the toilet sits directly next to the bathtub, which is against the outer house wall. The vent for the tank is about 18" away from the outer wall directly opposite the tub, with the outlet within the tank maybe a couple of feet beyond that. (Hope I'm being clear.) :-)
I sure hope it's something as simple as toilet paper hanging up. :-) We're first time homeowners and this whole thing is kind of scary. :-)
Thanks so much for your advice. Robyn
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Robyn wrote:

<SNIP>

Don't try to buy a snake; rent one. You need a "sewer auger". Also, there must be a cleanout fitting in the house to get the snake in. Otherwise you're faced with taking the toilet up to gain access. If the cleanout fitting gives direct access, it may be possible to use a "sewer tape". This is a coiled up length of flat steel with a pointy end. You just push it thru manually. That one you could afford to own.
The vent I referred to is on the roof. It's purpose is to admit air and allow all the traps to function correctly. Leave that as a last step.
Jim
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To me, it sounds like some solids backed up into a horizontal interior vent line when the tank was overfilled. Flushing water down from the roof may dislodge it. Watch out for backups if flushing the vent.

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Robyn wrote:

If it were me, I would look up "Drain Cleaners" in the Yellow Pages. They charge about $75 to unclog a run and guarantee their work. If you try it with a rented power auger but no knowledge of how to use it, you are probably wasting your time and the rental fee. Plus a drain cleaner will be all done in about 2 hours after you call. It's money well spent.
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In typed:

Actually it only took about half an hour, but cost 3 times what I expected. Still clogged and requires another infusion of money to open. :-) I posted an update onto my original question with details. Why is it that nothing is ever as easy or as cheap as you expect/hope it will be?
Robyn
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No one has mentioned it, but I had a similar problem with a house of about the same age. The septic line coming out was 2 1/2 inch line somewhere down the line someone had connected 3 inch pvc from just outside the house to the tank but when they installed the line in the tank they merely laid it in the 4 inch opening in the tank. Eventually small roots invaded this area and caused a turd dam. Also, the pipe they added was not dropping in elevation. Just another thought. Al
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Robyn wrote:

roto-routed many times. Finally I dug up the pipe and found that it was crushed about halfway from the house to the tank. I replaced the pipe with some PVC and it has been fine every since. You can pay big bucks for the septic company to do this, but it is really quite easy.
NB: I paid $150 for the pumping the tank about a year ago and I thought that was high. 18 years ago when I moved in, it was $80.
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In typed:

Well, as I mentioned in another response, I'm going to go ahead and snake the thing and see what's up. I don't see any way the pipe could be damaged, it's only got to go under the bathtub and outer wall, but anything's possible, and I do need to cover all the bases. Yeah, definitely trying to avoid paying the big bucks. We're here less than a year, and it's a 45 year old home that was benignly neglected for the past 10 years or more. We've got *plenty* of expenses without more happening along. :-) Thanks for your reply. :-)
Take care, Robyn
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Hi Robyn,
About 45 years ago, a common type of pipe used, was called "orangeberg" (sp?). I'm not quite sure of the spelling, but it's pronounced "orange-berg". I'm not even sure of what it was made of, but it's very similar to hard paper. It crushes VERY easily. In my area, many orangeberg sewer lines have been dug up and either repaired, or replaced. The pipe "crushes" and becomes "egg shaped" or oval. This creates a bottle neck in the pipe, which can collect hangups (toilet paper in particular). The fact that you can pour a few gallons of water down there and eventually it starts to back up, leads me to believe that you have a clogged pipe. You pour enough water down, to fill the pipe and then it starts backing up the toilet and quits flushing.
It could certainly be the vent. The "gurgling" you hear is typical of a sewer line gasping for breath, if the vent isn't working properly. You need air behind the drain, for it to work properly. As an example, dunk a drinking straw into water and cover the top with your finger and pull it out of the water. The water stays in the straw. But if you let go, the water flows out. That's the purpose of the vent...to let air behind it to work properly.
I don't think it's possible, but if your toilet is flushing a little all the time, it's possible, that your toilet is leaking (bad flapper or leaking ballcock) and the water from the toilet running constantly is filling the tank. Can't beleive that's what is causing your problem, but it is something to think about. If your toilet is flushing a little all the time, then replacing the guts in your toilet is a good idea anyway.
Finally, call a pro, if you are going to "snake" the drain. They have the proper auger and cutters to open the drain properly. If you use a "snake" you'll only open a very small hole in the clog and it will clog again and have you even more confused.
My best guess, is that you have some orangeberg pipe, between the toilet and the tank and it's crushed...causing your problems. "Snaking" it or roto-rootering it will help temporarily, but eventually, you'll have to fix that pipe. When they pumped the tank out, they may have pulled the blockage out, or at least enough to let things pass for a few days. That might be why it worked for a few days.
I hope you get this solved.....we sure take it for granted when it's working properly...don't we?
Good luck and best wishes
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In this area of the woods this type of pipe was sold under the brand name of "No-Co-Rode", it was a rigid pipe made of fibers and a tar product, you hammered lengths together with a tapered coupling. Everybody used it, the telephone company to run their cables, the town for sewer mains or runs to houses, it came perforated for foundation drainage or septic tank seepage beds. Its big fault was its brittleness. PVC quickly replaced it in all uses.

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That's the stuff I'm talking about and I'd be willing to bet, based on the age of your house, that this is your problem, Robyn. However, the repair is too costly to take my word for it (or anybody else's for that matter). If you were to spend the $75 or so (up to $130 in my area), to have a sewer cleaner come in, they are experienced enough to get a good idea of the problem while they are trying to clean it. In particular, with the "oval pipe" problem I'm referring to, the claw on the end of their cable will get hung up in the oval (can't be pushed through). By switching to a "half claw" they may be able to get through and that would indicate a "crushed" or "ovaled" pipe. Many of these same sewer cleaners have cameras now and can determine the problem in minutes, using the camera.
Although the "gurgling" sounds suspiciously like a vent problem, I'm still willing to bet on a blocked pipe.
Again, good luck and best wishes Robyn!
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In

Well, what he sent through wasn't a claw, but a great big spring attached to a motor. Cost was $250, but he dropped it to $200. He said the pipe most likely was crushed, and offered to send a camers down, but this was another $275. I just took his word for it, as it seems likely at this point. I added an update to my original query with more details, but it looks like we're in for an expensive ride. Thanks so much for your response, and good wishes. :-)
Take care, Robyn
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In typed:

Hi again, I meant to come back here and do an update, but I wanted to check the vent first and a few other things. However, the past two afternoons have had the usual thunderstorms in the vicinity, so we couldn't get up on the roof. In the meantime, the toilet is just getting worse, and snaking with a small snake didn't seem to help. So I took the advice I got here and called a plumber. (NOT the same guy as before.) Well, to clean the drain out from the septic tank access pipe to the tank costs $250.00. I talked him down to $200 and told him to go ahead.
He did the job and I flushed. Only a slight difference. He said it looks like the pipe's damaged somewhere in that area, so you guys were right about that, apparently. (Not that I didn't believe you, but I was just hoping...) So he said replacing the pipe will run $1500. Somebody please tell me how it costs $1500 to replace 3' of PVC? He said it was a lot of digging and work. I said fine, what if *we* dig? He said if we exposed the pipe he'd drop the price to $900 and guarantee it wouldn't be more. So there we are.
You know what sucks? The city's going to come through and hook everybody up to the city sewer system within the next couple years, so all this will be completely redundant. Ratshit.
So nothing's been finalized yet, we've got to dig the pipe out this weekend and then call them to come in and do the work on Monday. I hope this fixes it. I want to say thanks to Jim and everyone else that offered advice and encouragement. It really helps, and I was able to learn something. Words of encouragement and/or advice are *still* appreciated. :-)
Thanks! Robyn
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Robyn wrote: <SNIP,SNIP,SNIP>

If you can dig it up, there's a good chance you can replace the damaged section yourselves.
If you're game....post back.
Jim
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