Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Nov. 2010: Septic System, part 3

We arrived, my cat and I, in the afternoon of Sun Nov.7. After feeding Boo Boo I began the usual chores of opening the house. I turned on the electricity and made a fire in the stove. I unloaded the truck, unlocked and started the tractor and got the water pump going. By the time I had settled in, daylight was all gone so I busied myself with cleaning up the bathroom area which by this time had become a sort of storage closet. My goal during this visit was to have indoor plumbing by the time I left in a week. At this point my septic system consisted of a drainage field and a septic tank. The 4" drainage lines where partially assembled under the house by me and my dad during the previous visit but they had not been finished to the point of entering the house through the floor or glued together.
I got up early the next morning. It was raining and gray but not cold for November. My first task was to finish assembling the main drain pipes: a dirty job I did not relish doing. There were two sections to complete. One line was under the living room floor and needed to enter the house behind the stove to connect with the bathroom upstairs. The other branched off the main line and extended to the far end of the kitchen. This line also needed to come up through the floor so that all the remaining plumbing would be interior work.
I started with the line under the living room. I donned my orange jump suit as coveralls and crawled under the house with as many tools as I could drag along with me. It took many trips back and forth to get all of my materials under there. I connected a "T" joint to the end of the 4" line with a 3" inlet and a clean out plug. After cutting a hole in the floor with my sawzall I was able to run the 3" line into the house with a 90 degree turn. It had to be a tight turn to meet the gentle slope of the rest of the line. From there I began to join it all together with a special glue for PVC pipe. Little by little I dragged myself along through the dirt and cemented each joint and hung the pipe with metal straps screwed into the floor stringers. It was such a dark, cramped and dirty job I hated to even think what to do if any of it leaked. When I got to the line under the kitchen I spliced in a similar section as the first off the main line to bring a 3" pipe up through the floor. It was late Monday night after a 13 hour day when I finished. Early the next morning I pressure tested the main drain lines. I did this by capping the end at the septic tank and filling the pipes with water (the volume is great enough to create about 5 lbs. of pressure). I then crawled under the house with a utility light. I groaned and cursed as water sprayed from most of the joints I had fitted the day before.
I laid in the dirt for a moment to collect my thoughts. It was not the end of the world. It didn't leak everywhere. At least the 3" sections going into the house were both water tight. The leaking parts were all concentrated where the main kitchen and bathroom lines connected. There were a lot of fittings in the area.. why was it leaking? I must not have used enough glue.
With three swift cuts of my Sawzall I removed the entire leaking section in a giant Y. After another trip to Buxton's building supply and a few hours time the line was complete again. Before a second test I wanted to give the glue a few hours to dry. In the meantime I began to assemble the drains and vents from the bathroom. This included a trap and vent for the shower, same for the bathroom sink and the waste line for the toilet. Most of this was concentrated in the wall behind the stove. The venting of the lines took the most thought, although it's actually not so complicated. It just took a bit of "sinking in" after reading up on the concept to understand how the air in a pipe is displaced by the water running through it. Anywhere in the line that water is going to run there must be an escape route for the air that otherwise occupies the volume of the pipe. For the function of smooth drainage the air must be able to vent out an open stack, in this case a pipe that exit's through the roof.
That Wednesday evening I tested the main drain again. Again it failed to hold water. It wasn't nearly the colander it was before but it had enough drips that I would have to redo the same section for a third time. Fuck.
On Thursday afternoon, main drain fixed again and an exhaust pipe out the roof , Randy the plumbing inspector dropped by and approved my work. This was monumental. I was within spitting distance of the apex of this project: flushing a deuce.
For the third time I filled the main drain lines with water and this time it held. I then joined the main drain to the septic tank to complete the entire system. Done! I decided to take this monstrosity on it's maiden voyage the next morning when I am usually ready to do my business. I wanted to give all my fittings time to cure.
I arose early Friday morning. I looked everything over and decided it was time for the moment of truth. I turned on the water at the pump...good! No leaks in the waterline. I turned on the valves at the bathroom sink and toilet tank and turned the water to full blast. I flushed the toilet several times and went downstairs to watch the pipes and then crawled under the house for one last inspection. All seemed good except for a leak at the trap under the sink which I quickly mended. It was 7:30am and my own bodily plumbing was ready for a flush so I settled myself upon the throne.
I am pleased to report it was a most satisfying expulsion.