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Basement floor drain...confused and worried

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alienone

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Hello experts :). A brown clump of guck appeared on the cover of my basement floor drain which as far as I know is only used to drain water from the furnace and A/C. 2 year old townhouse, only lived there 1 year and this is the first time this happened. There was no spillage outside of the cover.
The surface of the water inside the drain was full of foul brown stuff, fine grit like sawdust with larger pieces of what could be anything and I'm afraid to think may it was, you know, s%it:(.
I cleaned it all out as much as I could because there are 2 black pipes under the concrete that stick out which made access difficult. Pouring water didn't flush the stuff away because it floats!
After repeated treatments with peroxide, dawn, and finally baking soda/vinegar I got the water relatively clean.
I poured about 20 buckets of water down the drain and there's free flow with no sign of trouble but while looking at typical construction of floor drains mine seems to be unfinished and missing the plug on the side.
QUESTIONS:
1. Is this how a floor drain should look?
2. Seeing that there's no flow issues now, what could have caused this suspected backup and how likely is it to recur?
Pics attached, sorry about the foam but I wouldn't be able to get better pics anyway, the drain is about 14" deep
Thank you in advance for advice:)
 

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Jeff Handy

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There are two separate lines dumping into there.

They probably are roughly still in line with where they come from, if you want to figure out the sources.
The ac condensation pan usually shares a drain line with the humidifier and also furnace condensate line.
But maybe yours are separated, so you have two lines?
One could also be from a furnace or ac somewhere else in the house.
Or the water heater could have a catch pan or high pressure drain, with a drain line going there

Meanwhile, furnaces and humidifiers can grow mildew or slimy gook inside, and minerals can build up and break off and flow down the drain.

So finding yucky stuff in there is very common.
 
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alienone

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Thanks Jeff. One of the black pipes is a spinoff/diverter, not sure what the proper term is. It is a separate line from the laundry sink faucet on the same level, it runs clear water when the sink is used I believe to keep water in the drain from drying out. The other black pipe is a dead end, it sticks out of the concrete about a foot away, I think it was meant for the water heater overflow but it wasn't connected.
The furnace/AC/waterheater pipes are not embedded in the concrete and I moved them aside for the picture. Those are clear plastic and I can see there's nothing in them except some stains on the very end, I can't imagine such amount and assorted junk coming from there.
I should have taken a picture but was too eager to clean up the stuff:eek:
I strongly suspect the crap came up from within the drain so the question would be why and how likely is it to happen again.
I was thinking of installing a backwater valve but that's not possible with the 2 black pipes sticking out. Also drain diagrams I saw refer to 'cleanout plug' which I don't see here.
 

Jeff Handy

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Whatever the crud was, it could have just grown in there, feeding on debris from the environment.

Or it washed in from somewhere else, maybe there is a sump pump basin or sewage pump basin attached to that floor drain?
 

alienone

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It wasn't there before, I cleaned it out a few times due to drain flies. BUT I do have a sump pump although I have no idea where it drains or if it even works.
There's also another thing now that you mentioned 'washed in'. There is massive construction going on next street, condos coming up..I wonder if that might have something to do with it if they were connecting pipes or maybe broke some?
 

breplum

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Actually Jeff, I have a normally plumbed shower drain from the 50s in one bathroom that has drain flies once in a while.
OPoster: Answer to question 1. NO. You have a piece of s--- for a drain.

I cannot fathom that any building/plumbing inspector would allow what you have there. It looks like it is aqua in tint, indicating a light guage outdoor drain pipe plastic, it is probably an idiots cheap excuse for an area drain.
So sorry you ended up with this.
It was not built by a licensed professional.
It was work likely performed without a permit for this drain.
Your original home inspection should have flagged this.
You should see what that inspection report noted.
 

Jeff Handy

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I guess the fly maggots must be able to cruise through the wet trap, and do their thing.
That must be an evolved strategy to survive.
 

alienone

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According to this https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef615 drain flies 'develop' in standing water so if you're away for a couple of weeks and there's no water movement they might emerge. Of course no one knows where from, it's spontaneous like lots of other pests;)
 

alienone

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Thanks breplum, the place is only 3 years old and drain from the original install. That doesn't mean of course that it's not s--- although it just might be acceptable by the building code in Canada. I did rough finish like this in other homes here although not the aqua colour pipe. It did pass the release inspection from the builder (if they looked of course) and a quick scan of the building code indicated that a drain must be installed and with a trap but no other criteria. I don't recall the pre-purchase inspector looking inside the drain and I didn't think of asking him to.

My main concern now is if it was a sewer backup what caused it and how likely is it to recur. Is it indicative of a faulty install (other than the crappy blue pipe and rough finish) or is a backup possible with a proper install as well? Jeff mentioned the sump pump and if that does discharge into this drain and turned on recently for the first time that would explain the guck which could have been soil and vegetation.
Thanks both for your insight, I'll see what I can find about the sump pump and how it's connected.
 

Jeff Handy

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The floor drain might drain to your sump pump, not vice-versa.
If the sump pump has failed, the basin might be full, and water could flow back to the floor drain.

The floor drain might also drain to a sewage pump basin, or directly to a sewer.

If it drains directly to a sewer, there is likely a backwater valve somewhere else in the floor.
The backwater valve prevents a flooded sewer from pouring back out of the floor drain.
Or out of other fixtures down there, like a toilet or shower.
 

alienone

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Interesting idea about the floor drain possibly going into the sump pump basin:(. Unfortunately without removing the cover of the sump pump there's no way of knowing. That scenario with the sump pump failing would explain the guck if the pump was not properly shielded from debris and/or there was dirt in the connecting pipes. I never heard the pump running although I have no idea how loud it would be and if the noise could be heard 2 floors up.
No telling where the floor drain goes..I'd think it would be to the storm sewer since the water there would be relatively clean but what do I know about plumbing:confused:. Even if it does go into the waste sewer I don't think there's a backwater valve, it's not mandatory here so very unlikely for the builder to cover the cost.
 

Jeff Handy

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Remove the sump pump cover.

Get to know your sump pump, someday you will need it to keep your basement dry.

See if the floor drain runs there.
Pour in some water in the drain, it should appear in the sump basin soon after.

If it does not run into there, and it runs straight to a sewer line under the floor, with no backwater valve, you might be getting a basement full of sewage someday, if the sewer backs up.
A standpipe properly fitted into your floor drain MIGHT help with that, a plumber could advise.

You would have to remove those black hoses and plug their entry holes, if you installed a stand pipe in the floor drain.

You could install a small condensate pump box to handle the furnace water discharge.
So it would not have to run to this floor drain, it could be piped to a sink, or the sump pump.

You need to discover all those things.

Or else just bury your head in the sand.
 
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alienone

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Thanks Jeff, I was considering looking at the sump pump but the thing is sealed shut with bolts and stuff. There's no manual and based on generic info on sump pumps it is important that the cover be re-sealed if it is taken off due to gasses. I came across a post describing how to test the pump without removing the cover and might try that first. I agree it's a good idea to get a look inside though and see what's happening but will wait with that till spring. Once I know the make and model of the pump I should be able to get owner's manual from somewhere.
On a positive note, we had a good downpour overnight and no sign of trouble at the drain so I think I'm ok for now. Thanks for your help. I might come back here with pics once I get the cover off.

 

Jeff Handy

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There is no problem with gases from a groundwater sump pump, unless it was sealed up tight due to a radon problem.

The cover over a groundwater sump pump is usually just laying on top, and many have no cover at all.

Your pump might actually be a sewage pump.

Sewage pump basins have a secure cover with gaskets and screws to keep sewer gas contained.

So you need to figure out what you have there.

Post some pics of the sump pit cover, and the pipes coming out of it, and where they go to.
 

alienone

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Pretty sure it's not a sewage pump in that it drains outside the building onto the driveway. Could be just excess of caution with regards to radon or might be just construction dust settled in the gaps that make it look sealed. I will get good pics next time I'm there.
 

Jeff Handy

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Very good head in sand pic!

Uncover that sump pit, leave the screws out, run a hose in there, make sure it really works.

Next big rain, grab a few beers or whatever and sit there for a half hour and watch it run correctly.
Sump might actually not run much until the rain soaks down to the foundation drain.

Maybe you are on high ground or something, where groundwater is not an issue?

But you want to be ready for trouble, if you flood it will probably be at 3:00 am, no stores open.

If the cover is for radon, there is often a vent pipe added.
If radon vent, it would not join your other plumbing vent system.
A dedicated vent would go up to the roof, or out the side of the house then up.
It might have a fan pulling air, or might just be venting by chimney effect.
 

Jeff Handy

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PS the sump discharge goes onto the driveway?

Sounds like an icing problem in winter, or spalling from excess water then freeze/ thaw.

Or just nuisance mildew.
 

alienone

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I think the sump pump became a standard although I'm not sure if it is mandatory all new construction seems to have them. Once it is installed the building code mandates air tightness for radon. No telling where the radon would be and apparently it changes so it must be sealed.
Yes, it is draining onto the driveway but I think that is ok as the pump use would be an exception rather than a rule so no more of an issue than runoff from the gutter. Almost 2 years at the place and haven't seen it draining although I didn't sit by the drain pipe during rain:D
Will check out everything around the pump next time.
 

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