Author Topic: Vanishing toilet water (Read 32025 times)

notquitefrugal

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Vanishing toilet water
« on: August 28, 2013, 09:40:35 PM »
Here's the background on a weird problem I've been having with the toilet in my guest bathroom: Originally, there was a bad drain seal. Someone had installed a flange extender with screws, and it warped, creating a space for sewer gas to escape between the flange and flange extender. I removed the extender and installed an extra-thick wax ring, which created a perfect seal. After I did this, the water level in the toilet bowl began dropping on its own. It was very noticeable if you hadn't used the toilet for ~12 hours or more.

I thought there might be a problem with the wax ring, so I pulled the toilet up (again) and installed a rubber gasket instead. Same problem.

I read on another forum that sometimes toilets develop pinholes in the bowl area, which causes the bowl to drain itself, so I bought a new toilet and installed it with a new rubber gasket. Want to guess what happened next? The water level in the bowl dropped to the point that it's almost empty after about 16 hours since the last time it was flushed. I'm beating my head against the wall for unnecessarily buying a new toilet. Beyond that, the problem with the disappearing water is seriously starting to piss me off. HELP!

The only other thing I can think of is that I had my roof replaced a couple of months ago, and it's possible that the roofers may have done something with the vent pipe up on the roof, but I had no symptoms whatsoever until I fixed the leaky seal on the toilet (it had been broken for a few years, but didn't create any smell unless there was positive air pressure in the house). Does anyone have any suggestions as to what I should try next?

Louisville

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2013, 08:12:26 AM »
Is it level?

unpolloloco

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2013, 08:43:01 AM »
Do you have any pets?

Ottawa

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2013, 08:50:34 AM »
Is there a possibility of negative pressure in your system? Is the water loss slow or does it suddenly go down? Where is your toilet in relation to the whole house...i.e. basement? Upper level?
Also, ...if you have access to the area below the toilet...you should be able to verify there is no leak...
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GuitarStv

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2013, 09:17:50 AM »
Is it dry in your house? We a little water from the toilets in the winter from evaporation . . .

lm

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2013, 09:21:35 AM »
First off,,,,
I not a liscensed plumber,,
But I'm old and cheep, necessity has taught me alot.
Your already going in the right direction,,,,
If your roof vent isn't working properly, Everytime someone flushes it "can" creat a negative pressure in the drain system.
Which could manifest the symptom your seeing.
Especially if one bathroom is directly above the other.
I would verify the "proper" operation of the roof vent, before I did anything else.


Rickk

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2013, 09:30:19 AM »
The only other thing I can think of is that I had my roof replaced a couple of months ago, and it's possible that the roofers may have done something with the vent pipe up on the roof, but I had no symptoms whatsoever until I fixed the leaky seal on the toilet (it had been broken for a few years, but didn't create any smell unless there was positive air pressure in the house). Does anyone have any suggestions as to what I should try next?

I am voting for a lack of proper vent causing other plumbing to suck the water out of the toilet. Watch the water in the toilet when you have someone flush another toilet in the house, if the water moves at all then that would seem to be your culprit.

notquitefrugal

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2013, 10:20:42 AM »
Great responses so far. Thanks!

I don't have any pets, and I know I'm not drinking out of the toilet. :)

The toilet looks level. I'll verify with an actual level tonight.

My house is all on a single level with a crawlspace, which is kind of claustrophobic for me to get to. I think the guest bathroom toilet shares a vent pipe with the sink and tub in that bathroom, as well as the sink, tub, and toilet in the master bath, and possibly my washer, as well. The water loss appears to be slow, since I only notice it after several hours. It's humid here during the summer and not dry enough for water to evaporate that quickly. The toilet in my master bathroom does not lose water, but also has a similar problem with the flange gasket not creating a 100% perfect seal (I'm loathe to tackle that problem until I fix this one). I'll also see whether flushing the other toilet causes the guest bathroom toilet's water level to drop.

notquitefrugal

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2013, 11:46:42 AM »
As luck would have it, I ate lunch at home today, and checked up on a couple of things:

1) The toilet is perfectly level.
2) Bingo! If I flush the toilet in the master bathroom, the bowl in the guest bathroom goes down noticeably. After about three flushes, it's almost empty. So, I'm inclined to agree that it's a vent problem. Where to go from here?

Spork

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2013, 12:13:31 PM »
As luck would have it, I ate lunch at home today, and checked up on a couple of things:

1) The toilet is perfectly level.
2) Bingo! If I flush the toilet in the master bathroom, the bowl in the guest bathroom goes down noticeably. After about three flushes, it's almost empty. So, I'm inclined to agree that it's a vent problem. Where to go from here?

The roof. :)

I've heard horror stories about roofing crews shoving crap down vent stacks. It's probably not that bad and not done on purpose.

I might shine a really good flashlight down the stack and see if you can see it. It could also be that the lead flashing thingy (or whatever you call that) just got awkwardly bent and could be straighted out.

It could also be a nest of some kind or ... dead rodent. (I've actually had a dead rodent that came in through the stack... though it made it further down the stack and past the toilet before it died.)

After that, you're probably fishing something down the stack. A garden hose perhaps? (But be careful if you have the water running... it can make a mess inside if there's a clog between the hose and the sewage exit.)
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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2013, 12:58:05 PM »

After that, you're probably fishing something down the stack. A garden hose perhaps? (But be careful if you have the water running... it can make a mess inside if there's a clog between the hose and the sewage exit.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plumber%27s_snake

Spork

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2013, 12:59:31 PM »

After that, you're probably fishing something down the stack. A garden hose perhaps? (But be careful if you have the water running... it can make a mess inside if there's a clog between the hose and the sewage exit.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plumber%27s_snake

When I've tried to rent real plumber's snakes... the rental was approximately the cost of the plumber I use. This will surely vary by cost of said rental/plumber... but check.
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PantsOnFire

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #12 on: August 29, 2013, 03:49:42 PM »
You can buy a basic drain snake for like $10 at the hardware store. It's just a tightly coiled cable that is opened up a bit on one end like a corkscrew to snag clogs and/or work through them and break them up. You don't need to auger through tree roots or anything so a heavy duty roto-rooter type drain snake with cutting blades is overkill.

You could also duct-tape your shop-vac hose to the vent and suck up the blockage.
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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #13 on: August 29, 2013, 04:30:01 PM »
For me, in the past, a low level of water in the toilet bowl has been a sign that my sewer pipe was partially clogged. Do you have a sewer clean out pipe you can look into to see if there is standing water?
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notquitefrugal

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #14 on: August 29, 2013, 05:20:01 PM »
For me, in the past, a low level of water in the toilet bowl has been a sign that my sewer pipe was partially clogged. Do you have a sewer clean out pipe you can look into to see if there is standing water?

I don't think I do. It would be in the crawlspace if I did.

I think my parents have one of the inexpensive hand crank drain snakes I can borrow, which may be my next step after I take a look at the vent.

lm

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #15 on: August 30, 2013, 05:11:18 AM »
If the vent is working properly,,, and you bend down next to it, you should smell an aroma, if the conditions are right.
The next thing I would do is have someone flush a toilet, if the vent is within a few feet of the toilet ( like it's supposed to be )
You should be able to hear water flow,,,
So if you get an aroma and you hear water flow, the vent is working,,,
Then you have a different problem,,,

notquitefrugal

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #16 on: August 31, 2013, 06:03:34 PM »
Update (so far): Dad brought over an extension ladder this morning to get on the roof. As I was climbing the ladder to hand him the drain snake, I twisted my ankle pretty bad. According to him, there didn't appear to be any obstructions, and I'm still having the same problem with the toilet. It may be time to call in a professional, since I've already erroneously invested in a new toilet, plus a non-MMM and (very) non-Paleo DQ Blizzard as consolation for my sprained ankle...

Nords

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #17 on: August 31, 2013, 06:30:25 PM »
I'm sorry this isn't sorting itself out. I was expecting a plugged vent stack.

... plus a non-MMM and (very) non-Paleo DQ Blizzard as consolation for my sprained ankle...
I never thought of that. Most people would reach for an ice pack...
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Spork

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #18 on: August 31, 2013, 07:33:44 PM »
Did you (your dad) check all the vents? I am not a plumber, but it seems like some device "upstream" (from a vent perspective) of the toilet in question might have a plugged vent. It seems like it could be any of them.
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notquitefrugal

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #19 on: August 31, 2013, 08:10:20 PM »
... plus a non-MMM and (very) non-Paleo DQ Blizzard as consolation for my sprained ankle...
I never thought of that. Most people would reach for an ice pack...

LOL, I had that, as well, plus some painkillers.

Spork, there is one vent stack that services both bathrooms, that's the one he checked. There is a second one on the other end of the house for the kitchen sink, didn't look at that one, although he probably should have while he was up there.

Rickk

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #20 on: September 03, 2013, 06:03:32 AM »
Update (so far): Dad brought over an extension ladder this morning to get on the roof. As I was climbing the ladder to hand him the drain snake, I twisted my ankle pretty bad. According to him, there didn't appear to be any obstructions, and I'm still having the same problem with the toilet. It may be time to call in a professional, since I've already erroneously invested in a new toilet, plus a non-MMM and (very) non-Paleo DQ Blizzard as consolation for my sprained ankle...

That is really a bummer - I would have bet good money on the vent being the problem.
I wonder if it still could be the vent - just somewhere waaaaay less convenient to get to.

Good luck - please let us know what the final solution is.

Mr. Minsc

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #21 on: September 03, 2013, 11:05:34 AM »
It does sound like a venting problem. There is the possibility the system never had adequate venting, though that is harder to find without x-ray vision. You may be able to rent one of those pipe cameras to figure out what you have. Your guest bath toilet may be wet vented off the basin. If there happens to be a line C/O (as opposed to a Wye + C/O) somewhere below the basin you may be able to fish a snake up the pipe and in to the vent.

For future reference: Since the water level noticeably decreases I don't see this being the problem. That said, I've heard of a piece of hair (or toilet paper) stuck in the toilets S-Trap causing water to slowly wick. Similar to how you can transfer water from one glass to another using a paper towel.
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lm

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #22 on: September 04, 2013, 04:10:36 AM »
I still think it's a venting issue,,, of some kind,,,
You said that when you flushed the toilet in the master bath, the water in the guest bath room goes down,,,
If you switch that around and flush the water in the guest bathroom does the water in the master bath go down ???
The next question I would want to know is if both toilets share the same drain,,,
And if they do,, at what point do they connect ??
2) Bingo! If I flush the toilet in the master bathroom, the bowl in the guest bathroom goes down noticeably. After about three flushes, it's almost empty. So, I'm inclined to agree that it's a vent problem. Where to go from here?

Greg

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #23 on: September 04, 2013, 09:02:42 AM »
I would go into the crawlspace if you have one and see how the drain/waste/vent pipes are laid out. A likely scenario is that the two toilets join in a wye with a common vent. Normally the vent for one toilet would be 2-3". Add fixtures and a larger vent is called for.

You likely have a solids clog (polite term) at the point where the 3 pipes join (toilet drain, toilet drain and vent) that is partially or completely blocking the vent. This could easily be caused by roofing debris as you suspect. The blockage is probably at a point where the vent pipe joins, and is nearly horizontal.

Could be hard to clean out, but if you're lucky there is a threaded cap "clean out" in the vicinity from which you can snake the blockage. If this isn't the case, you might have to cut into the vent pipe just uphill from the joint and work both directions from there. Not exactly fun considering the aromas etc. you'll encounter, but if you tackle this yourself you'll save a bundle.

If the pipes are black plastic, you'll be able to cut into and repair them fairly simply. When doing the repair, consider installing another wye in the vent with one of the legs pointing up and install a cleanout plug there in case this happens again. A dish pan makes a great catch basin in case there is something that sill spill out. Wipe things clean and dry before reassembling and use a lot of ABS cement.

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #24 on: September 04, 2013, 09:54:50 AM »
I would go into the crawlspace if you have one and see how the drain/waste/vent pipes are laid out. A likely scenario is that the two toilets join in a wye with a common vent. Normally the vent for one toilet would be 2-3". Add fixtures and a larger vent is called for.

You likely have a solids clog (polite term) at the point where the 3 pipes join (toilet drain, toilet drain and vent) that is partially or completely blocking the vent. This could easily be caused by roofing debris as you suspect. The blockage is probably at a point where the vent pipe joins, and is nearly horizontal.

Could be hard to clean out, but if you're lucky there is a threaded cap "clean out" in the vicinity from which you can snake the blockage. If this isn't the case, you might have to cut into the vent pipe just uphill from the joint and work both directions from there. Not exactly fun considering the aromas etc. you'll encounter, but if you tackle this yourself you'll save a bundle.

If the pipes are black plastic, you'll be able to cut into and repair them fairly simply. When doing the repair, consider installing another wye in the vent with one of the legs pointing up and install a cleanout plug there in case this happens again. A dish pan makes a great catch basin in case there is something that sill spill out. Wipe things clean and dry before reassembling and use a lot of ABS cement.
If you do cut the pipe and there is no play to allow the installation of a coupling or other fitting you can get a rubber coupling which you can tighten on with gear clamps.
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Greg

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #25 on: September 04, 2013, 11:00:01 AM »
If you do cut the pipe and there is no play to allow the installation of a coupling or other fitting you can get a rubber coupling which you can tighten on with gear clamps.

Good point, could be hard otherwise.. these are called "no hub" fittings where I live and work.

Kevan

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #26 on: September 10, 2013, 09:07:20 PM »
The size of a vent has almost nothing to do with the draining of a plumbing system. An entire house's plumbing system could function just fine on nothing but 1" vents that all merged into one 1" vent through the roof. (Such a system, though, would be difficult to service.)

The symptoms reported here point to a partial clog somewhere that causes the draining water to rise under the problem toilet, and then to suck the bowl water down as it recedes. Toilets do this even though the vents are perfectly open.

Presumably by this time (a week since the last post) the problem has been resolved. If not, mention it here again. Although I am brand new to the MMM forums, I'm not new to plumbing, having corrected probably 17,000 drain problems. (That's a literal number.)

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #27 on: September 11, 2013, 06:00:04 AM »
Just wanted to add something that happened to us. We had a new roof installed and somehow a plastic Gatorade bottle ended up in the roof vent pipe. This was causing the upstairs toilet to not flush well, we do not use that bathroom much so it was about 4 months before we stared to try and fix it. It took 4 trips from the plumber, one trip they even sent a camera down the toilet. All they could ever see was some type of obstruction, that looked silver like metal. We thought that maybe someone flushed a small toy. I did go up on the roof and look through the roof vent but could not see anything.

The second floor bathroom is right above the first floor one so we ended up going through that ceiling (what a pain) to cut the pipes and remove the obstruction. That is when we found that it was a clear Gatorade bottle (I assume that is why I did not see it in the vent pipe while I was on the roof.

So $1,200 later (not including fixing the hole in the first floor bathroom celling) the problem was fixed. I did contact the roofing company and we worked out them paying half the cost.

So long story short, it may be difficult to see the obstruction.

bandito

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #28 on: October 01, 2013, 06:23:16 AM »
I didn't read all the replies as there are to many. So here is my two sense.

1) I prefer to use foam gaskets instead of wax. If you toilet moves or rocks at all then the seal of wax gasket with break where foam gaskets pressured together under the weight of the toilet can flex ans stay sealed. The foam (which you can combine two together eg. 1/2 with a 5/8 or 3/4) will always seal. Use the pvc glue to seal to toilet, between gaskets and the flange.

2) Apart from all the other reasons your loosing water there is something called the venturi effect where wind blows over to top of the stack and draws out water from our toilet. This can also be confirmed by the water whirling around in the toilet.



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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #29 on: October 01, 2013, 07:47:27 AM »
I didn't read all the replies as there are to many. So here is my two sense.

1) I prefer to use foam gaskets instead of wax. If you toilet moves or rocks at all then the seal of wax gasket with break where foam gaskets pressured together under the weight of the toilet can flex ans stay sealed. The foam (which you can combine two together eg. 1/2 with a 5/8 or 3/4) will always seal. Use the pvc glue to seal to toilet, between gaskets and the flange.


Does that really work? "PVC glue" isn't glue. It's a solvent. It doesn't glue pvc pipe together, it creates a solvent weld. I don't know what the gaskets are made of, but toilets are normally vitreous china. I don't understand how pvc solvent would grab onto them at all.
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bandito

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #30 on: October 01, 2013, 08:21:11 AM »

Does that really work? "PVC glue" isn't glue. It's a solvent. It doesn't glue pvc pipe together, it creates a solvent weld. I don't know what the gaskets are made of, but toilets are normally vitreous china. I don't understand how pvc solvent would grab onto them at all.

In my experience it works excellent. Sticks to porcelain and just about anything.

Greg

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Re: Vanishing toilet water
« Reply #31 on: October 01, 2013, 09:15:42 AM »
Some PVC cements contain a solids vehicle, meaning they're more than just solvent, so the term glue could be used, the manufacturer I'm familiar with uses the term cement. Solvent weld fluids that evaporate readily (more like the PVC primer) would not be called glue or cement. I think the solids help the solvent work by giving it a vehicle to live in while it does it's work, also it keeps it from running too fast and out of the joint.

The foam gasket idea might work in some cases, but I don't think it would meet plumbing code. Also, some foam is open-cell and would absorb waste water, other is closed cell and would work better, so the type of foam is important. If the foam absorbs any waste water, it could be compressed back out toward the outside just as easily to the inside, resulting in what we like to call an "unsanitary condition." :) And, the flexibility of foam can degrade over time as it compresses and expands.

Any movement that would be accommodated by the foam really shouldn't be present. That kind of movement will usually result in floor and toilet flange/hardware problems.