3 reasons your toilet’s backed up

Recent septic tank servicing has homeowners confused

DEAR BARRY: We can’t get our toilet to flush, even with very little paper in it. The water goes around, but it just won’t go down. For the past week, we’ve had to force everything down with a plunger, but the toilet won’t work on its own. Our septic tank was cleaned and serviced only six months ago, so what could be the problem? –Sonia

DEAR SONIA: Let’s consider a few possibilities:

1. If the septic tank was serviced by a qualified professional, you should check with the contractor to see if the leach lines were also checked out. If the leach lines are clogged, liquid effluent can back up in the tank instead of draining into the ground. On the other hand, if this were causing the toilet problem, you’d probably have slow drainage at tubs and showers as well.

2. The drain pipe from the toilet to the main septic line may be clogged with roots or other foreign matter. To ensure unrestricted drainage, the line should be checked by a licensed plumber. A video inspection would be best.

3. Objects such as toys are often found in toilet traps. For small children, the sight of a Ninja Turtle swirling into the aquatic abyss is an ultimate source of fun and suspense. If an object of this kind is lodged in the toilet trap, it is usually necessary to detach the bowl from the floor. This process, of course, should be performed by a licensed plumber.

DEAR BARRY: When our home was built, the dryer exhaust pipe was installed through the roof, rather than through an outside wall. This has turned out to be a problem because the attic vent becomes clogged with dryer lint. Every few months, I have to go into the attic to clear away all the lint. Our builder says the installation meets code, but we’re not convinced. Does this sound to you like a proper way to install a dryer vent? –Quinn

DEAR QUINN: Something about your clothes dryer vent does not make sense. You say, "The dryer exhaust pipe was installed 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 not be accessible from within the attic. But this is not the only issue.

Screens are prohibited on a dryer exhaust vent because congestion with lint prevents the dryer from venting freely. Restricted venting causes two problems:

1. Your clothes will take a long time to become dry.

2. The dryer will become overheated, adversely affecting the condition of your clothes and creating a fire hazard.

If your builder insists that this is a legal installation, take some photos of the exhaust vent in the attic and have them reviewed by your local municipal building department.

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

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