What I'm Seeing Now

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When The Water In The Toilet Rocks And Rolls

Have you ever been in the bathroom and the water in the toilet becomes disturbed when some other plumbing, either in the bathroom or the house, is turned on?  The reason for that is there is some kind of a vent problem or a blockage in the drain line. 

Some older houses around here have the old drain lines called "orange-burg," which were glorified ceramic sewer tubes from the house to the street.  Over time they weaken and get crushed, or a tree root can find its way into a crack and grow in there, clogging it completely.  The toilet is the best way to see how the system is draining - look for the rock and roll!

On a recent inspection, I noticed that the front yard had a dip in the grass all the way from the house to the street.

That is a sure sign the drain line has been replaced with a newer PVC plastic line.  There are also clean outs visible inside and out.

So I wasn't so concerned about ceramic drain lines.

But something really odd happened.

Going into one of the bathrooms, and closing the door, I noticed that moving the door caused the toilet water to dance in exact rhythm with the door movement!

I confess - I don't remember seeing that before!

That's where the fun begins!  Now we have to answer why!

When I went into the attic my question was answered!

Somebody took the bath vent line and HOOKED IT INTO THE COPPER PLUMBING VENT TUBING WHICH BISECTS THE ROOF!  And it leaks air!  You can see the black staining on the sheathing, so moisture is added to that space and onto the wood.

A couple of things come to mind:

1.  It must have been really hard to get back behind that vent tube and cut a hole!  There is very little head room there and it can only be done with a saw, maybe even hand held!

2.  It would have been soooo much easier to properly cut a hole in the roof and install a vent cap!

The result of this installation?  When the door is moved, the air in the bathroom is sucked in and out.  The most convenient source of air to bring the air pressure back to homeostasis is the sewage vent tube.  There's sewer gas in them there tubes!  And for that reason, THE BATHROOM SMELLS!  Things just work that way. 

I invited the buyers and Realtor into the bathroom to demonstrate my little physics lesson and it got a good laugh.  The wife wondered if I had used the bathroom previously and I was the source of that smell!!  Well, no!

I am doubting the little plug-in "Spring Bouquet" deodorizer has enough uumph to counteract that sewer gas!

My recommendation:  A home inspection has a look at the SYSTEMS of the house and how they all interact.  It requires a complete examination, inside, outside, down AND up!  Be sure to see it all!  Oh, and remember to ROCK 'N ROLL!

P.s.  Inspectors are going to write that the insulation is "backwards" and I didn't mention it.  Patience, my friends - wait 'til you see the next picture!

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 39 commentsJay Markanich • October 29 2010 08:29AM

Comments

Jay:  Creative plumbing!!!!  Sometimes, in the dead of winter, ice will block a vent.  P-U.  Now that is almost an act of nature versus the unwillingness to actually put in a proper vent.  Good post.  Thanks.

Posted by Valerie Zinger, Home Organizer (House Proud Ottawa-Ontario-Canada) over 7 years ago

Valerie - in the past when we have had snow falls deeper than the plumbing vent I have run the hot water and the steam melts the deep snow pretty quickly!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Nice, I haven't seen that one before. Some people take silly to a whole new level.

Posted by Troy Pappas, Virginia Beach Home Inspector (Safe House Property Inspections) over 7 years ago

Jay, I was going to chime in with the Ice problem but Valerie beat me to it. It's more then a stinky problem, it's dangerous. It's also dangerous to get up on a latter when it's cold enough for the vent to freeze up much less walk across an icy roof to fix the problem. Perhaps you could address the best solution to the ice problem?

Bob

Posted by Bob "RealMan" Timm, Bob Timm, Broker Associate, Alliance Real Estate (Alliance Real Estate - Minot) over 7 years ago

That was a lot of work, right Troy!  And why?

Bob - like I said to her, running hot water to get steam up through the vent will melt snows pretty easily.  But you have to start when the snow gets up to the edge of the vent tube.

For sure, DON'T go up on the roof when it is snowy/icy!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

My goodness you are thorough!  I have never noticed water being displaced in a toilet before.  But you would think that the sellers would have investigated the stinky bathroom!

Posted by Kathryn Maguire, Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach (GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881) over 7 years ago

Jay - Homeowner/contractor "creativity" continues to reach new heights, but many such adventures are more difficult or create larger problems than they were attempting to solve.

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) over 7 years ago

Good Morning Jay, you wonder what else the home owner did in the home.

Posted by Dan Edward Phillips, Realtor and Broker/Owner (Dan Edward Phillips) over 7 years ago

Kathryn - inspections on older homes require a look at different things than newer homes!  An experienced home inspector knows that going in.

John - creative indeed!  And sometimes plain old stupid.  This is a problem that would never have gone away...

Dan - I don't wonder!  I have a list of things found on the home inspection!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

They say that if you are surrounded by something long enough you don't notice it any more.

That's where you come in .

Great work

Enjoy the day

Posted by Don MacLean, Realtor - Homes For Sale - Franklin MA (Simolari & MacLean REMAX EXECUTIVE REALTY) over 7 years ago

This is the second morning in a row to log in and read a "potty" post.  Is this a new trend??  I'm sure the buyer was very glad you found the rocking water in the toilet bowl.

Posted by Tammy Pearce, Tammy Pearce (Haute Realty 214-994-6474) over 7 years ago

Don - it would be very hard not to notice this!  My client left thinking I had just used the bathroom!

Tammy - don't know if it's a trend, but I have so many bathroom problems I certainly could post a few!  Does this make me a potty mouth?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay,

I have had that occur a couple times. It always takes me by surprise.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 7 years ago

I did a little hula dance with my clients watching, moving with the swaying door.  That's how you demonstrated it too, right Steve?

The dance drove home the point, and maybe smelled a little bit too...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Please, Jay, not while I am eating breakfast. ;-)  Ewwwwww....

Posted by Susan Haughton, Susan & Mindy Team...Honesty. Integrity. Results. (Long and Foster REALTORS (703) 470-4545) over 7 years ago

Gee, Susan, that's why I waited until 8:30 or so to post this!     (;>)

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

"...homeostasis..."

Gotta love a good $2 word!

Isn't it amazing the effort some folks will put into messing something good up?

Posted by Mike Jaquish, 919-880-2769 Cary, NC, Real Estate (Realty Arts) over 7 years ago

Mike - "stasis" - state or like

          "homeo" - neutral or standing

Wow, a $2 word!  Yes, everything needs to get back to neutral.  Even a big bedroom when you close the door!

They went to a lot of work to create this problem!

Isn't that a bit like what Reagan called "status quo?"  He said that was Latin for "gubment screwed up!"

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

And around and around it goes----where it stops nobody knows.  So eactly how DID they cut the hole in that pipe?

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 7 years ago

There was no platform to safely crawl back there to look.  I would have had to remove that vent line to do it anyway, and I don't want to do that so the sellers can see it Charlie!  But it had to be by hand!  Maybe that new Fein vibrating cutting tool?

It would have been sooo much easier to cut the roof!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Interesting.....do you find more people venting through the roof or the soffit?  I get scared when someone cuts a hole in a prefectly good roof.

Posted by Damon Gettier, Broker/Owner ABRM, GRI, CDPE (Damon Gettier & Associates, REALTORS- Roanoke Va Short Sale Expert) over 7 years ago

You're right, it would have been WAY easier to do it right.  

By the way, the insulation is backwards and you didn't mention it ;)

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

Damon - through the roof or the soffit, either is ok.  But NOT through a plumbing vent!  The vent caps which are made to go on the roof are perfectly safe and the template will say what size hole to cut.

Reuben - so, so much easier!  Insulation?  I don't see any insulation...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

That insulation was perfectly fine 40 or 50 years ago. ;)

Isn't always the way, the hard way instead of the right way.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 7 years ago

Lots of things were perfectly fine 50 years ago!  Like me...

Hard to see things done the right way anymore, right Jim?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Sometimes I read thses and say...  Whaaaaaaat?  Man!

Posted by Chris Alston, Silicon Valley, California (Chris Alston (Keller Williams Realty, Silicon Valley, California)) over 7 years ago

Learned something from your posting AGAIN.  Thanks,

Mel

Posted by Mel Ahrens, MBA, Kelly Right Real Estate, Customized Choices for your Real Estate Needs (Kelly Right Real Estate) over 7 years ago

Maybe the dancing water was a house theme...matching rhythmically dripping sinks...a symphony of plumbing !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 7 years ago

Yuck.  Good detective work on your part.  You guys find the oddest things.  Very interesting job you have.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 7 years ago

Chris - that's why I have to take pictures!  Otherwise people think I make this stuff up!

Some of the things I find I am not imaginative enough to make it up!!

Mel - what did you learn?  Oh, that I can move in time to a door and toilet water's movement!    ;)

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

S&D - yeah, quite the symphony!  To demonstrate the movement of the water I actually did a hula.  The funniest thing is that the wife politely excused herself thinking I had done in the bathroom!

Debbie - it can be interesting, fun, weird, sad and wildly entertaining!  And I meet a lot of great people!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Yep. When seeing something done right becomes the exception, we've got troubles.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 7 years ago

And we are counting on that as inspectors, right Jaime?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Counting on as being wrong? I would say yes to that. It's what I call job security ;)

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 7 years ago

¡ Sí Señor !

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

I've seen it when there is no other fixtures on the vent and some fool bird decides to build a nest in the vent.  This also causes bubble back (or that is what I called it) when you get air bubbling in the toilet bowl.  I've also seen the water raise and lower when the vent fan was turned on.  Nice detective work Jay.

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) over 7 years ago

Yeah, but it took the hula to demonstrate it Jack!   Yikes!!  Once I had a TV antenna AND a flag pole in the plumbing vent and guess what?  As you call it, BUBBLE BACK!  Wasn't exactly a hard one, that one!

P.s.  Don't you love birds!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay, I am amazed by the stories home inspectors have told me about what they have come across in their travels...

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 7 years ago

It is fun, isn't it Chris!?  And just when you think you've seen it all...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

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