cleanup wet basement

Discussion in 'General Home Improvement Discussion' started by thewaitinggame, Aug 12, 2009.

  1. Aug 12, 2009 #1

    thewaitinggame

    thewaitinggame

    thewaitinggame

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    My wife and I bought our house in april and since our floor drains backed up twice. We have a large tree in the front and the roots are in the line. Both times the water was clear so I dont think it was sewage and happened with very heavy rain. The first time we have a rooter service clear the drain, I cleaned the floor with bleach and other cleaners a few times. After I used a dehumidifier and ran some fans to dry out.

    A month and a half later it happened again, called a different drain guy that really pulled out some roots. He thought the first guy didnt do a good job from what we told him. The water was a little more spread out this time but didn't ruin anything. We have a finished basement with pine paneling and wood baseboards that were in the water. So I cleaned with my cleaning products and this time pulled baseboards off and some of the floor cabinet wood to open up the floor area. In the center of the basement there is a bar type island where most of the water sat. I have the fans on, a dehumidifier and because of the hot and very humid weather in Michigan right now the central air has been on since. I read that helps get the humidity out of the whole house and should help. The water was only there for about a half a day til the drain guy got here. Its a 1150 sq ft house and was only in the center of the basement. the deepest part was about 1 inch by the floor drains because its lower there.

    That happened saturday morning, so from about 5 pm that day I cleaned and have since been running the fans and dehumidifier . I shut the fans off at night because I read box fan could overheat and maybe catch fire. So my question is will the wood dry out fine and not cause a mold problem? or Should I just rip out the wood that was in water? I just dont want to deal with a mold problem and hope drying it out is good enough. Looking for any advise on what to do. thanks
     
  2. Aug 12, 2009 #2

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    Prolly.

    I wouldn't rip it out until I've seen what it looks like after it's dried.

    I'm thinking you've probably already done what needed to be done, but I'd maybe hire a drain cleaning company to run a camera down your house's main drain line to confirm that it's clear and root-free.

    You see, the plumbing code regarding how drains have to be connected varies from place to place, but I'll tell you what happens here in Winnipeg, and you see if that may explain what's happening in your case:

    If you go into your basement and stand under where the toilet(s) in your house is/are, you should be within just a few feet of a big pipe called the "vent stack". That vent stack goes from just a few inches above your roof shingles (where it's open to the atmosphere) to a foot or so below your basement concrete floor. All the drains in the house connect to the lower half of that vent stack (including your toilet) and all the plumbing vent pipes in the house connect to the upper portion of that vent stack before it goes through the roof (to minimize penetrations through the roof which can all be potential roof leak sites).

    Below the basement floor, that vent stack turns through almost a 90 degree angle and runs at a shallow downward slope to the main city sewer buried under the middle of the street your house is on. That shallow sloping pipe is called your "main drain line" and there will be a "clean out" at each location where that line changes direction so that if push comes to shove, each straight section of that line can be cleared separately.

    Now, buried around the perimeter of your house's foundation will be perforated piping called "weeping tiles". These tiles job is to allow excess ground water to drain into the weeping tile, thereby eliminating the hydrostatic pressure trying to push that ground water to penetrate into your basement foundation walls. Other pipes under your concrete floor will carry the excess ground water from the weeping tiles to either a sump pit in your basement, or something called a "catch basin".

    If you have a sump pit, there will be a pump in that sump pit that pumps the water out somewhere.

    If you have a catch basin, it'll normally be located in the laundry area of your basement. That's because the stand pipe from the washing machine will discharge into that catch basin. They do that so that every time you do laundry, you refill the p-trap at the bottom of the catch basin. Otherwise, during a dry spell, the water in that p-trap can dry out, and the hideous smell of putrifaction in the city sewer can waft into your house through the catch basin.

    NOW, there is an almost horizontal pipe that connects the p-trap at the bottom of the catch basin to the main drain line from your house.

    Remember that the main drain line is almost horizontal. So crap (mostly from your kitchen sink) will go down the vent stack, and then tends to accumulate in the nearly horizontal section of the main drain line.

    What happens if the main drain line from your house is partially clogged DOWNSTREAM of where that other nearly horizontal pipe from the catch basin p-trap connects to it? I mean, if the flow through the partially clogged section of the main drain line is restricted to a rate lower than ground water comes in through the weeping tiles?

    The result is that if your catch basin, or floor drain backs up with water.

    If the water that came in was clear and didn't stink up your basement, then it was cuz of ground water, most likely coming up through your catch basin (or sump pit with a sump pump that isn't working). If you have the main drain line from your house cleared, then the main drain line can carry water away a lot faster than it can percolate through the ground and drain into your weeping tiles, so that would prevent the catch basin from backing up.

    Since you've already had that main drain line cleared, you may have already solved the problem. Running a video inspection of your main drain line would confirm.

    Trees rarely interfere with drain piping, and I'll explain why in the next post...
     
  3. Aug 12, 2009 #3

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    Contrary to intuition, even the largest trees in your neighborhood have root systems that extend to about 3 times the radius of the crown of the tree, but are rarely more than three feet deep.

    The reason why is that a tree root's job is to gather water and nutrients from the soil. Those nutrients are found in composted material, which is the result of AEROBIC decay of organic materials. It's only in the top few feet of soil that you have aerobid decay of organic material to form compost. Any deeper than that, and there just isn't enough oxygen in the ground to have aerobic decay, and the result is anaerobic decay that produces methane gas (just like in landfill sites) and crap that the tree isn't interested in.

    As a result, despite the millions of sewer drains lines in cities and the millions of trees, there is little interaction between them. It's only when you have a leak in your sewer line that allows oxgenated water and nutrients to flow into the soil deep down (thereby duplicating the conditions that occur closer to the surface of the ground, that a tree's roots will take notice, and grow into that soil.

    A tree's main tap root will have small roots coming out of it that WILL start growing if they're in an environment where there's air, water and nutrients in the soil as you'd have as a result of a sewer line leak. But, you need to have those things in the ground before the tree will take interest. Otherwise, the deepest you'll EVER find a tree root will be within 4 feet of the ground surface. Your basement floor is probably about 8 feet below ground level, and the main drain line from your house is deeper still.

    Doing a video inspection of the main drain line from your house could identify any leaks in your drain piping so that you can repair them and live in harmony with your tree.
     
  4. Aug 12, 2009 #4

    thewaitinggame

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    Thanks Nestor_Kelebay for that detailed answer, it's helpful to learn about this because I don't know much about this area at all. We are a little more worried than we should be and the reason is we almost bought a house that had a dangerous levels of mold. About 70,000 in the basement and 50,000 on the first level. We had it tested because a neighbor came by and told us the history of the house. 5 water line breaks which lead to the interior covered with black mold. It was a foreclosure and the bank hires a father and son to clean up and they did. They covered it up. Spending a little time in there you could smell a weird smell, get headaches and it felt hard to breath. So we are probably making a bigger deal out of this because we see what can happen. I kept thinking that we has very little water that touched a small portion of wood so it has to be fine as long as we clean it and dry it.

    What we were told about our drainage system is that just outside our house the sewer line and the drain lines meet up and go to the city sewer line. It's one system. We have a 4" cleanout that goes to a 6" crock in the front of our house. He said they are 2 or 4 foot sections and each section I guess has the seam where hair like roots get in. That's what he pulled out when he was done snaking it. The neighbor down the street had the same problem for over 10 years. The city cut down their tree and told them that these type of trees should have never been planted in the city. Said its a silver maple and they thrive in swamp type areas. I guess they might seek out water more that the average city tree. Thats what I was told. Our tree is huge, the roots at the base of the tree are above ground.

    Its hard to tell where the water came from, i mean i know it came out of the floor drains. Both times it was during extremely heavy rains. Both times it started during the night or morning and we work up to find water in our basement. The first time it happened we possibly flushed the toilet and maybe used the sink but it was before we showered and whatever else. We figured we were safe after getting it snaked for 6 to 12 months, at least that what were were told. This last heavy rain we were joking that our basement was flooding not knowing that it was. We took showers and ran the dishwasher so all that ended up in our basement too. I'm sure thats why there was more water. Finally after i was done getting ready i went to look and found the water. Once the drain guy get here and cleared the line the water quickly drained out. I only wished he could have got there sooner because i was shop-vacing the water up and putting it in buckets to dump outside. Did that for a few hours til he got there, barley looked like it made a dent. Took him about 5-10 minutes.

    We dont have a sump pump so it could be what your saying with the catch basin. The guy I used last does do camera inspection so I'm going to ask him about that. They first time it happened we did get some sewer water. My parents came to help clean up the clear water and after we got it all we noticed that when flushing the toilets the floor drains came up and out just a little. Not knowing and parents never experienced this either we sucked out the traps and found marbles, pennies, nails, wood as if someone used it as a garbage. We thought maybe there was clogging because of all that. We thought to switch the vac to blow in the traps to maybe push anything out or down the line. That just brought up smelly dark water, probably sewer water. Thats when we went and talked to the neighbor that we heard had back up problems and told us whats happening and to call a drain cleaner. So that was to only time sewer water came up but i think we made it come up from not knowing what the problem was.

    My guess where the water came from is partly us from using water in the house as it was happening and the overloaded sewer system backing up too? or what you were saying. I live in Saint Clair Shores MI and we hear they are trying to update the lines throughout the city. I dont know what that means really but on the main road at the end of our street, it is all ripped up and they are putting in some type of new large pipe. Hopefully it somehow helps us.

    One more question, what is the best solution to keep roots under control in lines? I hear copper sulfate is good but a 2lb container is $14. I also see some many people say salt down the drain. I bought a 80lb bag for about $10. Calling the rooter can really add up especially if we have to do it so often. If anything will slow it down a bit between calls that will really help. We have a 4" clean out to a 6" outside so he said you will never get a full clean out and roots will still be int there. So I want to kill off any of the stuff in that area he cant get because of the size difference.
     
  5. Aug 13, 2009 #5

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    Wood has to get pretty wet and stay wet for a long time before it starts to rot. Most likely the water absorbed while the wood was wet will disperse along the grain of the wood to raise the wood moisture content a little, but it'll then gradually evaporate from the wood.


    Can you run a 6 inch cutter head into the drain piping from that "crock"? (Sorry, don't know what a "crock" is.)

    No, roots don't get in unless water is leaking out first. However, it could be that those roots grew into your drain piping during a drought year, and during normal years there will be little to no growth of that root. I had to have the main drain pipe from my apartment block cleared of roots, but that was back prior to 2000. So, it's not like once a root finds a leaking pipe you're going to have ongoing problems from then on.

    Also, your clothes washer is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to early detection of clogging drain pipes. If you find that your toilet doesn't flush properly or your bathtub doesn't drain properly shortly after the clothes washer spins after the wash cycle, it's usually because the main drain line from your house is starting to clog up. That's because the clothes washer discharges more water into your drain piping faster than any other plumbing fixture or appliance.

    I think you should definitely have a video survey done of your drain piping, including the pipe from your floor drain to the main drain line. That will tell you whether or no the roots are growing, and if the basement floor drains are backing up because the drain line between the floor drain p-trap and the main drain line is clogged.

    If you're finding stuff like that in the bottom of the floor drains, then there's a very good chance the drain line from the floor drain to the main drain line is partially clogged. Regardless of whether that line is partially clogged or the main drain line is partially clogged, the result will be the same; water from the weeping tiles backing up in the floor drain.

    However, the flushing of the toilet causing the water level to rise in your floor drain IS an indication of a partially clogged main drain line. Normally the line between the floor drain and the main drain line is empty, so a rise in the water level in the floor drain p-trap means that water was already backed up in your drain piping.

    You are now probably on a "combined sewer". That's where both household waste water AND street rain run off (and snow melt) all flow into the same sewer. The problem with a combined system is that they're not generally sized large enough to carry the rapid flow of water into the street drains. When you get a heavy rain, the combined sewer is where all the water from all the street drains in your entire neighbor hood drain into, and that means they have to be huge to carry the large flow of water that only lasts a short time.

    By contrast, the water that comes in from the weeping tiles is spread out over hours to days after it rains, and so if it were only for household waste water and weeping tile drainage, you could make due with a much smaller sewer. Ask if they're "twinning" the sewer in your neighborhood. That means they're installing a very large storm sewer pipe and leaving the sanitary sewer (the house hold waste sewer) in place. If that's what they're doing, then you shouldn't have any further problems as long as you keep your house's drain lines clear.

    Maybe go ask the foreman at the worksite whether they're installing a new "storm sewer" or "twinning the sewer". If so, ask if they intend to do your street too, and if they're doing that work because of sewer back ups in your neighborhood. If that's what they're doing, then what you'll have when they're finished is a huge pipe for household waste water (called the "sanitary sewer", and an even bigger pipe for rain water run off (called the "storm sewer"), and then you'll have more water handling capacity under the street your house is on than you can shake a stick at.

    I really don't know if you can put anything down your drain piping to kill tree roots. My advice is the best way to get rid of those roots is to cut them off with a cutter head at the end of a plumber's snake.

    Don't call the Rooter. Look for plumbing companies that can't afford to advertise on the radio and run a full page ad in the yellow pages. Not only will you pay much less for the job, but the person doing the work will be the president of the company and will have more experience cleaning drains than a couple of Rooters put together.

    Instead of phoning the Rooter, phone the smaller companies where you'll get someone much more experienced who will be able to give you more knowledgable solutions to the problem.

    But, I highly recommend you use a flashlight to monitor your floor drain water level when the clothes washer spins, and I think you should have a video inspection of both the main drain and the floor drain pipe done.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2009
  6. Aug 13, 2009 #6

    thewaitinggame

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    I just have one more question. I do have one corner of drywall that did get a little wet and has been bothering me. I took off the baseboard and saw a dark area about the size of a dime. I thought it was mold so i tore off 2 feet of the drywall and threw it our. Then the bar are in the center of the basement does have one closed off area where you feet would go. So i took off the pine boards near the floor and found the 2x4 framing is still damp. That was the only area that was closed off still. When i stick a screw driver in the wood it easily fall apart, sort of like dry rot but it's still damp. I have the fans on it to dry it out but its been wet for 4 days and I'm not sure if it safe to keep it. Any opinions about that?

    I dont mind taking all the wood out if i need to, it was here when we moved in and does need some fixing up anyway. This is just driving me crazy trying to find out how long wood can be wet and safe to keep when it all dries up. But I guess if I get dry rot it need to be replaced regardless. right?
     
  7. Aug 13, 2009 #7

    thewaitinggame

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    thanks Nestor_Kelebay again, I must have been writing my next post at the same time as you were.

    From what he said and what I read online a crock is made of mortar and cement, something like that. I know its mortar and something. I guess its made up in sections and is the old way of doing the lines here and is not stable.

    Where we recommended a rooter from the neighbor that charged 175 but couldn't get through so he brought he"industrial machine" that he used in business and charger 100 more, so 275 total. He unclogged the drain and we needed it done. The next guy is a small guy, not a big name and he is 85 and seemed way more honest. So that's our guy now.
     
  8. Aug 13, 2009 #8

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    Wood will not start to rot in 4 days time exposure to moisture. That rotted wood was rotted long before you had this last flood. This flood only got that rotted wood damp again.

    If it's rotted, then it will need to be replaced regardless. That is correct.

    However, my sister had a similar flood in her house (where the whole basement was covered with water backed up from her floor drain) that got all the drywall wet about a foot above the floor.

    It wasn't all that hard to fix her house up (because apparantly there was some difficulty with insurance). I just bought a 2X6 and set my circular saw to cut a 1/2 inch deep cut and just went around her basement and cut through the drywall about 10 3/4 inches above the floor. (that is, the 2X6 was 5 1/2 inch wide and when I set it against the wall and put my circular saw on top of it, the blade cut through the drywall horizontally a consistant 10 3/4 above the floor line. I just held the 2X6 against the wall with my feet and cut through the drywall by sliding the saw along the top of the 2X6. Then, I just cut through the inner corners and outer corners by hand.

    You don't want to cut through the outer corners with a saw because there will be some kind of corner bead on the outer corners, and it's best to cut through it carefully with a hack saw or with a hand grinder and metal cutting blade. By the end of the next day, we had all the wet drywall off.

    I can explain how we did my sister's basement, and you can see that if you go about it systematically, you can fix the basement back up again, but instead of putting ordinary drywall up, you can put up pieces of a product called "Den-Shield" which is a waterproof 1/2 inch thick material (like drywall in that regard, but waterproof) so that the water would have to be 10 3/4 inches deep on the floor next time before any drywall got wet.

    Wood has to be very wet for a long time before it even starts to rot. If your last flood was only last Saturday, then that wood was already completely rotted before last Saturday, you just didn't know it. The flood only got the already rotted wood wet again. It will typically take a couple of months (at the very least) for wood to rot so that you can scrape it out with a screw driver.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2009
  9. Aug 13, 2009 #9

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    I'm anticipating that you might be very concerned as to how to replace any rotted wood at the bottom of your walls.

    Almost certainly, it will only be the bottom plate that will have rotted. If the bottoms of the studs are also rotted, here's how that can be fixed:

    You support the wall temporarily by screwing 10 3/4 inch wide pieces of plywood to the studs on each side of the area of bottom plate you want to replace. So, the plywood is supporting the studs on each end of the section of wall where you want to replace the bottom plate, and the drywall is holding up the studs between those pieces of plywood. Now, you can cut out the rotted bottom plate, install a pressure treated 2X4 in it's place and fasten the existing studs to the new bottom plate with Stolco galvanized 2X3 joist hangers. Alternatively, you can also cut a 2X4 to the right length to support the stud you're nailing in by propping it against the last stud you nailed in and toe nail the studs into the pressure treated bottom plate.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2009
  10. Aug 13, 2009 #10

    inspectorD

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    Where is the link? And it better not be Tommy bahama bedding....or they are in real trouble.
    Thanks for helping.:)
     
  11. Aug 13, 2009 #11

    thewaitinggame

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    Thanks for all the good info. I figured that the wood was probably bad long before this time. Glad to know for sure though. I did plan on taking all the wood framing out in the bar plus the pine paneling but now I wil for sure. I wa thinking of the pressure treated 2x4's to replace all the lower areas that might possibly get we again. I did not know about that "Den-Shield" drywall so I will definately use it. I was not going to refinish that drywall part for a while but now I will. I will you your logic Nestor when rebuilding and holding walls up and studs up. Those joist hangers look like a pretty good idea to use too.

    rafael9, our basement is finished but not like the rest of our house finished. The floor that old tile that is in schools and a lot of basements here. Our flooding was very minor but enough water to affect a small area so our cleanup wasn't bad but I'd like to see the link for more information. I'll post some pictures of what i'm talking about when I get home today. I have pictures of the first time we got water. The lower halk our our basement is the pine and the upper and ceiling is drywall, except the one corner that is around out water heater and furnace. That is a complete drywalled wall.

    This is exactly the stuff I've been looking for online but can't really find it so thanks.
     
  12. Aug 13, 2009 #12

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    Wood rot tends to be fairly localized. It only occurs in wood that got real wet and stayed that way for a long time.

    Also, it's unlikely that the bottoms of the studs are rotten. Wood holds moisture inside it by capillary pressure, and it's unlikely that the studs would have been able to suck enough water out of the bottom plate to start rotting themselves. The bottom plates that were in constant contact with water after a flood would most likely be the only wood to rot.

    When you replace those rotten bottom plates, you're still going to need a way to fasten the bottoms of the studs to those new bottom plates, and one option is to use small joist hangers. That way, if there's is any wood rot at bottoms of the studs, the joist hanger will span that gap to allow you to fasten the studs to the bottom plate regardless.

    Here are two companies that sell both galvanized steel (which is all you really need) and stainless steel joist hangers for 2X4's online:

    Joist Hangers

    Joist Hangers

    [​IMG]

    Another way to support the wall while the bottom plate is being replaced warrents investigation:

    Your can use a stud finder to mark the wall stud locations on the wall, and then attach a 2X4 to the wall using 4 inch deck screws (predrill the holes with an X-tra long drill bit). Now, liberate two scizzor style car jacks from your local auto wreckers for about $1 each and use those to lift up a bit on the 2X4 while the bottom plate is being removed. If the 2X4 is higher up on the wall, just use another piece of 2X4 material on top of the scizzor jack to apply upward pressure on the 2X4.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2009
  13. Aug 14, 2009 #13

    thewaitinggame

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    Well I tore most of that area out. I have some before and after pictures. The floor 2x4 were very rotten. I also found out this has been a problem for a very long time in this house from the neighbor across the street. The basement was redone because it, how it still is so I'm guessing that these are the same boards in there getting wet throughout the years.

    Picture 1 and 2 are from the first time we got water. 2 and 3 is pictures of me ripping half of the wood out. 5 is what it looks like now. In picture 5 you can see the drywall area in the back. Our damage isn't too serious but it quite the pain to deal with. We are thinking of rebuilding the bar area different. We possibly might keep the same design too but we were even thinking of using maybe 2 pillar/column in the center to support the bar top. We would leave the area were you feet would be open there. Were just trying to think of ways to rebuild and have as little material on the floor possible.

    Those joist hangers would allow a small gap on the so that could be good if it floods again and you could get some air flow through the bottoms of the wood. Now those 2x4 were on the floor and when I pulled them up there was still water there. Probably would have taken a long time to completely dry that way. The gap would be good.

    1.jpg

    2.jpg

    3.jpg

    4.jpg

    5.jpg
     
  14. Aug 14, 2009 #14

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    Were the bottom plates of the walls rotted throughout the entire basement? Can you give us some idea of what bottom plates need to be replaced?
     
  15. Aug 14, 2009 #15

    thewaitinggame

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    Basically that whole center area and the 2x4's all have to go. In the fifth picture I still have very little left on the ground. Those are not as bad as the center but still have some rotten spots. The walls on each side of that, where the doors are, have some rot too. Im going to save all that and just try to replace the floor 2x4's. The back wall where the drywall is, I think that stuff might be fine. It looks like it has dried up fine so I might be safe there. The water never reached the perimeter walls for us but I'm going to check all that.
    The main part is whats in the pictures and the walls on each side. So it's not too much especially if we redesign it then there wont be much framing. The other walls can be disabled, held up and replace the 2x4's.
     
  16. Aug 15, 2009 #16

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    Re: Lifting the wall to replace the bottom plate:

    I'm thinking of using some large C clamps to clamp a 2X4 along the length of the wall.

    Then rest short piece of 2X4 on that long 2X4 and clamp them tightly to the studs in the wall.

    Now, use a pair of scizzor jacks to lift up a little on the 2X4 to lift the wall.
     
  17. Aug 18, 2009 #17

    yesitsconcrete

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    here's some more reading for you - probably the best layman explanation of wet bsmts & structure reinforcement.

    Foundation Technology
     
  18. Sep 10, 2009 #18

    ghent96

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    How did you guys "suck out" all the pennies and nails and such from the traps? Perhaps we also need to do that at our house, due to probs in our basement and plumbing.
     
  19. Sep 11, 2009 #19

    thewaitinggame

    thewaitinggame

    thewaitinggame

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    i just used a shop vac to get down into the trap as best as I could. Most of our stuff was right straight down there. I guess we could have had more past the trap but I got what I could get to.
     

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