We have an older house (c 1920?). The cellar drain (only) goes to a
drywell, which has gotten quite slow lately. The drain is in the center
for the floor. It goes through a trap, with a clean-out access on the
other side. After that, it runs off more-or-less horizontally. A snake
has some difficulty about 6' in, but runs free after passing that.
So, my question: in those days, would there have been a rule-of-thumb as
to where they put the drywell - under the house, or out past the
foundation? ISTM, it would be easier to put it under, since the cellar
was already dug out.
Any thoughts appreciated. Thanks,
On Saturday, October 5, 2013 1:21:34 PM UTC-4, George wrote:
What's the water table level? I've only seen drywells used for
water sources at or near ground level. Gutter drains or
washing machines for example. With a basement floor drain,
unless the water table level is really low, I would think
a drywell would be problematic. It would have to be like 12ft
below grade. A heavy rain and you could have water coming
in, instead of out.
But assuming there is one, I doubt it's under the floor.
I have never heard of a drywell being put under a basement
floor. Also, does just the one drain go to it? If so,
you would think if the drywell is there,
it would then be directly below it, no? If you're gonna
have it below the floor, then why not right there?
What purpose exactly does the floor drain serve?
Sounds like either
a) you've got tree roots or,
b) the line has finally begun failing.
I'd suggest getting a plumber/drain service w/ a camera they can send
down to see what the state of affairs is.
As trader4 says, it's highly unlikely it terminates under the slab but
I'd suspect it's probably time that the slab's going to have to be cut
to repair, unfortunately. But, if you get the camera you're going to
You could always try the roto-rooter route first and see if they can cut
some roots out and solve your problem for a while...
On Saturday, October 5, 2013 1:40:13 PM UTC-4, dpb wrote:
Key question here is what the importance of the floor drain is?
I've never lived in a house that had a floor drain in the basement. I
know they exist and I guess if I could have one, with guarantee
of zero problems, it would be nice. On the other hand, in the
house I'm living in now, it has a basement. When I bought it,
I painted the basement floor. I use the basement mostly for
storage. Haven't had a single instance in 20 years where I
would have used a drain like the OP has.
Or a lot of people finish their basements. In which case
I don't see the compelling need for the drain either. You
don't have a drain in the kitchen floor, typically, right?
And if for some reason, like a torrential rain, the basement
has 6" of water, what good is a drywell, below that level
going to do you?
On 10/5/2013 1:01 PM, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Seems pretty much immaterial to OP's question to me...if he were
routinely flooding the basement I suspect his question would have a far
different tenor than that asked...since the house is nearly 100 yr old,
needing to worry about what it was/is seems a little late in the game to
On Saturday, October 5, 2013 4:10:35 PM UTC-4, dpb wrote:
What I was getting at was that if it's rarely used and since
most basements don't have them to begin with, then if a snake
doesn't work, it's probably not worth fixing.
He's now reported back that it's used for a washing machine
drain. So, if a snake doesn't work, I don't think there is
much point in calling a plumber to do a camera inspection, etc.
I guess he could do that, but that money could go towards
connecting the washing machine to the sewer and sealing off the
The floor drain in my brother's house is connected to the sanitary
sewer. I found that out one morning when I was taking a shower in the
downstairs bathroom. Apparently the sewer froze occasionally. What a
- the drain mostly just serves the washing machine. The (separate)
'stack' drain runs out to a 'septic system' (we've never looked at it in
20 yrs). This line runs about 3' _above_ the cellar floor.
- Plan B is to connect to the city sewer. We've been told that would
run ~$10K, which is kind of a lot just so we can do laundry. Plus, it
would still be 3' off the floor, so we'd have to run the washing machine
discharge into a sump, and then pump it through a check valve into the
(new) sewer line.
- We've never had a problem with water coming up the drain, despite a
moderately wet climate.
- I have no doubt that roots are into the drywell, and, from the way the
snake feels, I'm pretty sure that the pipe has failed. The question is,
where? If the drywell is outside, it would need a backhoe, and there's
the foundation, ... $$$. If it's inside, I can at least break through
the floor and look at it. Again, it's not clear it would be worth it,
just to be able to do laundry.
Good point. Probably, it's outside. Not what I wanted.
On Saturday, October 5, 2013 2:45:06 PM UTC-4, George wrote:
Why isn't plan B to connect the washing machine to the existing
septic system? In new construction, that's exactly what's done.
For an old system, like you have it wouldn't be my first choice,
but it beats spending $10K. Or if you don't give a damn about
code, make a new drywell and route the washing machine into it.
On Sat, 5 Oct 2013 12:46:37 -0700 (PDT), " email@example.com"
As far as using the existing septic, we'd have to put in a sump for the
wash water, and pump it up to the sewer line. (as noted, the septic
line is 3' above the cellar floor.)
... and other possibilities. For now, the laundramat is probably the
cheapest. Before we sell, we'll probably connect to the city sewer. I
kind of doubt this septic (whatever is down there) would score well in
My vote would be to do Plan B. It will add value to the house and you'll
want it if you ever decide to sell.
Washing machines pump the water out, and the pump in the washer will easily
pump it up above the level of the washer. You could use the washing machine
to pump the water up to a washer drain line and trap that drops down and is
tied into the existing horizontal septic sewer line that is 3 feet off the
I think that people use a separate gray water holding tank to avoid
overwhelming the septic system with gray water, but I don't know for sure.
And, there may be issues about making sure the laundry waste water is
filtered so it doesn't clog the drain field from the septic tank. So, that
would be something to research first.
If you are sure there is a drywell that the basement drain is connected to
(and not just some type of French drain), then have a drain cleaning company
come out and snake out the drain line and see how far the snake goes in
before it reaches the drywell. That's a cheap first step before worrying
about the Plan B of tying into the city sewer, or trying the other Plan B of
tying the washer into the horizontal septic sewer line and possibly screwing
up or overwhelming the existing septic system.
Call a septic/drywell cleaning service. They will usually find your
tanks, either by probing with a rod, or using a metal detector, or
ground scanning radar. They can also clean out the drainpipe.
Once you find it, take measurements from the tank lid to specific points
on the house where all meet at the tank. Write down all the measurements
and where the reference points are and save them in a safe place.
That's how I locate my drywell.
My septic tank lid is buried right under a small removable sculpture in
the flower bed.
if tree roots are the suspect, mix rock salt with very hot water and send it down the line. the salt will kill the roots but leave the trees unhurt...
i have been doing this for over 15 years to keep my bad sewer line open. Its cheap, non hazardous, and has worked well for me...
its highly likely that lint has clogged the sums drain field. in the old days cotton would of just rotted away, but the synthetics may never decompose
Thanks for all the replies. I think the answer is, as suggested above,
'If they put the drywell under the cellar, they'd put it right under the
drain, not run it off somewhere.' Seems obvious, now that I hear it.
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