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PLUMBING SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
AGE of PLUMBING MATERIALS & FIXTURES
AIR DISCHARGE at FAUCETS, FIXTURES
BACKUP PREVENTION, SEWER LINE
BLOCKED DRAIN REPAIR METHODS
CARBON MONOXIDE - CO
CHECK VALVES, WATER SUPPLY
CHLORINE IN SEPTIC WASTEWATER
CLEANOUTS, PLUMBING DRAIN
CLOGGED DRAIN DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
CLOGGED SUPPLY PIPES, DIAGNOSIS
CLOGGED SUPPLY PIPES, REPAIR
CLOGGED SUPPLY PIPES, HOT WATER
CONDENSATION or SWEATING PIPES, TANKS
CROSS CONNECTIONS, PLUMBING
DEBRIS in WATER SUPPLY, Water Heater
DEPTH of DRAIN & SEWER PIPES
DEPTH of SEPTIC TANK
DRAIN & SEWER PIPING
DRAIN LINE DEPTH
DRAIN a WATER HEATER TANK
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
FLOODED HEATING EQUIPMENT REPAIR
FLOODED SEPTIC SYSTEMS, REPAIR
FLOODED WATER HEATER REPAIR
FLOOR DRAIN / TRAP ODORS
FLUSHOMETER VALVES for TOILETS URINALS
GAS PIPING, VALVES, CONTROLS
GALVANIC SCALE & METAL CORROSION
GALVANIZED STEEL PIPING
HARD WATER - SOFTENERS
HEAT TAPES, Heat, Insulation prevent Freeze-Up
LEAD POISONING HAZARDS GUIDE
METHANE GAS SOURCES
MIXING / ANTI-SCALD VALVES
MUNICIPAL WATER PRESSURE IMPROVEMENTS
NOISE CONTROL for PLUMBING
NOISE, PLUMBING DRAIN DIAGNOSIS
NOISE, PLUMBING DRAIN REPAIR
NOISE, PLUMBING CHECKLIST
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS IN WATER
ODORS, SEPTIC or SEWER
ODORS SEWER GAS in COLD WEATHER
ODORS, SULPHUR SMELL SOURCES
OUTHOUSES & LATRINES
PIPING IN buildings, Clogs Leaks Types
PLUMBING FIXTURES, KITCHEN, BATH
PLUMBING NOISE CONTROL
PLUMBING VENT DEFINITIONS & CODES
PLUMBING VENT DEFECTS & NOISES
PUMPS, WATER REPAIR
REPAIR BURST LEAKY PIPES
SEPTIC SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
SEWAGE BACKUP, WHAT TO DO
SEWAGE BACKUP TEST & CLEANUP
SEWAGE BACKUP PREVENTION
SEWAGE BACKUP TEST & CLEANUP
SEWAGE & SEPTIC CONTAMINANTS
SEWAGE CONTAMINATION in buildings
SEWAGE CONTAMINANTS in FRUIT / VEGETABLES
SEWAGE EJECTOR / GRINDER PUMPS
SEWAGE NITROGEN CONTAMINANTS
SEWAGE PATHOGENS in SEPTIC SLUDGE
SEWAGE PUMP CLOG DAMAGE
SEWER BACKUP PREVENTION
SEWER GAS ODORS
SEWER LINE REPLACEMENT
SHUTOFF VALVE LOCATION, USE
SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
SUMP PUMPS GUIDE
SWEATING (CONDENSATION) on PIPES, TANKS
TOILETS, INSPECT, INSTALL, REPAIR
TOILET FLUSHOMETER VALVES
TOILET INSTALLATION PROCEDURE
TOILET OVERFLOW EMERGENCY
TOILET PLUGS, SEWER BACKUP
TOILET REPAIR GUIDE
TOILET TYPES, CONTROLS, PARTS
Toilet Types, Flush Methods
TOILETS, DON'T FLUSH LIST
TRAPS on PLUMBING FIXTURES
WATER HAMMER NOISE DIAGNOSE & CURE
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER PIPES, Clogs Leaks Types
WATER PRESSURE & FLOW MEASUREMENT
WATER PUMPS, TANKS, TESTS, WELLS, REPAIRS\
WATER QUALITY TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER QUANTITY IMPROVEMENT
WATER SHUTOFF VALVE LOCATION, USE
WATER SHUTOFF VALVE, WELL PUMP
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER SUPPLY & DRAIN PIPING
WATER TANK: USES, TROUBLESHOOTING
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES
WELL PUMP PRIMING PROCEDURE
WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
Blocked drain or drain backup diagnosis: caused by drain blockage versus caused by septic system failure: here we explain how to determine if a blocked or slow drain is due to a problem inside the building or outside in a sewer line or failing septic system. When a building drain or main sewer line is clogged or slow, or when there is a septic system backup, it's important to determine where the problem lies, since the repair steps can be quite different and costs can vary widely.
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Is it a Plumbing Problem or a Septic System Problem - A First Look
Sewage odors, wet areas on the property, slow fixture drains, gurgling drain noises, or plumbing fixtures which "back up" or overflow back into the building may be the first signs of trouble at a property. Image courtesy Carson Dunlop Associates.
If there are sewage odors or soggy sewage-smelling wet areas at a property, the on-site waste disposal system is likely to be at fault. Even so, without further investigation we don't know yet if the problem is a simple repair such as a broken pipe underground, or a costly failure such as a saturated absorption field.
If building drains are slow or clogged, the problem could be the in-building plumbing drain-waste-vent (DWV) system or there may be a problem with the septic system. Without further investigation we don't know.
Also see these clues (and articles about them) that assist in diagnosing clogged drains, drain backups, and septic or sewage odors:
Simply put, if a single building fixture is sluggish or clogged, but if other building fixtures drain properly, you should suspect a local clog or vent problem at the individual fixture.
If all building drains are slow or clogged, or if waste is backing up into the building from the lowest plumbing fixture, you would suspect the onsite waste disposal system.
Our client (left) is pointing to a leaky clamp patch on a building drain line. Odd and excessive slope, a mix of materials, and this patch were evidence of amateur workmanship that presaged problems with this drain system.
Inspect the septic system absorption field: if the field is wet or smelly we suspect a septic absorption field failure. If the absorption fields
are properly installed there is adequate clearance, typically 4.5 ft. between the bottom of the field and the top of the seasonal (spring)
high water table on the property.
If exploration of the on-site waste disposal system piping from house to tank, tank to distribution box, and distribution box to drainfield indicates that the failure is in the drainfield (or absorption system), a more extensive system repair is needed and significant costs are likely to be incurred.
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Also see CAMPING & EMERGENCY TOILETS and also see TOILET ALTERNATIVES for a discussion of camping toilets, chemical toilets, emergency-use toilets, waterless toilets, graywater systems, composting toilets, home health care toilets, incinerating toilets, outhouses, and latrines.
At PLUMBING DRAIN VENTS we explain the basics of proper plumbing vent piping and how errors cause trap siphonage, odors, and noises. We discuss how to diagnose and cure drain sounds at PLUMBING DRAIN NOISE DIAGNOSIS.
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