What sucked my traps dry?

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I have a basement bathroom that is located at the very front of the house. All of the fixtures are within a few feet of the last clean out before the main drain leaves my house. The house is about 50 feet from the town's sewer pipe.
I came home from work last night (Monday) to find that the toilet had very little water in it. There was still some water in the toilet, but it was below the bottom of the bowl section. When I flushed it I could hear noise from the shower drain, so I turned on the shower and heard the shower trap filling up with water.
Since I had used the toilet and shower that morning, whatever happened had happened during the work day.
I should add that the town was at the neighbor's house on Sunday evening, apparently snaking their drain. Their house is downstream from mine. However, as I said, I used the bathroom Monday morning so I know the toilet and shower trap were full when I left for work.
Could the town have come back on Monday and done something with the sewer that would have sucked the water out of my toilet and shower trap? Obviously I'll check when I get home tonight to see if it happened again, but I'm curious as to what might cause the toilet and trap to loose water.
Thanks.
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On 09/11/2012 06:54 AM, DerbyDad03 wrote:

That would be my guess. Around here, they use those big Vactor (brand) trucks to suck things out of the sewer system; perhaps the problem wasn't with your neighbor's lines, but with the sewer main, and they came out with the Vactor truck to vacuum them out.
Jon
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On Tuesday, September 11, 2012 9:54:38 AM UTC-4, DerbyDad03 wrote:

It would be an unusual event unless your waste system is not adequately vented. Is that bathroom traditionally vented or does it have a studor vent under the sink? Studor vents do stick when they get old. Usually they are easy to replace.
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re: "It would be an unusual event unless your waste system is not adequately vented"
Well, in my case, both of those conditions exist, so "unless" doesn't fit here.
1 - It's an unusual event - first time it's happened in 20 or so years, at least that I've noticed, and I use this toilet and shower every day. 2 - The waste system is not adequately vented.
1956 house with the only vent being the main stack. None of the fixtures in the house have their own vents, but we've never had any of the problems typically associated with inadequate venting.
Hopefully this is just a one off but I'll keep my eye on it.
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On Tuesday, September 11, 2012 10:43:22 AM UTC-4, DerbyDad03 wrote:
You may be able to add a studor vent under your sink. Easiest if the drain comes up from the floor but either way you just need to get a T into it somewhere. That will help vent the other stuff in that bathroom.
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I've considered venting numerous times, just because "it's supposed to be vented" but I've never had any reason to go through the trouble.
Up until yesterday I never saw any indication that I needed to alter anything related to the plumbing. At this point, it's a bit hard to imagine that after using this bathroom nearly every day since I remodeled it 20+ years ago I've suddenly got a venting problem. I guess it could happen, but something else must have changed also.
So here's the next question:
If it were indeed a venting issue, please explain what happened yesterday. I used the toilet and shower in the morning so I know they were OK. I was the last one to leave the house and the first one home. In other words, no water was used from the time I left to the time I noticed the low level in the toilet.
What could have happened during the day that - vent related - would have caused the water in the toilet and trap to be sucked out?
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I've heard that, but I don't think that was the cause.
Yesterday was a beautiful day with just a slight breeze. We have certainly had much windier days around here, even recently, with no noticeable issues with our toilets or traps.
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Plumbing fixtures that are not vented at the connection to the drain at each fixture with a T going up to the vent and down to the drain where the fixture pipe enters can have the water in the drain traps siphoned out by pressure changes in the piping or by suction created by a large volume of water draining past that fixture...
It sounds like your house uses the main stack as a wet vent, rather than having individual vent pipes which are connected to a vent stack which can then be connected to the main stack above the level of the highest fixture in the building...
It could have had something to do with the town doing that sewer line cleaning, it could have been a washing machine emptying at just the right time when a pressure differential existed or could have been the wind...
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All of that makes sense, but at this point the only logical choice from those 3 options is the sewer cleaning - if that even occurred.
No one was home to do a laundry and it wasn't anything close to a windy day.
Besides, we've been doing laundry for 20+ years and we've certainly had windy days during that time period and it's never happened before, not that I recall or noticed.
It's too late to call the town right now, but I may call tomorrow. I'll be curious to see what I find when I get home tonight.
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On Tuesday, September 11, 2012 12:56:38 PM UTC-4, DerbyDad03 wrote:

Maybe the bird didn't get around to building a nest on/in your vent pipe until recently...
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Why would a clogged vent cause water to be sucked out of multiple traps during the time we were at work?
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That was a question for Larry. I don't think it would either. Can't even imagine how it could.

A hairline crack might explain the toilet being low, but not the empty shower trap.

Ok...
Came home, took one look at the manhole cover in front of my house and said "My, it's sure is clean around the seam. I'm guessing someone's had this cover off very recently."
I going with the "town did something yesterday" theory for now.
No low water situation in the basement bathroom.
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On Tuesday, September 11, 2012 4:23:08 PM UTC-4, DerbyDad03 wrote:

By itself, it wouldn't, but it would "seal" your drain system and allow some other event downstream (maybe related to opening a manhole) to suck your traps, which shouldn't happen if the vent is NOT blocked...
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I guess that's possible, but it would be a strange coincidence for both the blockage and the downstream event to occur at the same time.
Since I've seen no other symptoms associated with a blocked vent, it would have to have been a 1 - 2 punch on Monday.
I'll keep an eye on the situation and see if any "blocked vent" symptoms become apparent.
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letssay theres a big clog downstream that suddenly clears, this can create a vacuumn that sucks the water out of your traps......
I had it happen here once when the sewer company was working
unlikely but probably what happened to you.
probably a good time to look for your main house trap vent, they often get covered or lost over the years....
it would of prevented what you had occur, thats its job. along with preventing flammables to get into your interior drain pipes
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main house trap vent?
Never heard of that. I'd be surprised if I even had one.
What should I be looking for?
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Every home around here has a trap just outside the permiter of the foundtion....
its 4 inches around here and has a vent too,
they frequently get lost over the years. around here the sewer company requires its located and functionally any time a home is sold. along with a dye test to confirm there are no illegal connections like downspout to sanitary sewer.......
ask a neighbor who has lived near you a long time, thats how i found mine.... they also knew where the doorbell wires were buried too. a previous occupant had removed the actual doorbell..... and buried the wires in drywall mud 5 minutes looking at their doorbell explained it all.
the neighbors who lived nearby forever can be very informative
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I'll address your points in reverse order:
I'm one of the longest tenured residents in my immediate area. The little old ladies that have been here longer probably won't be much help. In addition, every house in my neighborhood is of a different style and different age, with my 56 YO house being one of the newer ones. I doubt that any other house is laid out, plumbing wise, the same as mine.
But that's all moot anyway, since I don't have any trap outside the house perimeter. I've snaked my own line enough times and have had it scoped, so I know that there is no trap after the drain leaves the house.
There is a cleanout on the other side of the basement where the main stack comes down through the house, but that's just a cleanout on the cast iron pipe just before it goes under the slab. I'm sure that I don't have a "main house trap vent" or even a "main house trap".
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When you get tired of watching sink traps, there is always paint drying for real excitement?
Christopher A. Young Learn more about Jesus www.lds.org .
Hopefully this is just a one off but I'll keep my eye on it.
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Very possible, that something the town did, sucked the water out of your traps. I've had similar thing happen.
Christopher A. Young Learn more about Jesus www.lds.org .
I have a basement bathroom that is located at the very front of the house. All of the fixtures are within a few feet of the last clean out before the main drain leaves my house. The house is about 50 feet from the town's sewer pipe.
I came home from work last night (Monday) to find that the toilet had very little water in it. There was still some water in the toilet, but it was below the bottom of the bowl section. When I flushed it I could hear noise from the shower drain, so I turned on the shower and heard the shower trap filling up with water.
Since I had used the toilet and shower that morning, whatever happened had happened during the work day.
I should add that the town was at the neighbor's house on Sunday evening, apparently snaking their drain. Their house is downstream from mine. However, as I said, I used the bathroom Monday morning so I know the toilet and shower trap were full when I left for work.
Could the town have come back on Monday and done something with the sewer that would have sucked the water out of my toilet and shower trap? Obviously I'll check when I get home tonight to see if it happened again, but I'm curious as to what might cause the toilet and trap to loose water.
Thanks.
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