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Help, I think we have a cracked sewer pipe!

(13 Posts)
LoveGigi Sat 17-Nov-12 19:58:38

We moved into our new house in March (mid terrace, 3 bed Victorian house) and very quickly realised that there were some awful smells coming from the downstairs kitchen/toilet area. The previous owners had made an outside access toilet a new shower room with sink and toilet accessed from the kitchen, this was done within the last decade.

We knew we had a couple of different smells, a cabbage/ farty smell which was intermittent and a farmyard musty smell.

The smells were driving me nuts and I was compelled to investigate. It started with finding and fixing a leaking sink in the downstairs shower room and I regularly treated the drains, the smells didn't improve.

Next I removed all the slate tiles from the bathroom floor which revealed water stained floorboards. Then I removed the entire bathroom including all the pipe work, walls came down, no more bathroom, smell persists!

I started to lift more of the floorboards and fished out three very decomposed rats, not pleasant but I was relieved to have found the farmyard/musty smell. This smell is now gone.

Cabbage/farty smell persists off and on. The area where the toilet was, our foundation is fairly shallow and the joists sit approximately 30cms from the ground. There is a semi circle of dampness on the ground, it resembles dark soil as opposed to the light grey dusty appearance of the rest of our foundations. There is moisture creeping up the plaster in this corner and the mortar in the bricks is the consistency of wet sand.

When I was installing a new air brick behind the old toilet waste pipe I saw a fairly large (diameter of a cup, but not pipe shaped) and deep hole which I'd not noticed before. It is behind the waste pipe next to the building line on the interior of the property! The penny has finally dropped.....I think.

This appears to me to be where sewer gases are coming up, the rats have gained entry here and if there is indeed a broken sewer pipe, my wet foundations are wet from sewer waste!

Where do I go from here? I understand that there has been a transfer in October 2011 of private sewers to the water companies if my sewer is a shared sewer. I'm waiting to hear back from Thames Water.

Has anyone had any experience of this, if so what was the outcome?

Sorry for the lengthy post.

Pajimjams Sat 17-Nov-12 20:41:42

What a mare. I'm afraid the only advice I would give, following having a similar problem, is to call your buildings insurance company. Ours came out and sorted it. Our next call would have been the water board.
You have already found the problem, so fingers crossed you are covered. Hopefully you can claim for expense of investigations this far too.
Best of luck.

ClareMarriott Sat 17-Nov-12 20:49:19

I was going to say contact your building insurers but what did the survey report turn up - if it was a full structural one ?

LoveGigi Sat 17-Nov-12 22:20:12

Thanks for your replies. Pajimjams I will dig out the T&Cs for my home insurance, it's good to know that they have covered you for your work. I was wondering if I needed to have an official diagnosis first prior to talking to the insurers, such as a CCTV drain survey or if they will do this?

ClareMarriott, we had a home buyers report and no damp was picked up, no issues in this area at all. We didn't initially notice the damp ourselves, once I lifted the tiles I could see that the wooden flooring in the corner next to the toilet was black and wet, initially I attributed it to wetness from the toilet or perhaps a historic cistern leak. I may contact the surveyors firm and see what they say.

Also here there are no visible manholes around the property. In my last property there were several and our buyer's surveyor spent a long time assessing our drains for their home buyers report.

Devora Sat 17-Nov-12 22:42:02

Oh my word, your post was the most revolting thing I've read in days shock

Poor you, how horrendous. You sound like the woman for the job, though, rolling up your sleeves and fishing out dead rats grin

GrandPoohBah Sat 17-Nov-12 23:00:23

Unfortunately the water board only takes over responsibility for sewerage at the point at which either your drains become shared (I.e serving more than one property), or where they go past your property boundary. Unfortunately this doesn't sound like this is the case.

Contact your buildings insurance. I'd be surprised if they covered the repair to the waste pipe, but you might get something out of them for trace and access - which is often the bulk of the cost anyway.

ErmahgerdBlahdyCold Sat 17-Nov-12 23:07:01

I would get the drainage people round first, we had them out for a blocked drain and when it turned out to be shared they just gave us a number for the water company to get it sorted and didn't charge us any call-out fees (I assume they recover costs from water company). Even if it is your problem to sort out, you'd be able to get some investigative work done before deciding if it's worth claiming on home insurance.

Good luck, here's hoping it's a shared drain!

LoveGigi Sun 18-Nov-12 07:57:09

Thanks for all your replies, it feels like such a mine field with great potential to be £££ which is very worrying. I will try all the suggested avenues and see where I end up.

NorthernNobody Sun 18-Nov-12 08:01:19

Very impressed with your detective work OP!

LoveGigi Sun 18-Nov-12 17:24:54

Thanks NorthernNobody, I wasn't going to give up, it was impossible to ignore the stench!

Pajimjams Sun 18-Nov-12 20:54:17

We had a CCTV drain survey first, which the insurers said they would reimburse us for if we made a successful claim- obviously minus the excess etc.
Interestingly, the CCTV guy said that he would say whatever was needed to fulfil the t&c of the insurance if he got the job. But they insisted on sending their own people round, who diagnosed a different problem and sorted it immediately.
Much less painful than I anticipated- but then I get disproportionately stressed about this kind of thing. You are clearly much more practical than me!

Best of luck- let us know how you get on

LoveGigi Sun 18-Nov-12 21:54:06

Pajimjams, can you recall how much the CCTV survey cost? Also was it the sewer pipe or another drain that you had a problem with? I've now read my insurance policy, I am covered up to £5k for trace and access, but the cost of the actual pipe replacement isn't covered. I will wait to hear from Thames Water, they have a 48 hour call back system in place and it's gone past that now, apparently they are a 24/7 dept. I'll chase them up tomorrow.

Pajimjams Sat 24-Nov-12 21:10:58

Sorry LoveGigi, I have just seen this.
The drain survey cost about £200 I think. The problem was a cracked bit of pipe that was old, and the solution was to cap off that bit of the system as it was old, broken, and should have been capped off previously when the drainage had been modernised during the refurb if the house.

The strange bit is that the insurers sent a company round, who did the work there and then. Then the insurers sent us a letter saying it wasn't covered and if we wanted it done we would have to pay. But it had already been done! Apparently the expense was digging onto the drain anyway, capping off was easy so the bloke just did it.

What have you done with your problem now?

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