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1victorianfarmhouse 04-19-2013 09:30 PM

Basement Plumbing and Flooding Questions
Okay, I'll try to not make this too confusing. I hope.

My house is 118 years old and did not originally have plumbing. Natch, it was added later, but I'm not sure when.

The Chicago area had some heavy rain storms this week, and the unfinished basement flooded with an inch or two of water in some parts. No actual damage, just a few wet plastic totes.

The house is oriented with the front facing east, the back facing west, etc. There is a walkout basement stairway in the NW corner. The sump pump is right next to the door.

The house plumbing drain exit is on the SW corner. I used to have a septic tank and leach field system, replaced last year by an EPA-mandated holding tank and high pressure connection to a new village treatment plant (our old septics were contaminating a nearby creek). Here is the URL to a number of pictures of the equipment and facility, sadly, no real descriptions:

There are three old floor drains in the SW quarter of the basement. Nearby is another drain that is used by the furnace humidifier and the washing machine. This drain tees into the main stack.

The NE corner has an old bathroom, with the fixtures removed but planned to rebuild it. It has a shower drain, a toilet drain, and a floor drain in addition to the sink drain.

When the flooding started, the water initially came in under the walkout door, and as the water moved further it brought the table level up and came in through minor cracks in the floor.

The new treatment tank and associated valves in the yard are in an area of the yard that got flooded.

Water came up from the old, unused floor drains after it started seeping in through the floor. I'm guessing that the new tank system shut down after being flooded.

The new Zoeller sump pump worked non-stop pumping water for 5+ hours and was simply overwhelmed.

My main question for now is that the one floor drain that the washer and humidifier drain into did not overflow or even raise the water level. Is there probably some type of J-trap built into the concrete in that section?

Thanks for reading so far....and any comments!


nealtw 04-21-2013 09:32 PM

My guess would be that the old floor drain and others that brought water in have leaks below the floor or perhaps were never hooked up to the same system. Perhaps scoping the drains would tell a story.

1victorianfarmhouse 04-21-2013 09:47 PM

Neal, thanks for reading through all I wrote, and for the reply!

The drains do drain out of the same pipe on their way to the treatment tank, I checked this with a 5 gallon bucket of soapy water and a hose when I had the old Septic tank pumped out. Dumped the bucket in the farthest drain, and followed it with the hose, and a few minutes later soapy water came out into the septic tank.

The floor drains did not drain slowly, they were full, then suddenly they had emptied out. I was thinking the treatment tank had backed up/shut off, maybe even got flooded from outside. This I need to check on with the village.

Leaks are a possibility, I wish I had my own little scope to put in them, but will check out trying to find someone who can do a video inspection.

nealtw 04-21-2013 10:17 PM

Should be able to rent a scope. Water will take the easy route, so it may not be surprizing even with a damaged pipe. I have no knowledge of your tank system but I doubt if rain water has flooded it , I would think that might indicate a broken pipe somewhere. My dad had 2 sump pumps hooked up just for that reason. He had one set up 1" higher than the other and put up a porch lite with a red bulb that came on with the second one. Then he would check the lower pump to see if it was working.

1victorianfarmhouse 04-21-2013 10:29 PM

1 Attachment(s)
There are some pictures of the tanks and facilities at this link:

I'm going to open the covers and look inside and see for myself what I find.

In the attached photo, the unseen tank and both big and little access covers are in the center, completely under water for hours.

nealtw 04-21-2013 10:45 PM

I think the hole idea of the tank is that it dosn't leak sewer water into ground water and vise versa, vented thru your inhouse plumbing, so ground water should not have entered the pipe.

1victorianfarmhouse 04-22-2013 07:56 PM

Hi Neal,

I took both the big and little covers off the tank today. The little one allows viewing of the inlet pipe from the house, into a diverter. The big one allows a view of the tank and monitoring electronics.

Neither cover is sealed to prevent water from entering or exiting the tank. If the area floods, the tank will flood and allow ground water to mix with sewer water and overflow into the basement and/or the yard.

I'm checking with the village, as I don't think the EPA or local Health Dept. would entirely approve of this setup.

But I still wonder why the one floor drain didn't overflow even though it ultimately drains out the same pipe?


nealtw 04-22-2013 08:07 PM

Where does the sump pump to?

1victorianfarmhouse 04-22-2013 08:21 PM

The sump pump pumps out to the yard, about 40' away from the tank. Yes, it could affect the water in the yard, but comes out not really near the tank. Even then, the yard and basement starts flooding before the sump pump cavity starts filling. There is the possibility of a sewer connection, but it is far away and would be complex to route.

nealtw 04-22-2013 08:39 PM

Then I still think you have a broken pipe below the floor. If there was more water than the pipe could handle the water could run in both directions. If you had water table high on the foundation there was a lot of pressure on the floor from below.

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