Dear Barry,

Until recently, our toilet was working fine. But lately we cannot get it to flush, even with very little paper in it. The water just goes around, but it won’t go down. We have tried using a bucket of water and a plunger and finally are able to force everything down. But there’s just no downward suction. We have a 5,000-gallon septic tank, and it was just cleaned about six months ago. What could be the problem? –Tonya

Dear Tonya,

Without conducting an onsite review of the problem, the best we can do is consider some likely causes, three of which come to mind:

1) Although the septic tank is large and was recently serviced, it is possible that the leach lines are clogged, preventing the liquid effluent in the tank from draining into the subterranean leach field. However, if that’s the cause, you’d probably have noticed drainage problems at other fixtures, such as bathtubs, showers and sinks, not just the toilet. But just to be sure, contact the people who pumped the tank six months ago to confirm that they tested the leach system as well.

2) The drainpipe from the toilet to the main septic line may be clogged with roots of other foreign matter. If this is the case, that line should be checked by a licensed plumber to ensure that it is unrestricted and fully operational.

3) A small unauthorized object (i.e. a plastic super-hero replica) may be stuck in the toilet trap. As any curious, thrill-seeking first-grader can tell you, no one can resist the fun and suspense of watching a Ninja Turtle descend into the swirling, aquatic abyss. If some such object is presently lodged in your toilet trap, it may be necessary to detach the bowl from the floor. This remedial process, of course, should be delegated to a qualified professional, preferably a licensed plumber.

Dear Barry,

When we built our home, we opted to have our washer and gas dryer in the upstairs hall closet. Our builder ran the dryer exhaust pipe directly through the roof, rather than through an outside wall. This has turned out to be a problem, because the attic is vented at the roof ridge, and the vent screen becomes clogged with dryer lint. Every few months, I have to go into the attic to clean the screen. I’ve been told that the installation meets code, but I’m not convinced. Does this sound to you like a proper way to install a dryer vent? –Ira

Dear Ira,

Your description of the clothes dryer vent in your home is puzzling in one respect. You say the builder “ran the dryer exhaust pipe directly through the roof.” Yet you are able to remove the lint from inside the attic. If the pipe extends through the roof, rather than terminating in the attic, then the lint should be on the outside of the screen, accessible only from outside the building, that is, from the roof. Apparently, a picture of this situation would be worth many words.

Having said that, your best bet is to have the entire dryer exhaust installation reviewed by a qualified third party. An experienced home inspection should be able to determine the efficacy and appropriateness of this vent. Even if it complies with applicable code requirements, it may be installed in a manner that is impractical or functionally problematic. Although legal, it may warrant improvement.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

***

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