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Saying "Exo-Thermic Permeation" Made Me Look Effluent With English

Exo-thermic permeation.  Fancy words!  How effluent is your English?

One of those things I have picked up along the way is a way to tell if there has been abuse of cast iron drain lines.  When it happens it is usually when people have septic systems.  I learned it from a client who was a water-treatment expert.  He worked in the field!

What is exo-thermic permeation?  When septic systems back up an old clean-out technique, which my client called an "old wive's tale," is to pour hydrochloric acid into the system.  But too much acid has the effect of causing cast iron to heat up.

Cast iron joints were sealed together by melting lead and pouring it into the joint.  It would be drawn in, much like sweating a copper plumbing joint, harden and last forever!  A tamping tool would situate and smooth it out.

According to my client, if there are back ups in the system, and that acid sits in the pipes, they heat up and sweat.  That sweat permeates through the cast iron, and the lead, and looks like leaking.  But touching it nothing is wet.  It feels like it is oozing and dripping grease.

The drips can be cleaned up, but the more the acid is used the more the pipes will sweat.

UNTIL THIS INSPECTION I HAD NEVER SEEN WHAT I SUSPECTED TO BE "EXO-THERMIC PERMEATION!"

Not long ago, during a home inspection, I noticed three things:

1.  The drains in this house were all slow.  Everywhere in the house.  Water would drain, but slowly.  And the toilets were lazy, for lack of a better word.
2.  The basement room where the drains all met had a freshly painted floor.
3.  There were four cast iron joints and they all looked like this:

Thinking (but not really knowing!) this might be exo-thermic permeation I suggested that to my client.  I also said that the septic tank needs to be pumped to see if the system is functioning, and/or the connections to or from the tank are bad.

My report also said that since this was a three-bedroom house the tank would be 1200 to 1500 gallons.  If it wasn't working properly, and the water very acidic, the effluent would be floating on the top.  The only way to tell if the tubes are all intact is to pump the tank and find the distribution box, EVEN IF MY CLIENT HAD TO PAY FOR THAT HIMSELF!

The seller was "offended" that I would suggest any problem with the system, that it worked fine and yadda, yadda.  And that there was no reason to paint that floor under the connections except "to make it look nicer."

Yesterday the realtor and my client spent most of the day trying to find the box and distribution system and dig it up to see what's up.  He called me to tell me that I should see this before they pump it out!  I rushed over!

Obviously this little puppy isn't working!  What you see on the left is floating effluentThe tank has not treated it to convert solids into a liquid for system percolation. You can see that the "T" has been broken for some time. 

The photo on the right is the connection between the tank and the distribution box.  By the time I got there the distribution box had been replaced, but the connection to it is broken and has not worked for some time.

Standing there with everybody I said it looks like there really was exo-thermic permeation and too much acid in the water.  The tank isn't working because there is too much acid.

The septic tank guy, impressed, looked at me like I was a Martian, saying, "You know about that?"

Aw, shucks.

Now the entire system needs to be tested by a specialist to see if the field percolates effluent!  I bet it doesn't!

My very happy client was saved thousands of dollars.  And maybe more to come if the field doesn't distribute effluent properly!

My recommendation:  in an older house with cast iron pipes, look for exo-thermic permeation!  Just suggesting the word will make you look really smart!  And what you say likely won't be bull effluent!

 

 

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 48 commentsJay Markanich • September 08 2012 03:27AM

Comments

Hi Jay.  In Massachusetts we have Title V.  It requires that the system be inspected and pass.  This eliminates the bull effluent.

Posted by Conrad Allen, Webster, Ma, Realtor (Re/Max Professional Associates) about 8 years ago

Conrad - the system is "inspected" here too, by the County, but it is a walk over.  The County doesn't go inside the box!  This system would have "passed" their effluent inspection...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Jay...

I hate stinky gooey stuff like that and it is a tipoff that some thing indeed is amiss!

Posted by Richard Weisser, Richard Weisser Retired Real Estate Professional (Richard Weisser Realty) about 8 years ago

Cast iron doesn't weep Richard!  Nor does Ted Nugent's guitar gently weep.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Good morning Jay.  It is a good thing you stuck to your guns and insisted on additional investigation.  Your client must be thrilled that you were on the job.

Posted by Linda Blumenthal, NYS Licenced Real Estate Salesperson, CBR (Hampton Crossing - Licensed Real Estate Salesperson - 631-466-4087) about 8 years ago

Jay, this was a new one on me. I've never heard of exo-thermic permeation. I guess I'm not very "effulent" in waste management.

 

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA about 8 years ago

Morning Jay congrats on the feature that sir is some nasty looking stuff.  Not good especially because I haven't had breakfast yet.

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) about 8 years ago

Good morning Jay. You sure know your.... lol. Good call once again in diagnosing an issue. I always worry when sellers are offended by asking a question. Almost like they were found out and didn't like it.

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) about 8 years ago

And I'll bet the sellers were thinking you were just feeding them a load of c_ _p. I guess then never wondered why the grass over that spot was always greener too.

Posted by Richard Iarossi, Crofton MD Real Estate, Annapolis MD Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) about 8 years ago

The problem here in South Florida is no basements , no exposed cast iron pipes. I have been seeing more video tapes of the sewer systems for the inspection.  Also mostly sewer connection here very few septic tanks anymore.

Posted by Chuck Mixon, Cutler Bay Specialist, GRI, CDPE, BPOR (The Keyes Company) about 8 years ago

Yuck.... OK, that is probably not a word you would use in your report, but it is all that comes to mind right now.

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) about 8 years ago

Well... so much for having breakfast before I head out on my inspection today...lol!!  Very rarely run into homes with cast iron pipes anymore, all PVC & CPVC now. 

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) about 8 years ago

I'm familiar with the term exo-thermic. Whenever a client has a home with a septic system, I strongly suggest it be inspected. In fact I have several subs I will use if the client desires. Pumping the tank is part of that service. 

In Connecticut a three bedroom home would have a 1000 gallon tank, 4 bedrooms, a 1250, above that a 1500.

D boxes are often found deteriorated. One company I work with has a snake camera which they use to scope all the piping in the system. They have often found broken pipes that would not otherwise have been discovered until problems occurred. 

Not to disagree with the septic professional, but that "stuff" looks like the natural scum layer you find inside every tank. The tank collects the soilds which fall to the bottom. The soaps, grease other floaty materials form a scum layer. 

The way I see the fields checked is through a flow test. Water is put into the tank, if it flows back, that is strong indication of problems down stream. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) about 8 years ago

Hi Jay, 

Great work. I love the extra sleuthing you do. Way to go laying down the Exo-Thermic with this one! 

I will be keeping my eyes open for this going forward

Keep up the great work

Paul

Posted by Paul Weir (RE/MAX Gold) about 8 years ago

Very informative posting, Jay!

When my father made joints in cast iron pipe (in houses he built for himself) I thought he tapped in the lead. I didn't realize it was melted. I am remembering things I saw many moons ago, however!

Posted by Jim Gilbert, The Gold Homes Team (Keller Williams Fairfax Gateway) about 8 years ago

If you need a stimulus of a sort, say the title of your post 3 times fast....I passed out...lol good post Jay

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) about 8 years ago
Haven't heard that term before. Might use it if I ever run into that situation.
Posted by Kevin Mackessy, Dedicated. Qualified. Local. (Blue Olive Properties, LLC) about 8 years ago

Very informative.  I have not seen this either, and we deal with a lot of septic systems out here.  Thanks for sharing!

 

Posted by Catherine Ulrey, Equestrian and Acreage Property Specialist (Keller Williams Capital City) about 8 years ago

There is something the owner is trying to hide when there is fresh paint in the basement

Posted by Harry F. D'Elia III, Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR (RentVest) about 8 years ago

It's always such a treat when you open one of those things up.  I don't know how people can stand to work on them.

Posted by Ralph Janisch ABR CRS Broker, Selling Northwest Houston to good people like you! (Janisch & Co.) about 8 years ago

Wow, that's excellent that you caught that problem.  In real estate, we have the privilege of meeting people from every walk of life and experience.  I've learned a lot from my clients, and obviously you have too.  Thank you for sharing your first hand experience with the rest of us.

Posted by Bernice Dubon, Calgary Alberta Realtor (RE/MAX First 403-607-9117) about 8 years ago

"exo-thermic permeation" sounds like a term that belongs with "supercalifragilistic" - but I'm sure the smell is different.

Posted by Lottie Kendall, Helping make your real estate dreams a reality (Compass) about 8 years ago

I must sat that I have never heard of it before..

Glad that I can impress my folks now

 

Thanks for sharing..

Posted by Ginger Harper, Your Southport~Oak Island Agent~Brunswick County! (Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage) about 8 years ago

Shame shame shame on the seller who thought paint would hide the problem.

Thanks for sharing...

Posted by Judith Abbott (Coldwell Banker Residential) about 8 years ago

Jay;  I've said it before and I'll say it again, a good home inspector is not expensive, they're "PRICELESS"

Posted by Kenneth Cole, NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson (Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com -) about 8 years ago

I thought it was George Harrison's guitar.

Posted by Alan May, There's no place like home. (Jameson Sotheby's International Realty) about 8 years ago

Alan - Ted Nugent said that unlike the Beatles' guitar, his never gently weeps!  I thought it was a pretty funny quote.

I'll come back to the rest of you later!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Linda - I routinely recommend that course of action with every septic system, unless there are very recent receipts indicating pumping and inspection.

I hadn't either Mike.  He taught me a lot of words I did not know previously!

James - feeling like a little oatmeal?

Randy - I've been told I am full of lots of stuff...  And when people balk I wonder too!

It is the grass over the field that looks really healthy Rich.  I think the whole system needs to be redone.

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Chuck - I would expect to see very few septics down there, except perhaps in the north.

Fred - can I interest you in a little oatmeal with raisins, very soupy so you can eat it with a straw?   ----------->

Jim - we have a lot of clay here.  It must perc more slowly.  I was pretty close to that stuff and it looked and smelled pretty familiar!  What was on the bottom, when he finished much later, was almost a tar.  He thought that might be related to the acid also.  They are going to check the field with dye.

Glad you enjoyed it Paul.  Sometimes things add up.

Hi Jim and the guys in the Manassas Gold Team!  Long time no see!  I know the outside layers are tapped in, or after it hardens and cools enough.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Richie - breath in and out of a bag while you do it...

Kevin - check it away!  I did and it came in useful!

Catherine - cast iron pipes are more frequent in older homes than septic systems, but look for the greasy drips!

Harry - and apparently just a little while before our inspection!

J&R - it isn't fun, but can be informative!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Bernice - when I meet someone I can learn from I am the question machine.  They can get tired of me fast!

Lottie - it has to be taken with a lot of spoonfuls of sugar.

Judith - I bet he didn't know about the permeation clues!

Ken - this guy was saved a lot of dough!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Oh my, Jay,

I bet you don't get surprised anymore... I can't believe some people!

Have a great weekend.

Posted by Tatyana Makarov, Your Greater Hartford Area Realtor (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) about 8 years ago

Not surprised at all!  Never actually, but disappointed all the time Tatyana.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

I hope I never have to drop the "exo-thermic permeation" term on anybody Jay. But it I do, I will always remember where I first Learned about it.

:)

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) about 8 years ago

Well, Tom, I still remember the inspection where I first learned about it!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Thanks for the heads up on exo-thermic permeation!..  I think it is so important for buyers to have a home inspector like you.

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) about 8 years ago

Jay,

 This make me remember crawling under my Friends home and sweating a cast iron joint for him. I am sure snuffing the lead was good for me ;)

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Great job! Nobody knows it all and having the humility to pick something up from a client is a good sign! Been there, done that. :)

Posted by Mike Gillingham (Eastern Iowa Inspection Services LLC) about 8 years ago

Thanks Joan, but we are just trying to use what we pick up along the way!  We all do!

Don - people who do stained glass art need to be careful about breathing those fumes too.  That's what, exo-thermic inhalation?

Thank you too Mike.  When I can I ask a million questions of people I meet on home inspections.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Checking with dye is not considered a best practice here. In fact the CT DPH and DEP warn against dye tests for determining septic system failure. As I said above, typically water is introduced into the tank before pumping it out. Water back flowing into the tank is a good indication of failing septic fields. In addition every company I work with also physically probes the fields. Wet or mucky fields can also be a good indication of failure. I have not seen anyone I work with use dye. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) about 8 years ago

That's all true.  I think people here do it because the counties recommend it.  From what I understand it can take a couple three weeks for any dye to show up.  Most people don't have that kind of time.  What you say is far better practice Jim.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

I hear the same about dye, it can take a long time to show up. Not a reliable test.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) about 8 years ago

Jim - I used to do inspections for a relo company and on one they required a dye test.  They had me call the sellers 1/2 hour before I arrived to ask them to turn the water on.  That way, they said, the water would be flowing to the field.  I told them that the dye would simply not show up that day and maybe not for a while.  But I introduced the dye, went to the field, nothing showed up.  I think they wanted to demonstrate due diligence and get out from under any future complaints.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

 

   Seen this happen.  Never kniew what it was called.  Thanks.

   So "effluent" is a euphemism?  I used to live in an effluent community...

 

Posted by John J. Woods, Going where no man has gone before - wouldn't you? (Big Dog Press, LLC) about 8 years ago

Jay - another good reason for including a "septic party" (have the septic pumped and inspected with the seller and the prospective purchaser present) with a home inspection

Posted by Kathy Clulow, Trusted For Experience - Respected For Results (RE/MAX All-Stars Realty Inc. Brokerage) about 8 years ago

John - most communities have their "effluent" elements, even the affluent ones!

Kathy - this was a phone call that encouraged me to come to the property late in the day!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Who you gonna call? Exo-thermic Busters. Do-do-do-dodo-do-I ain't afraid of no exo-thermic. 

Great pictures too BTW.

Posted by Scott Seaton Jr. Bourbonnais Kankakee IL Home Inspector, The Home Inspector With a Heart! (SLS Home Inspections-Bradley Bourbonnais Kankakee Manteno) about 8 years ago

Thems is some suntanned cast iron pipes Scott!  Glad you like the photos - yummie!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

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