View Full Version : I need help

August 16th, 2012, 04:51 PM
I know nothing about plumbing. I am a structural engineer and I just bought my first house. The house was building 1952 with a basement 1/2 bathroom put on ~ 1968. I bought the house 2 months ago with the idea of remodeling the upstairs bathroom, kitchen and updating some electrical. This is where it all started.

I am essentially regurgitation information, and I know nothing about plumbing so please excuse my ignorance. If I say something wrong, I'm sorry.

We got permits from the city and started the rough plumbing/electrical. The basement bathroom is right underneath the 1st floor bathroom, so we had to open up the wall showing the basement bathroom plumbing to change some 1st floor bathroom stuff. BIG MISTAKE. The inspector saw the basement BR plumbing was ALL wrong. None of the drains were vented.

So the plumber said OK, lets fix that, gives me a quote to vent the sink drain because supposedly some municipalities allow you to vent only 1 of the drains (sink or toilet). The plumber calls the municipality to ask a question and they say "you can't do that. You have to vent the toilet AND the sink" Ok... So then he tells me he has to jackhammer into the concrete floor to access the toilet plumbing. I guess that makes sense. To cross his t's and dot his i's the plumber calls the inspector again and to ask if its OK to use plastic piping for the toilet vent. The inspector says "Yes, but since you just opened up the floor, now you have to provide an ejector pump."

Do I really have to? Is there any way around this? I understand the point of an ejector pump but at this point I just want the remodeling Done...

At this point I'm considering suing the previous owners because they sold me a house with a basement bathroom that was shittly done.

August 16th, 2012, 05:38 PM
I understood until we got to the ejector pump. Is your main sewer line below grade of the basement or above? Usually, an ejector pump is used to pump sewage up to a main sewer drain that is above the floor. If you don't need a pump to flow, then I don't know why you'd need one. You may need to ask the plumber what the issue is driving this pump. If there isn't enough slope to the drain line, perhaps all you have to do is raise the toilet a bit and jack hammer out more of the pipe.

I wonder why a plumber would call an inspector to see if plastic pipe is allowed -- I know of no place that would not allow plastic for sewer lines as it really is the best material for low pressure corrosive effluent. This isn't Chicago is it?

I have a distrust of plumbers. They seem to charge 4X what a job should cost, and if the city is really requiring all these things that just makes it more costly (x4). Was he really talking to an inspector or someone at the plumbing shop pretending to be one and jacking up the requirements?

As far as suing the previous owners, if this was done in 1968, it may have been legal then. Even if it wasn't, did they own the house back then or did someone else? Was it really installed in 1968? Pinning this down can be difficult.

You can see why people don't get permits. Some places are just so onerous that modifying an older house can be extremely costly because it was not designed with these new rules in mind. But, some people are dumb and put things in places where they should never be and they are wired/plumbed insufficiently and are difficult to do right. Should also make you think about who is creating all the permit rules and whether they have run amok. Did that bathroom work just fine? If so, it makes you question why we have all the rules and why they can't compromise for retrofits to make it better than it was but perhaps not totally code compliant. Some places (NJ I think) have a "rehab code" that allows you to not meet some current requirements when modifying older stuff.

August 16th, 2012, 06:00 PM
This isn't Chicago is it?

Its funny you should say that. Its Skokie, IL which is a suburb 5 miles from Chicago. Why?

Also - I've had ~ 5 different people ask me the same question as to how the plumbing is currently draining. I have no idea. Perhaps it goes to the sump pump? The house has been vacant for at least 10 months prior to us buying it in June and we haven't used any plumbing since we bought the house (the owner moved out while it was for sale and we immediately reno'd it) so that may be why we don't smell anything.

As far as grade of the sewer. Honestly, no clue. How would I find this out? I have a flood control system... It looks deep, but I honestly have no idea.

I *think* I trust the plumber, but yes he is obnoxiously expensive.

As of right now I have determined that they did not obtain a permit for this work. Now I have to figure out a way to prove that the work was done in 1968.... I have no idea why that year sticks out in my head, but it does. I'll have to go through all my documentation to see.

Could the inspector require me to have an ejector pit because of sewage backup?

August 16th, 2012, 08:28 PM
I too have doubts on the plumber, I don't know a plumber anywhere that has to call an inspector to see if he/she is allowed to use PVC for any non pressurized plumbing let alone a vent line.
In many cases many inspectors will allow you to use "Studor" vents AAV ( Air Admittance Valves) these are installed inside the cabinet (or uninsulated wall space) higher than the max. overflow level. They cannot be used on toilets but most certainly on vanities and sinks.

In most cases you have the "grandfather law" this means you don't have to change something that works just cause the code changes BUT once you open up the area then you loose all Grandfathering and all new and applicable codes are required.
The fact that your "qualified plumber" keeps calling an "inspector" for what appears to be information that a qualified plumber should know and every time he does it means more work (and cost) sends warning bells off in my head.

August 16th, 2012, 09:15 PM
Its funny you should say that. Its Skokie, IL which is a suburb 5 miles from Chicago. Why?

Chicago is notorious for over regulating and requiring stuff that no else does. For example all electrical MUST be done in conduit. They do not allow cables at all. I think it is a union influence.

August 17th, 2012, 12:35 AM
If Chicago area pipes are like electrical, you may need metal plumbing and not plastic. I think each suburb of Chicago can be different, so it may make sense that a plumber that serves the whole county may need to call each little town to verify their rules. So welcome to severely over regulated Chicago. I will never live there...

A toilet that goes to a sump pump is severely wrong. A sump pump should be for ground water, seepage, or a broken pipe flood. Your sewer pipe should exit the house on the street side wall. If you don't see a pipe leaving the basement on that wall, it is most likely under the floor and should be able to drain via gravity.

If there was a regular floor drain, I'm not sure if they put traps in those. I think they should. Perhaps someone routed a toilet to that. Shouldn't be a major problem other than those are not vented and need to be (the air gap at the floor is the vent, but you can't do that for a toilet).

August 17th, 2012, 10:23 AM
It sounds like your all telling me I'm screwed. I have no way to get around it.