Sump Pump Discharge Clogged

Discussion in 'Drain and Sewer Cleaning' started by Markus250, Jul 8, 2013.

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  1. Jul 8, 2013 #1

    Markus250

    Markus250

    Markus250

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    I recently purchased a newly renovated but older home in an area that is prone to basement flooding. The sump pump system was put in back when you were able to drain directly to the sewer line, new homes in the area must drain back onto the lot. The pump system itself was replaced when the renos were done 4-5 years ago (not sure if it was kosher for upgrades to be done without changing the discharge location, that's a topic for another day). There are two pumps, they are back up powered with a battery and there is an alarm that will go off if the floor in the furnace room gets wet (covering us for both sump pump/draining problems and hot water tank leaks as well). We had one very heavy rain since moving in and the pump didn't seem to be going too hard, despite the fact that the area is notorious for basement flooding I felt safe given this information.

    Since that heavy rain, we haven't had any rain in almost 2 weeks. Saturday night, after a completely dry day that was forecasted 100% to rain (I've never seen a 100% forecast before, only fitting that they were completely wrong) I decided it was time to set up the sprinkler for the first time. I didn't spray for an excessively long amount of time, nor did I spray particularly closely to the house but when I came inside after, the sump pump was running. I doubt the sprinkler caused it, it was more likely ground water but regardless, I went to go check it out in the basement. Here is a diagram of what our system looks like.

    [​IMG]

    I am not very well versed in plumbing or sump pumps at all but I'll describe it to the best of my ability. The water comes up and out of the sump pit, to the T intersection with the open top (is this to allow air in to push the water through? Like a big can of apple juice that you have to puncture twice to pour?) The water begins to pour out the drain, increasing the level of the standing water at the base of the drain almost to the height of the discharge pipe but not overtopping it to my knowledge and certainly never overtopping the drain itself. After the water begins discharging, the water in the T instersection slowly begins rising until it eventually overtops the open end of the pipe and starts running down it, to the concrete floor and towards the drain. This, to me, implied that either there was minor clogging in the discharge pipe that was preventing the water from leaving the outlet as fast as it was entering the inlet or that the pump was too powerful for the pipe size (which seems unlikely, as the former could happen slowly over time but the later was surely have been noticed by the former owner).

    I set up a system of towels and whatnot to direct the overflow towards the drain without overtaking the rest of the furnace room or ruining anything in it. I set up a dehumidifier to prevent mold from the humidity this would likely cause. I went to bed and checked it out again in the morning. It was still running every 5-10 minutes, still overtopping but the water was flowing to the drain and the towels were wet but the water was not dripping/flowing beyond them. I had to be out of town all day, so I left it be and came home Sunday night. Same story as before, pump still running, still overtopping, still being contained. It was midnight but I was frustrated and wanted to do something about it. Firstly I poured a liquid plumr foaming snake down the open pipe as soon as the pump ran, hoping it would sit in the pipe long enough to remove some of the build up. I followed this up by pouring boiling water down the open pipe after the sump pump pushed all the draino out to see if the heat would help at all. Due to the length of the pipes in question, a toilet snake wouldn't even make it to the elbow joint in the pipe and achieve anything but an online article said that using a garden hose could achieve the same results without the restriction in length. The situation in that article probably didn't include an elbow joint at all, and the hose was not able to round the corner. It came back up covered in some sludge, so I feel safe to say that a partial blockage is the problem at hand. After these three (admittedly poor) efforts, I waited for the pump to run again. It went, and overtopped the same as before but I noticed a bit of debris floating in the water that came up. It soaked the fresh towels I set up at the base of the vertical pipe and as it was 2 AM, I figured I'd deal with it in the morning. When I woke up, tired and feeling like a zombie, I quickly checked the situation before leaving for work and noticed only those same towels were damp and the ones closer to the drain itself were dry. Either the sump pump stopped running shortly after I went to bed or the next few discharges had knocked some of the weakened debris through the line.

    So, in this situation, what should I do? Go home tonight and see if the pump is still running, if it is and isn't backing up anymore I could use a few more rounds of foaming snake to finish the job, if it isn't running anymore I could use another foaming snake and not have it pushed through by the pump 10 minutes later (and then manually flush it out with hot water after the recommended hour). Or should I just call a plumber and admit I'm out of my league here? I am trying to become more of a "do it yourself" type and I'm willing to study things on the internet and seek help from the forums when needed but I'm also willing to let the professionals take over when required.

    Additional Notes - There are two furnaces in this room, they both have a condensation line at the top and the bottom of furnace (is this normal? I thought there was normally only one?). The furnace closer to the drain has both lines connect to eachother and drains to the sewer drain, the other furnace has the lower drain also go to the sewer drain and the upper one actually flows into the top of the open pipe that is overtopping. The water coming through here is minimal and likely not of import but I figured I'd share regardless. There are two red plastic handles ont he pipe close to the sump pit itself, I have no idea what these are for or if they would help with anything. I also have no idea where the vertical pipe at the other T intersection is for.
     
  2. Jul 8, 2013 #2

    Markus250

    Markus250

    Markus250

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    I went home at lunch, the sump pump is still running every 10 minutes or so. Instead of topping out at about 5 seconds, pouring for about 10 seconds, then tricking for the last 15 seconds or so that the pump runs, then dropping instantly as soon as it stops it now slowly fills to the top, trickles a couple drops and then drops a couple inches for the last 15 seconds. I'll try more hot water and liquid plumr tonight and see if it continues to improve.
     
  3. Jul 9, 2013 #3

    camaroderrick73

    camaroderrick73

    camaroderrick73

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    Sounds like to me you have a blockage in your line after the tee. Instead of using draining, which never works, try to use whatis called bladder. A bladder or "blowbag" uses water and forces the blockage out of the pipe. Stick it on the end of the waterhose, place it after the tee , just before the 90 angle and turn the water on.

    This is either going to do 2 things; either it will blow out the blockage with pressure and clear your line, or build up pressure and when you turn th water water will go everywhere. As long as this tee is outside you shouldn't mind a little water...

    Just make sure you get a bladder that fits your pipe ie; 2 in for 2 in

    Good luck
     
  4. Jul 9, 2013 #4

    camaroderrick73

    camaroderrick73

    camaroderrick73

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    Also does your sump have a check valve on it? It should have a valve that water would back drain into the pump after ya pumped out... F it doesn't have one if put one in.
     
  5. Jul 10, 2013 #5

    IFIXH20

    IFIXH20

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    Something doesn't sound right. Storm water sump pits usually do not have a vent -- waste water sump pits usually have a vent. Post some pics of your setup. If you have 90 percent efficient furnaces they will have a condensate drain hose as well as the evaporator coil.
     
  6. Jul 11, 2013 #6

    Markus250

    Markus250

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    I'm back and I'm victorious! I'll answer the questions that people posted and then give a summary of the comedy of errors that lead to the problem being fixed.

    I think there is a check valve. At the base of the PVC pipe that comes from the sump pit, just above the grate, there is ~6 inch section of PVC pipe that has a metal seal on the top and bottom. I'm guessing this is a check valve.

    The drain in the furnace/sump pump room has a circular metal cover on it, like a mini manhole cover. I have no idea if it is a sewer or storm drain.

    So here is what happened after my last post. As one application of liquid plumr foaming pipe snake and a few rounds of boiling water were able to reduce the amount of overflow from each pump from a few cups to a few ounces, I figured I'd try it again. When I got to the store Monday after work, I saw that they sold "Urgent Care" Liquid Plumr, needing only 7 minutes to act rather than an hour. As the pump was going off every 15 minutes, this seemed perfect. I bought 2.

    I got home, ran a couple kettles of hot water through the opening and then sent the liquid plumr through right after the pump went off. It took longer than normal for the next pumping and the liquid had lots of time to break apart all of the sediment in the line. I heard the pump go off, and I stood above the opening in the line expecting to see even less water come up than before... I was very wrong. The sediment had come off in sheets, matching the curve of the inside of the pipe. All of this had become stuck further down the line and a gallon of water was coming through with each time the pump ran. The water leaked to the corner of the room just as I finished a trench set up to control the flow towards the drain and the floodmaster went off. The alarm blared in my ears, set off a notice to the alarm company and (unbenownst to me) turned off the flow of water into the hot water tank. I told the alarm company to ignore alerts for the next couple hours, fiddled with switches and whatnot unsuccessfully during the call, found the floodmaster sensor, wiped off the water between the two conductors and it went off. I then found out that the hot water was off and assumed (incorrectly) that I had turned off the hot water tank emergency shut off. So knee deep in my wet towel trench, I turned off the gas to the furnace, let it sit for 10 minutes and attempted to reset the pilot burner. It worked just like my trailer pilot burner, depress the gas to the pilot setting, press the piezoelectric red button next to the sight window, hold the gas down a minute after it ignites, rotate the gas button to on. Except here, the red button next to the pilot burner was for something else entirely and the actual igniter was a green button near the gas dial. I was beyond saturated by the time I figured this out :p Then I figured out it was all for naught and that the floodmaster was the culprit, reset that and we had hot water again. Time to sit back and celebrate a job well.... wait a second, I'm still knee deep in water and all I've fixed is the collateral damage of my own shoddy handyman skills.

    Way too much water was coming out of the open end of the pipe each round for me to feel comfortable leaving it overnight like I had after using the liquid plumr the first time and minimizing the leak. I partially closed the valve coming from the sump pump to make the flow low enough to prevent overflowing (I didn't know I could do this yesterday, I leaned in with one hand to try to turn the valve and it was stuck but desperation caused me to crawl in there and give it everything with both hands and it went), I realize this is not a long term solution and would cause excessive wear on my pump but for one night it was better than the watery alternative. I cleaned up the water with a mop, got rid of the wet towels, laid clean ones on the floor and ran the humidifier at full strength overnight. As much as I wanted to do this myself, I'd call a plumber tomorrow (which would have been Wednesday) and let the professionals take over.

    Wednesday morning I asked around about plumbers at work and describing my problem to coworkers. I mentioned that I felt confident I could get the clog out if I had a proper drain snake but the local hardware store only had the 23 inch toilet snake that wouldn't even make it down to the first elbow joint. Someone mentioned he had used an old wire snake to clean a drain once, he bent the tip at a 90 degree angle and it had worked for him. He lent me the snake and I gave it a try Wednesday night, one last ditch effort before I called a plumber. I stuck the wire down the open end, forced it 6-8 times until it made it through the elbow, easily snaked it along the horizontal portion of the pipe (I figured there was a fairly consistent build up through this portion and was wrong once again) and then couldn't get the snake any further. I tried to check the last elbow joint in the drain to see if I had knocked anything free or to see if I could see the wire but noticed it had rotated a small amount. I turned it back towards the center of the drain and the elbow fell off into the drain :eek: Turns out this elbow wasn't sealed (which I now realize was done to make this exact sort of problem easier to fix) and because I hadn't inspected the inside of the drain too closely I didn't notice. Continuing to force the wire in and out, lots of long curved chunks of sediment came to the end of the drain and I was able to pull them out before they got washed into the drain. I grabbed some BBQ tongs and pulled the elbow out of the drain and it was chock full of sediment, likely reducing the flow to about 10% of capacity. I dug it all out, re attached the elbow join, re-opened the valve and eveyrthing worked perfectly.

    So I took a long and difficult journey to get to the solution but at the end of the day, it all worked out. No more leaking, everything dried nicely, I know how the sump pump operates now, I know I can take that elbow off for cleaning/maintenance in the future (and can push a smaller snake horizontally through the outlet as well), I know how the floodmaster and hot water tanks work in the event of a real problem with the tank and I didn't need to pay a plumber.
     
  7. Jul 12, 2013 #7

    IFIXH20

    IFIXH20

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    Markus250, post some pics of your sump setup and the piping you remove to clear the stoppage.
     
  8. Jul 12, 2013 #8

    AQualityPlumber

    AQualityPlumber

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    One thing I would like to mention after reading your story is that now matter what you should not put any sulfuric acid based products through a pump or through a disposal unit. The reason is that you will damage the unit. Especially in a sewage pumps case the acid will sit in the tank and begin to eat the finish right off the pump on the inside and out causing your pump to corrode much faster then it should. Also it is dangerous in a ejection system. It is not uncommon for a pump to splash sewage on you during servicing. You don't want sulfuric acid mixed with sewage splashing on your skin. For the future don't dump chemicals down a sump. This is dangerous and damaging to the unit. You should have began with disconnecting the pump and pulling the line off to clean it right the first time.
     
  9. Jul 12, 2013 #9

    Markus250

    Markus250

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    I don't disagree with the method you are suggesting I should have used but I should point out that the chemicals never actually went into the sump pit or through the pump. I poured them into the opening in the pipe that was beyond the pipe's discharge outlet.
     
  10. Jul 13, 2013 #10

    AQualityPlumber

    AQualityPlumber

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    OK, it kind of sounded like you dumped it into the pump.
     
  11. Jul 17, 2019 #11

    Jeff Handy

    Jeff Handy

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    Glad you got the clog figured out!
    Please send pics, because your description of your discharge piping was too hard to put together into a mental image.

    Whatever loose fitting you are taking apart to gain snake access sounds like a weak link in the system.
    A clean-out should have a cap that needs to be unscrewed to provide access for snaking.
    Or something rubber sealed on with a stainless steel hose clamp.
    Pics will help us to improve that set up for you.

    Even though you put drain cleaner downstream of the pump, if the discharge line backs up then that corrosive chemical DOES end up in the sump pit and contacts the sump pump directly.
    And that corrosive backup water could be flowing to everywhere you had water on the floor.

    Also, pouring boiling water into the sump pit or onto the cold sump pump can cause thermal shock, the sudden change in temperature can crack the pump, or distort internal parts or damage seals that are not designed to handle hot water.
     
  12. Jul 18, 2019 #12

    Jeff Handy

    Jeff Handy

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    Just to be clear, my point about the loose clean-out cover fitting is that it might not need to be water tight and firmly attached if everything is draining properly.

    But if there is a major clog downstream of that loose clean-out fitting, sump pump water pressure can blow that fitting off and water can flood out from that opening.
    Pics of it would help.
     

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