Update below: Main line snaked

For reference, images of the drain.

I'm going through the whole story in case any details might make a difference in prognosis. If you aren't interested in the introductory details and want to just skip to the part about the shower, skip to the Shower heading.

Toilet

This plumbing incident began late night on Tuesday, January 19. The apartment has one bathroom with one sink, one toilet, and one standing shower. Additionally, there is a sink in the kitchen. There are no further appliances or fixtures involving water.

My wife showered at around 9 PM. Her shower lasted approximately one hour. I showered at about 10:30 PM and my shower lasted approximately 20 minutes. All was well.

I decided to do some dishes. Hot water only. I did the dishes for about 15 minutes. Upon finishing, I went to the bathroom. I've since forgotten why. I saw a pool of water covering about 10 square feet of the bathroom. I thought to myself, Well, that can't be from the shower. Some water occasionally spills out because the curtain is annoying as all hell, but this is a pool. I went to turn on the water in the kitchen sink again - this time, cold - and nothing happened. I switched it back to hot to see if that was the problem and I saw the toilet leaking water from underneath the decorative bolt caps. Gross.

At this point, it's almost midnight. We did some online research to see what could cause such a problem and decided upon the wax ring being compromised. We went and bought some supplies to handle this issue from a 24-hour Walmart. Only had an Oatley wax ring as our selection.

Got home, cleaned up all the water. Started my attempt on fixing this thing. Took me hours. I'm reassembling the toilet and notice I need some new bolts and washers for the tank to bowl connection. One of the bolts had silicone caulk covering it from inside the tank. Head to Lowe's. It's like 6-something AM at this point. I'm dead tired. Get the stuff, come back, install it. Can't get them tight enough or I tightened them too much and they're leaking. So much fun. Re-caulk the toilet, try to get on with life and maybe they're not even really leaking anymore.

We use the restroom, all seems to be okay. I turn on the water in the kitchen and, again, the toilet lets water out from the base through underneath the decorative bolt caps. What a headache.

We call the landlord about the problem, having now tried to solve it ourselves. She claims she can't afford a plumber and must send her handyman, who has proven to be an issue in the complex. Instead, I enlist the help of a neighbor who knows a good bit about household maintenance. He shows me the mistakes I made in installing the wax ring (I didn't want to sit on a dirty toilet from touching it after all the work, so I just pushed down on the back where the tank rests to try to seal the wax ring), the bolts for the flange, the tightness of the tank-to-bowl bolts, and informs me of the flange being below the tile level. Since the wax ring is pretty messed up at this point, I go and get a wax-less ring. He informs me that the flange isn't drilled down. He tries to secure it, but can't because he doesn't have a cement drill bit on hand. We move on. He places the old wax ring underneath the new wax-less ring just for some additional help, he says. We get everything situated - bowl secured and doesn't seem to move when moving from side to side or front to back, the tank is secured, the base is caulked, the new hose is installed securely.

We're nervous. We don't turn the sink on in the kitchen for too long, other than to wash some produce or our hands. We use the restroom several times. All seems okay, except for not testing the kitchen sink being on.

Shower

My wife attempts to shower. Within ten seconds of getting in the shower, water rises up the drain and covers her feet. Great. Another problem. It's been a long day, so we hit the hay to approach this problem rested in the morning.

We arrive at today, January 21. We used Drano Max Gel. Full 32-ounce bottle. Waited 30 minutes. Started rinsing with hot water from the shower and water begins rising in the drain. We turn off the water, disappointed. We give it 15 more minutes and check again. No dice. At this point, we know it's probably unwise to use anymore chemical drain cleaner, but we're desperate. We go and grab Liquid Plumr Slow-Flow Fighter, 17 ounces. We pour the entire bottle in, slowly, as directed, and wait. We were busy doing other things and left it there for 2 hours and 15 minutes. Water rises again and we turn off the water. We know doing a third batch of any chemical drain cleaner would be pointless and extremely damaging, as were the first two. We see water down the pipe and think the standing water might be because we failed.

We look online for alternatives and decide to try using boiling water as that's easy enough and doesn't cost us more than a dime of gas. The first round makes the water in the pipe disappear. Okay, maybe another round for good measure? We try another round and the water in the pipe is still there. We decide to try running the shower and just waiting it out to see if that'll help at all. The water rises to about two inches below the top of the drain but then subsides a bit.

We let the hot water run for 20 minutes and see some bubbles over a foot down the pipe. It didn't come back up, but the bubbles make us wary. Furthermore, you can see water when you look down the pipe. Reading online, it seems like that would be the water in the p-trap. The second image of the album shows a look down the drain a bit with the flash on. You can see where the water is in the drain. Is that bad or is that just water in the p-trap?

When can we be sure this is normal operation? We're scared to do dishes, use the restroom, or shower. Is there anything additional we should be doing? If you've read this far, thank you.

As of about an hour ago, using the hot water in the sink for approximately 5 minutes caused the toilet to start bubbling. I immediately turned off the water and the water in the bowl receded slightly, but did not drain more than half its normal amount. This is the first occurrence of bubbling in the toilet.

Update: We used the hot in the sink again and bubbling continued. We waited it out to see if it would subside and toilet begin filling with water. Immediately turned off water for the kitchen sink. We tried flushing the toilet and it would not drain and water began to leak from the base. We consulted with the neighbor again and he checked out the toilet and plunged it a bit. Upon seeing that that wasn't doing the trick, we tried to use a garden hose stuck into the main to attempt to force the clog out, since we have no snake on hand. The plunging had forced the cover off the clean out on the other side of the bathroom wall along the same line as the toilet. Attempting to use the hose in the clean out by the kitchen sink did not yield results and began to back the toilet up again. Same results for the clean out opposite the toilet.

Update 2: Someone came out and snaked the main line. For how big this clog seemed, nothing monumental came out. A bit of hair, a bit of an obstruction was felt and that was it. Very underwhelming and worries us that the problem wasn't solved. Are those typical results or might there be cause for concern regarding whether the issue was resolved?

  • Have you flushed the toilet since Tuesday? Seems like that would tell you a lot about your drain's capacity. – gbarry Jan 22 '16 at 6:02
  • We have flushed the toilet. We turned on the water in the kitchen sink again and it started flowing out the toilet base. We consulted with the neighbor and attempted to run a hose through the main to push the blockage out as neither of us has a snake on hand and that didn't work. We seem to have narrowed down that it appears to be after the kitchen sink with the toilet being farthest away, following by the shower, then the kitchen sink, then out to the sewer. – Danny Jan 22 '16 at 7:28

The drain line is probably filled with hair and soap, chemical drain cleaners at best push the clog further down and make things worse in my opinion (now toilet backing up) with the exception of “mule kick” that will eat metal pipes and I am not sure if it is even available any longer. What you need is a real snake a small one to be run down the shower, and possibly a larger power one to be run down the toilet. Without cleaning the clog this will get worse this kind of snake you hold in one hand and spin pushing it down the drain a little at a time probably less than 2 or 3 chemical treatments. You should have the land lord take care of this incase any damaged pipe or other problems come up and you are not taking the $ hit for something that should be fixed by them.

  • Stating the obvious, you need a plumber. But even the dodgy "handyman" should be able to snake the drain. – gbarry Jan 22 '16 at 19:13
  • You definitely have some kind of drain blockage. It is your landlord's responsibility to keep the plumbing working--it doesn't matter if she can't afford it--she needs to get someone in there to fix the problem ASAP! – DIYser Feb 22 '16 at 12:54
  • If this is in the US, it is probably the landlord's legal responsibility to maintain the plumbing. I presume the same is true in most of the first and second world countries. Tell them, as sympathetically as possible, that if they can't you will be forced to get the health department involved. She can't afford to ignore this either. – keshlam Mar 23 '16 at 12:07

Just sharing my personal experience with a bubbly toilet when running the sink. (It was only the sink, as the shower uses a different drainage system.)

Long story short: The cause was a drainage pipe that the "seasoned" plumbers installed at an upward angle. I placed an old chunk of wood under it to level it out, and, voila! - no more bubbles singing smelly songs in the pooper.

NOTE: My house does not have an external vent like 95% of all houses typically do. (Check for natural obstructions, such as leaves, twigs, bird/bee nests, etc!) The only ventilation for the sink/toilet is located under the sink; a pipe that elbows off below the sink trap that has a threaded ventilation cap.

Hope your situation got sorted!

Always check those "common sense" ventilation and pressure spots before spending money on anything. e.g. rotorouters [if it drains seemingly normal] and plumbers [oh, yeah! You see, your problem is right here -- the discombobulator h2o regulator fluxuator valve is broken..it's an expensive fix, but it'll last you a good 10 years!]

Cheers.

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.