Saturday, November 17, 2012

The case of the new washer and the lost septic tank

A little while ago I got a new washing machine.  Yeah!  Life is good.  However, when it drained, it drained all over the floor!  Not so good.  It was installed properly.  Hmmm.  A plumber was contacted and came out.  His diagnosis was that the septic tank must be full.  It was just a coincidence that this happened at the same time that we got a new washer.  Bazaar.

And so Randy rigged the washer to drain outside.  A long pipe now runs from the washer out a window to the backyard.  You must be a redneck if your washing machine drains into your backyard...  At least I was able to wash clothes.  Thank goodness I have no neighbors.  There were no other plumbing issues other than the drainage of the washing machine. Toilets all flush fine, showers don't back up, dishwasher doesn't back up. 

Our house is a few hundred years old.  Who knows when the septic tank and plumbing was installed; it wasn't built with the house but installed "aftermarket".  All we know is that it has probably never been cleaned and now it was due for a good cleaning.  We looked all around the house for the septic tank, of course there were no drains, no nothing symbolizing a tank was there.  We heard many stories - people told us we'd see the outline of the tank in the grass, the grass wouldn't grow well overtop the tank, or the grass would grow very well in the area.  So we looked for areas with lots of green grass or little green grass, for an outline of the tank in the grass.  There was nothing like that- the grass was even in the entire yard.

So we called a septic tank specialist - he advertised that he specialized in locating lost septic tanks.  He looked in the basement where the plumbing pipes run underground.  We determined they run directly underneath the back porch, then, who knows where they go.  He walked around the backyard with a drill with a very long, very big drill bit, and drilled all around.  An hour later he gave up on locating the lost septic tank.  He explained it could be anywhere in the backyard, even in the woods.  He said the septic tank was probably installed by the homeowners and neighbors at the time.  He recommended we start digging up the backyard with a tractor to find it.  Great. 

So, we started digging in our spare time after our work was done at our jobs.  Now that the sun sets so early this meant digging in the yard in the dark.  We didn't use the tractor, just a shovel.  We started digging small holes all around the back porch, looking for pipes or the tank itself.  Eventually we found a plumbing pipe about 2 feet down.  Then we had to follow the pipe, and it led to the discovery of the missing septic tank!  Yeah!!  The tank is made of concrete, and luckily it has a small lid that can removed for cleaning out the tank.  We didn't unearth the entire septic tank, just enough to expose the lid.  We called the septic tank specialist back; he was excited to hear about the discovery of the missing tank and is coming out tomorrow to clean it.  I guess we'll have to mark the area where the lid is located for future cleaning.  

And tomorrow I will hook up my washing machine again.  Who knew that getting a new washing machine would lead to such work.  Such is life in an old house.  Next I'll have to tell you about how the well ran out of water one day a few weeks ago...


Carolyn said...

We had to search for ours doing the same thing your septic guy did, basically poking long steel rods down into the dirt/rocks to see if we "felt" anything. Lucky for us though, it wasn't very far from the house. I've seen people put one of those fake crafty wishing wells or bird baths directly over the lid for the septic tank.

Jenny wren's nest said...

glade to see you blogging again, how are yor guine hens?

Farm Girl said...

How well do I understand life with a septic tank. Oh, gosh. I am glad you were able to find it. The old farm house next door had the weirdest one you ever saw. What a lot of work. I am so glad that you got a new washer.

Mary Ann said...

I'm glad you have a newer one... and not a rusted out old thing.

LindaG said...

Haha. I feel for you. Our house isn't that old, but it is 100+.
We have the advantage that while it has not always been in the family, hubby did grow up in it. We know where the tank and the leach field are, and it was almost overgrown when we made our first trip down here.

BIL offered to sell it to us in 2008. In June of this year hubby was able to retire and now, after many years of bad renters, we are here and trying to restore it to livability.

If everything else works okay, then either you have two septic systems (how can it be full and everything else works okay?); or perhaps you have a sock or some such plugging the line?

I could be completely off my rocker, haha! Good luck. While it probably does need pumping, I hope that gets your washer running trouble free!

Good to see you having time to blog! Hope all is well. God bless! ♥

Razzberry Corner said...

CR - Yes, that's what we did with the steel rods, too. You can see the rod in the photos on the right. Then one photo has the 2 shovels, too. We found we have many random bricks underground, often we'd hit a brick with the rod, think it was the septic tank, only to be disappointed by a brick. That's a great idea to put a birdbath over the septic tank!

JW - They are great. I love those birds. Just yesterday there was a hawk attack, but I was home and chased off the hawk.

FG - What was weird about the septic tank next door? I'm curious! I love the new washer!

MA - Me too! It's cinderblock.

LindaG- You are perceptive. We guessed we had 2 septic tanks, too, as did our plumber. But when the septic tank man came and cleaned the tank he tested all the faucets in the house and we see they all drain into the one tank. Odd that only have the house had problems. But now it all seems to be working normally, although I haven't reconnected the washer. I hope it drains ok!!! Randy snaked out the drain pipe for the washer thinking it might have been clogged.

Chai Chai said...

Wow, we would have never found it with all the rocks in the ground around here!

Of course the movie "Holes" came immediately to mind....