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Open Sewer Dangers

Updated: May 28, 2020

Recent find in an older home: Unknown drain in the basement.

I tried tracing the sewer line based on the layout. Normally, most inspectors, agents, and buyers might shrug at seeing a drain in the floor. After all, many older homes tend to have multiple drains for washers, water heaters, and generally plumbing in case of leaks or floods. The client and I decided on a test: having the agent flush a toilet upstairs while we stayed below. Here is the result:

Gross. Time to learn about the dangers of open sewers. "Sewer gas contains methane, ammonia, and hydrogen sulfide which are all toxic when inhaled. If exposed to very high concentrations of sewer gas, a person can asphyxiate and die. More common symptoms of exposure to sewer gas include nausea, eye irritation, and difficulty breathing."

Time for a plumber to come in and evaluate the system, and recommend upgrades to keep it safe. "In homes, people may be exposed to sewer gas if the drains on their toilets clog, or if the ventilation systems do not work to dissipate the gas, or if they are improperly installed."

On another inspection, again in older home, I found a serious leak in the sewer line at the contact point with the foundation wall. Water was pooling in a growing area, preventing inspection of the rest of the crawlspace. Also note un-insulated pipes; no earthquake brackets or positive connections for the posts and beams; loose/hanging down insulation.

Finally, Buy a New Home and Nothing will be Wrong! Right?

Well this new home, direct from builder, had a blocked sewer that overflowed from this toilet and ground floor bathroom. Whoops. Good thing I tested multiple taps. Good thing the buyer scheduled me before the final walk-through. Good thing the Supervisor was there to fix it!

Don't Panic Inspections. 425-247-1789. Collin Pointon. Lic#2239.


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