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Septic Line From House To Drain Field FROZE! How Thaw?

Discussion in 'Off the Topic Forum' started by StihlRockin', Jan 6, 2014.

  1. StihlRockin'

    StihlRockin' AboristSite Guru

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    Ok, septic drain pipe from house to drain tank/field if frozen. Those -20° and cooler nights and days for the last couple of weeks have added up.

    From where the line exits the basement to the white pvc cap that sticks out above ground is approx. 25 feet. There's not a lot of snow... maybe around 14" in that spot. However, I walk out my back door and there's about 11'-12' feet of area that has been shoveled clear. There are small parts of the ground showing with the rest packed snow... about 1" to 2". This open area starts from the house outward. Hindsight reveals I should have left this area covered with snow for insulation.

    Back in the day when we had to bury someone in the winter, we would set wood down and start a fire where the grave was to be dug. I was thinking something similar here too. Someone mentioned to use charcoal, but I'm thinking wood is cheaper! I was also thinking of setting up a small electric space heater and place it very near the pipe that is exiting the basement and let it sit for a day or two and see what happens. I've never done this before so I'm looking for some advice. I know a phone call, steamer and $150 can fix the problem, however, I think I got this!

    Any suggestions, advice, opinions or tips?

    StihlRockin'
     
  2. lfnh

    lfnh Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Industrial Steamer and pipe walls need to be clean after. Least amount of obstruction to flow, is risking another freeze up. Straw bales in yard over line would have helped, but frost hs got to be down 6-8 feet by now. Normally heat from tank (bacteria) keeps in/out pipe open.
    Not what youy want to hear.
     
  3. Walt41

    Walt41 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I thought about that today as we had ours pumped in Nov and I didn't cover it all that well after, I'm thinking you could free it up with a heating unit in the house where it exits the foundation and maybe some scalding hot water down the drain.
     
  4. dawzie

    dawzie ArboristSite Member

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    Depends how much time/effort you want to spend. The fastest way, though most expensive, hire septic company or plumber to open tank where pipe enters and jetter out pipe back to house. This is assuming there is a lid over the inlet of the tank. Yes it means using a big electric jack hammer to dig through the ground. The jetter is a pressure washer (8h.p. or larger) with a special nozzle on the end that shoots water forward and back towards you.

    The pipe may have froze due to a couple of different reasons. A belly in the pipe due to the ground settling and/or a dripping faucet. In my area some Town codes require a sewer gas trap be installed. I have seen some outside the house.

    Your local grave digger may also have a devise he uses to thaw out the ground. It's a insulated metal hood, the size of the grave, that a big L.P. torch sticks in one end. Hook it up to a 100 pound tank night before, next morning three foot of frost will be thawed out.

    Building a fire on top of the ground may work, but IMO, after using the grave warmer, it would have to be a big fire for a long time.

    A little humor here, after the house burns down, the pipe might be thawed out.
     
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  5. Walt41

    Walt41 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Now that I think more on this, just open the clean out closest to where it leaves the basement and have at it with a snake, might even need a power snake but it will chew through, they have an attachment that will cut through tree roots, surely it will chew ice.
     
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  6. Marco

    Marco Addicted to ArboristSite

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    CaCl solution down an inspection port? if you have a port right next to the house? Probably kill the gremlins in the system, but there are things to get them going again.
     
  7. mga

    mga Tree Freak

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    RV anti-freeze?
     
  8. flyboy553

    flyboy553 Oakaholic

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    Since your line froze, that tells me it is rather shallow like it is supposed to be. If it were my problem, I would hook a garden hose up to a hot water source and snake it in to the line from the tank side. Run the hot water and push the garden hose up the line until you reach the frozen area(s). This way all the excess water runs in to the tank, not on the floor in the house where the clean out usually is. Sometimes you can do this just through the inspection pipe, other times you will have to dig up the cover, or at least down to the tank top so you can remove the inspection pipe and snake it in from there. Only 12 inches below the tank top to inlet, so not too hard to do. I would suggest using a snake to shove the hose up the sewer line because hot water makes the hose soft and hard to push.
    Have I done this before? Only about 100 times or so when I had my septic pumping business. lol
    Once it is thawed out, insulate it. You may also want to consider running a heat tape inside the pipe out to the tank because it seems once they freeze, they will like to freeze again in the same winter. In summer, dig it up and find why it froze. Most likely a belly in the line.

    Ted
     
  9. unclemoustache

    unclemoustache My 'stache is bigger than yours.

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    I was just about to suggest the same thing. No need to turn the water on full blast, though, or you'll only be heating the pipe of the outgoing water.


    .
     
  10. philoshop

    philoshop AboristSite Guru

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    More flushing and frequent hot showers/dishwashing are good preventive measures when it's really cold. :rock:
    ++ on Flyboy's ideas, there's a dip in the line somewhere that's filling and freezing. Fix that low spot and you'll probably good to go...so to speak!
     
  11. jwilly

    jwilly ArboristSite Operative

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    As the others have said, you either have a dip in the line or a leaky faucet or toilet. The pipe should only have water when something is draining. When mine froze the flapper in the toilet tank was leaking just a little. Did the hose from the tank end to thaw it out.
     
  12. dawzie

    dawzie ArboristSite Member

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    StihlRocken - how did you make out with the problem ??
     
  13. DonnaJ

    DonnaJ New Member

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    I have a similar problem. We had the septic tank drained at the beginning of Feb. The septic system guy said he thought our drain filed was going bad and to restrict our water usage as much as possible, as it is impossible to dig in Wyoming winter frozen ground. I have been washing dishes by hand in plastic tubs and discarding the water outside, hauling the laundry to town and doing it in the laundromat, taking shorter showers every other day, and saving most of the use for flushing. A week or so ago, my son started to take a shower and the water bubbled up through his toilet. He immediately went outside and popped the cap off the inspection tube, finding it frozen solid to the top. We again called the septic fuy, who told us there was nothing to be done until everything thawed. With the way the weather is going, this could be another 2 months. I have read about thawing the pipes with warm water and a hose, but we don't have any way to access the pipe, as the only access I know we have is frozen. Now what?
     
  14. Walt41

    Walt41 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Heat tape around anything you can get to, then cover with lots of straw.
     
  15. flyboy553

    flyboy553 Oakaholic

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    I am going to guess that what you see in the inspection pipe is all that is froze. That happens all the time in cold climates. Condensation gets in the pipe and freezes when it reaches the part that isn't in the ground. Pretty sure you can take hot water and pour in that pipe and you will be able to melt through it. Then call the pumper guy and have him pump your tank out. Probably going to have to do that til the ground thaws. You might want to look at getting a shower head that works like one in a camper trailer also. You can shut it off while washing your self, and only turn it on while rinsing off.

    I always told my customers in this situation: If it's brown flush it down, if it's yellow let it mellow. They knew what I meant! lol

    Ted
     
  16. cantoo

    cantoo Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Donna, if that was really your septic guy response then I would be calling another one. By reducing your water usage as much as you say you have you should have enough storage in the tank for more than a few weeks. Call a new guy and get a better opinion on what can be done now, even if it just means pumping the tank every 3 or 4 weeks until he can dig.
     
  17. StihlRockin'

    StihlRockin' AboristSite Guru

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    UPDATE!

    Shortly after my last post here, I broke down and called the septic guy. They pulled up with a pickup truck and an enclosed trailer. They fired up something and out came a black hose about 3/4" to 7/8" wide with a small nozzle on the end. They found the inspection cap, white pvc screw cap under the snow and opened it up. After a bit they realized they were pointing the hose towards the tank and not the house. LOL! Once they got headed the right direction, they came to the area they felt was plugged or iced-up.

    The hose melted itself into the compressed ice where I walked due to the heat. The hot water being pressured into the pipe finally did it's job and thawed out the ice jam. My water was flowing again. The area that was frozen over was iced packed from me walking over it and no snow cover. It's really been a cold winter. I kept that area open like the previous winters before.

    Then the fun part started when my F*&$!^% line FROZE again! Back out they came... to get more of my money!

    The fun didn't end though!

    My line froze a 3rd time!

    This time they learned, we learned, there was a lot of sand in the pipe. Yep, a broken line. The plumbers were suppose to be here last week, but I guess the weather was too cold. Right now it's only -29° below zero. It's warming up!

    Later guys. This fun is too much for me.

    StihlRockin'
     
  18. flyboy553

    flyboy553 Oakaholic

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    What a bummer! At least now you know what the problem is! If there is a bright side to this, anyway. If this is an area you need to walk on all winter long, you might want to think about adding a heat tape inside the pipe so it doesn't happen next winter. Have done that before with success.

    Ted
     
  19. Dalmatian90

    Dalmatian90 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I think when you realize you have to heat your poop to make it to the septic tank, that's the point you move to Florida and don't leave a forwarding address :D
     
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  20. dawzie

    dawzie ArboristSite Member

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    I do septic repairs. The machine they used is called a jetter. The problem you are having could be a couple of different things or a combination of them.

    I have seen frost deeper than the pipe depth which in turn cause the pipe to rise and fall. SNAP, right near the foundation of the house.

    Another common problem is the ground is not compacted where the pipe is laid, ground settles over time and you get a belly in the pipe. Settles enough, I have seen the pipe pulled out of the tank. If the pipe coming from the house is deep, just the weight of the settling dirt on top of it can cause the pipe to break at the foundation.

    We have found more times than not if the inlet pipe has a problem due to settling, so will the outlet pipe from the tank. So if you have to excavate, check both pipes.

    Using plastic S+D pipe (very thin wall, bends when you step on it) or even SDR-35 (the next grade tougher) is not the best choice. We use sch-40 from the house to tank to J-box and only on compacted ground buried in coarse sand.

    Some town codes around me require cast iron pipe from the house. I don't like this choice either. It will snap easier than plastic due to frost or deep settling problems. Sch-80 plastic for me.
     
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