Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Septic Tank woes

Bugger. The septic tank runoff has failed and the garden is slowly filling with foul-smelling waste water. Promoted from nowhere to near the top of the to-do list is getting the garden ripped up and the drainage pipes replaced. We'll be looking in to whether it can be done as a DIY job, or if we have to divert funds from elsewhere to get professionals in to do it.

I'd post a photo, but it's pretty disgusting.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Connecting up a new upstairs shower room

The wall of the new shower room where we could have passed a soil pipe through is the stone gable end which is most seen from the road. I didn't want to have a soil pipe visible there because it's a beautiful bit of stonework, so we made the decision to drop the soil pipe down through the floor and in to the corner of the Lounge. 

You might think that's barmy, but we had always planned to build a floor-to-ceiling shelving on the wall between Lounge and Kitchen (seen right, below). The soil pipe was planned to be less deep from the wall than these shelves, and so could be hidden easily.

Drilling through the stone in our house is almost impossible - even with an SDS breaker - so core drilling was out of the question.

Instead I removed a small stone which was ideally placed to run the soil pipe through and then attempted to drill through the second stone behind it.

Easier said than done. A full day later I still hadn't gotten through that second stone. It is, I think, very hard granite.

Eventually, a combination of smashing, drilling and chipping with a bolster got enough of the second stone removed so that I could pass the soil pipe through the wall.

 The finished soil and waste pipe combination can be seen here. The wool is blocking the cold air, and will eventually be replaced by lime mortar and stone when the system is up and running properly.

Installing a new upstairs shower room

It was finally time to commit to the upstairs shower-room - so we can rip out the current WC - and so I laid down an insulated floor and bolted the WC and sink in to place over a sheet of lino (hopefully to catch any drips and stop them discolouring the Lounge Ceiling below.

The soil pipe for the WC fits neatly in to the corner which I had left un-boarded, and I've used a vent valve so we don't require an external vent stack.

The shower tray is deliberately large (1200mm) because one thing we miss is a good shower after a day's grafting. Our current shower/wet-room is depressing and horrible, so we've over compensated.

However, because the ceiling in the new shower room is very low, and slanted (it's in the original eaves of the front part of the house), we've had to go for a low-riser kit on the tray, and it would have been impossible to get a good enough drop on the waste pipes from the shower and the sink, so I've taken them down through the floor, and run them in to the waste in the room below.

You'll see them connected in the next post, but the idea all along has been to box in the water main pipe, and these waists will also be hidden.

Adding a new underground drain pt.2

Another day of digging out the old drain in order to add a new spur, and I started the morning by measuring up the new parts against the old drain, so I could make an informed cut. It's never particularly easy, cutting through a pipe in a trench, but I found that a combination of angle-grinder with metal cutting disc, and then a reciprocating tool with cutter blade to do the more fiddly underside where I couldn't get the chunky angle-grinder. 

I found it easiest to cut the top half off the pipe (cutting longways to remove the top half) which then allowed me to get the reciprocating tool in to the inside of the pipe and cut from inside-out.

Unfortunately, although the cutting process was pretty simple through the old plastic pipe, it revealed that the pipe is severely deformed, and close to collapse.

You can see on the photo below that the pipe is nowhere near round any more (this is the bottom half), and that the inner pipe has separated and buckled from the outer pipe, creating a cavity in the wall. 

It's only a matter of time before the pipe collapses somewhere, but budget constraints mean that we can't dig up the whole driveway and replace the entire run right now. At least we know it's there, and it will need doing, so we can start a dedicated fund to replace it next year (maybe).

I used silicone sealant to fill the cavity between the old pipe's walls, so that the new pipe would not be flushing water down in to the hole and encouraging further problems. Then I used a pair of rubber reducing collars to attach the new section of pipework to the old. A liberal smothering of silicone sealant inside the collars will hopefully help them seal to the old, non-round, ribbed pipework.

You can see the entire run of underground pipework here, and the combination of brown and black parts. You can use any colour of soil pipe underground (brown, black or grey), but you can't use brown above ground - it's not UV resistant, so will go brittle in the sun.

The brown bend installed where the soil goes underground is mounted on top of a postcrete pouring - 3Kg of concrete to make sure that it doesn't sink over time.

You can also see that I've added a rodding point to the first bend above ground, just in case we ever need to clear the drain out.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Adding a new underground drain pt.1

Since we're fitting a bathroom in a different part of the house, it has been necessary to plan a new spur in to the existing drainage that runs behind the house. I've decided to do the work myself rather than get in a drainage contractor because, well, why not?

First order of business is to locate the underground drain. Luckily I found it last year when replacing a broken drain trap outside the kitchen, so I was able to draw a guesstimate line between that point and the septic tank. It was then a matter of digging an exploratory trench in to the driveway.

I got down a couple of feet and there was no evidence of a drain anywhere beneath - it was all just a mix of yellow clay and earth. 

I looked in to hiring a drain-locator, but the nearest seems to be over an hour's drive away and it's sunday.

So I ad-libbed...

I got out a smoke alarm and wrapped it tightly in a pair of vinyl gloves so that it was constantly chirping a loud beep. 

I then measured out the distance from a manhole cover to my trench in string and tied that length to the glove.

It was then just a matter of feeding the glove-alarm down the relevant pipe and flushing the loo until the string was taught - so the alarm was chirping somehere under or near my trench.

I couldn't hear anything at all. So I stepped up my game and employed a length of soil pipe as the world's largest stethoscope. Still nothing from just listening at random locations in the trench so I changed tack and went back to digging - using the stethoscope to check whether every hollow-sounding rock (there were lots) was actually a pipe. 

And it actually worked! 

I struck a hollow thing at about 3.5 ft deep and had a listen - sure enough it was chirping and I knew it was time for kid-gloves so as not to damage the pipe. You can see it here at the head of the spade as a black smear encased in clay.

So it transpired after another hour of excavation that the pipe was a black plastic, very hard and ribbed slightly. Not like the clay pipes I had seen some 6ft up the same pipe run last year, so lord knows who replaced it and why. Whoever it was just backfilled the hole with clay and mud, bricks and stones. Not great for the drain.

I spent the rest of the day digging out around the drain and a perpendicular run for my new spur. Backbreaking work through the rocky clay, but it's mostly done now and I can progress to adding the new Y junction in the old drain.