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Finalizing sump-thing

Friday, October 17th, 2014
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I am working down the list of plumbing connections I have to make to the new sump pit. Those that require digging or moving soil are done.

The connection for the exterior footing drains is in place. I also have the interior footing drains connected, and so is the sump discharge into the sewer, although it is a temporary connection at this point.

sump-04

Plumbing per code

To turn the temporary sump discharge into a permanent one, I need to switch out the Schedule 40 PVC piping with Cast Iron Soil Pipe (CISP), as per the Chicago plumbing code requirements. I have to use CISP where the pipes are concealed, i.e. under the future floor slab. Once I am in the sump pit, I can re-connect to the already installed PVC pipe setup.

I got myself the right CISP pipe, fittings and gaskets, widened the hole into the sump to fit the two inch CISP pipe, and made the new connection.

Sewer extension

When we ripped out the old sewer to replace it, the City required that I separate the sanitary sewer line from the storm sewer line .

To extend that line, I bought a four inch diameter CISP pipe and took it all the way to the porch footing. Once the porch gets torn down and the footing is redone, I will continue to extend that line into the back yard.

I may never connect a downspout to that storm sewer line, as I have ambitious plans for sustainable and infiltration based stormwater management in the yard. Instead, that storm sewer line may be repurposed into a sanitary sewer one day — if we ever build a garage with a studio apartment above it. But those are distant dreams and warrant a whole new blog post.

Cistern connection

I have a couple of connections to go, and one of them is the future discharge connection to the underground cistern (see also graphic above). This requires another hole to be punched into the sump pit through which I can fit the pipe. Because this is not part of the sewer plumbing system, I used a Schedule 40 PVC pipe for the rough-in and will again extend it into the yard once we redo the porch footing.

Electrical conduit

The cover for the sump pit will be in the middle of a workshop area. I wasn’t interested in having power cords from the pit cover running across the floor; I’d rather avoid that kind of trip hazard. And I did so by installing a 1 1/2” diameter galvanized electrical conduit from the pit up to the basement wall. I can have an outlet near the top of that conduit, and thus circumvent the power cord spaghetti sprawl.

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Why that storm sewer?

Plumbing code variance

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Sump-thing afoot…

Thursday, October 9th, 2014
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… precisely, footing drains. The interior footing drains are now connected to the new sump. But I also have plans for footing drains running around the exterior periphery of the house. Now is a good time to get started on those – or at least get started with the connection to the sump as shown in the sketch below.

sump-03

The ground in the back porch is still a mess and needs to be leveled out. That gives me a good working platform. I blocked the hole I punched into the sump for the drain connection to prevent dirt from falling into the pit – and started digging the trench.

People have commented on what hard work it appeared to be, excavating the sump pit. That was actually not bad because with the long-handled shovel, I didn’t need to bend down too much.

Digging the trench, on the other hand, was hard work indeed, with a lot of bending down and slicing though stiff clay. Add to that 100% relative humidity and no breeze. I was soaking wet from the start. I’ve never sweated so much – not even in a steam room.


There are two more interesting things worth mentioning:

Did you notice that I always have water in the bottom of the trench? That is because of the rains we had saturating the soil. The advantage of having the water in the trench is that I didn’t have to measure the depth while I was digging along. The standing water acted like a level, and as long as I had the trench bottom barely covered, I knew I was at the right depth.

At one point the trench was full of water. That happened over lunch when we had a downpour and I had the sump pump disconnected. This reinforces the need I had identified for the “seamless transition” from the old grease trap to the new sump pit. I am glad it worked it out that way and thus we stayed out of trouble.

The trench digging was done, and so was my back. Still, I had to put some stone chip bedding down in the trench, level it out, place the rigid drain pipe, and cover it with more stone chips.

I stubbed the two drain pipe ends and will connect to them when the back porch comes down and we redo the footings and foundation wall.

My bones were hurting and I was in the mood for sump-thing soothing. Not sure if the Little Sumpin’ will do it this time round. But what about the Little Sumpin’ Extra?

Little-Sumpin-Extra

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Terminating the temporary

Grease trap cleaning

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Connecting sump-thing

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
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I am done thinking. And I’m ready to get my hands on some pipe and start connecting sump-thing.

That’s easier said than done, because before I could get anywhere near the pipe, I was thinking again:

The old grease trap which we repurposed into a sump pit is still active. There is the sump pump, plugged in and running, discharging the water the pit receives from the interior footing drains.

sump-05

 

With all the rain we’ve had I needed a seamless transition — a switch from the old grease trap to the new sump in less than a day — or I would have had to deal with a lot of standing water. In short, time was the driving factor.

I punched a hole into the new sump, then disconnected the interior footing drains from the grease trap and re-routed them through the new hole into the new pit. Because I still had a trickle flow coming out of the footing drains, I needed to dismantle and fill the grease trap right away. In doing so, the flow couldn’t escape into the grease trap anymore, but rather followed the path of least resistance – through the drain pipe and into the new sump pit.

Before I could fill in the grease trap, I also had to disconnect and remove the sump pump. I was in a hurry to transfer it into the new sump pit and reconnect it, before things got too wet.

To keep things moving along, I opted for a temporary sump pump connection, using Schedule 40 PVC fittings. It is temporary because the Chicago plumbing code requires Cast Iron Soil Pipe (CISP) in all concealed (i.e. buried) locations … in other words, CISP all the way into the sump. Once in the sump, I can use Schedule 40 PVC pipe and fittings.

The Schedule 40 made for a very quick connection and allowed me to have the system up and running again before the day was over.

That was quite sump-thing, giving me a thirst for a Little Sumpin’.

Little-Sumpin

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Thinking about sump-thing

Thursday, September 25th, 2014
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I’ve been thinking for a while … thinking about the sump plumbing. What do I need to connect to the sump, how should I connect it, and where should I connect it?

Sump plumbing should be relatively straightforward. So why did I have to think for a while? Because I also tried to build some future proofing into the system. Plus, I needed a seamless switch from the old repurposed grease trap to the new sump.

sump-03

There is the water draining into the sump. We had the interior footing drains routed into the old grease trap. Those will now need to drain into the new sump. There also will be exterior footing drains that I need to connect to the pit.

I also have to pump the water out of the sump. That means re-routing the existing sump discharge into the sewer from the grease trap to the new sump pit.

It is typical to pump the sump water into the combined sewer system. But it is not ideal, because Chicago’s combined system barely copes as it is. Adding more water is best avoided and I have little interest in contributing to combined sewer overflow into the Chicago River or Lake Michigan. Plus the water draining from the footing drains into the sump is ground water, a valuable resource that I could use for irrigation.

At one point we will have a underground cistern in the back yard, which should be fed by the roof runoff. But I also could increase the size of the cistern and, in addition to the roof runoff, feed it with the sump water. That should provide me with a nice reliable water supply for irrigation.

To pump the water out of the sump into the future cistern, I need to rough in a discharge connection now. Once I activate that connection, I can cap the discharge into the sewer, or I can keep it, put the pump on a timer, and use it to flush the sewer once a day.

Why would I want to do that? It goes back to the check valve functionality issues we encountered. Our low flow fixtures don’t generate enough waste water volume or velocity to flush solids effectively past the check valve gate. Using the sump water at around 50 gallons per minute (gpm) to flush the system would alleviate that problem.

Last but not least, I need an electrical conduit through which I can route the sump pump power cords to an GFCI outlet on the basement wall.

Related Posts:

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Grease trap cleaning

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Sump-thing pretty heavy

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014
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Yes to a new sump pit. No to a small and cheap plastic, fiberglass or structural foam pit. We very much prefer a sump pit that lasts for evah, like a concrete manhole structure, 36 inch in diameter and 42 inches deep.

That sucker would weigh a ton – or probably more than that, and would require some heavy lifting. As it turns out, the real problem is not the weight but the size. There is no way to get a 36 by 42 inch concrete manhole into the enclosed back porch.

What to do when you’ve bitten off more than you can chew? You start munching on smaller pieces, right?

sump-02

That is exactly what we did here. We installed the new sump pit in pieces … Three, 12-inch tall reinforced concrete rings with one 18-inch tall cone on the top. The concrete rings weigh around 525 pounds each and the cone between 700 and 800. That’s still a lot of heavy lifting, but the bottom line is that we were able to fit (roll) each piece through the back porch door and down the stairs.

Because I didn’t eat all of my breakfast, I didn’t quite manage the heavy lifting by myself, but instead got some help. And even though I say “heavy lifting,” a more descriptive expression would be “heavy sliding followed by carefully dropping.”

Nevertheless, we got the new sump pit structure into place, set to the right elevation and leveled.

Now I need a plan – a plumbing plan. What, how, and where do I connect to the sump pit?

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Digging for sump-thing

Terminating the temporary

Grease trap cleaning

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Digging for sump-thing

Friday, September 12th, 2014
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I have to decide what that sump-thing will be.

There are your inexpensive plastic, fiberglass or structural foam sump pits, typically measuring 18 inches in diameter and up to 30 inches in depth – just large enough to accommodate a sump pump. Even the existing grease trap, which we repurposed into a temporary sump pit is larger.

I wasn’t convinced that these plastic pits would be structurally sound enough. That said, it’s hard to find horror stories about collapsed sump pits. But there is another issue that bothers me.

These small pits will fill up quickly but will also be emptied in no time, once the pump comes on. It will cause the sump pump to short-cycle a lot during wet weather. That can’t be good for the longevity of the pump.

I decided to go big and dig deep! I opted to install a manhole size sump pit, 36 inches in diameter and 42 inches in depth, made out of concrete.

Hmm, that is the interior size of the pit. To fit the structure I need a 48 inch wide hole that is at least 42 inches deep. I needed an excavator and promptly found one.

sump-01

The next challenge was to convince Cathy that it was worth fueling the excavator. She pointed out that, to her knowledge, this kind of excavator runs pretty well on homemade tacos. Well, let’s see if that worked out.

I guess it did.

May be I should consider a career change. How about grave digger?

Now that I dug myself into a hole, it’s time to think about some heavy lifting.

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Check Valve and low flow – functionality issues

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
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While blogging about low flow, I should mention its impact on our check valve.

We decided in the very early days of the project to protect the basement from flooding and sewer back-ups with a check valve. We have a blog post with illustrations that walks you through our rationales and the decision.

 

Last year, when we needed the protection from the check valve, we did not get it, because I had failed to properly maintain it. Rather than closing and thus preventing water from backing up into the garden apartment, it got stuck in an open position.

Since then, I have been very diligent with my check valve maintenance. I inspect it monthly and also when we have big storms coming our way.

What I noticed during the inspections is that solids build up behind the valve gate. So much so that they potentially could prevent the gate from closing.

That problem is easily solved. I have a little metal strap that I use to fixate the valve gate in a fully open position. I go into the bathroom, flush the toilet and dump another 5 gallon water bucket down the drain. That typically flushes all the solids out of the system and down the main sewer.

I understand that the buildup of solids is not typical, but rather is caused by the low flow fixtures in the garden unit. Conventional plumbing fixtures, including a conventional toilet, would produce enough flow and velocity to keep the system flushed and “clean.”

That begs the question if the check valve was the right decision? I would argue that, yes, it was the right decision out of the options we had available to us.

To keep our check valve operational, I flush the system on a regular schedule.

Does that not defy the water conservation goal? Yes, it somehow does, but only until I have access to sump and/or cistern water for the flushing. It will be easy to do, it allows me to exercise resource conservation with the low flow fixtures in the garden unit, and gives us the flood protection we need.

But one should be aware that there are strings attached when combining a check valve with low flow fixtures.

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Wasteful low flow

Monday, July 16th, 2012
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We have this wonderful Caroma low flow, dual flush toilet in the garden apartment.

The short flush only uses 0.8 gallons, and the long flush a mere 1.28 gallons. These are probably the lowest flow rates for a toilet with a non-pressurized tank.

It gets even better. On top of the tank is a small sink. After flushing, the toilet tank is refilled with the water from the small faucet. We can wash our hands and automatically reuse that water for the next flush. This allows us to double the water mileage.

This simple but beautiful resource conservation recently went down the toilet (pun intended). We noticed that water from the tank was leaking into the toilet bowl. It wasn’t much, but it was leaking 24/7, completely negating the impressive water conservation aspect.

I emptied the tank, lifted it off the toilet and removed the flushing mechanism. The owners manual helped me to identify the diaphragm seal that supposedly keeps the water in the tank until one flushes.

 

Once I had the diaphragm seal removed and could take a closer look, I noticed a small, perfectly circular bump, like a little outgrowth. It wasn’t stuck to the seal but rather seemed to be a part of it. Very strange indeed and the obvious cause of the leak. We had the toilet in operation for just over one year and I have no idea where that bump came from.

The owner’s manual listed a part number for the diaphragm seal, which helped me to order a replacement for $6.00 online. Three days later, I installed the new gasket seal, and … no more leaking! No more water conservation down the toilet. No more wasteful low flow.

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Spatially challenged

Sunday, April 8th, 2012
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Back in January, I described two useful plumbing gadgets. One of them was the the on-demand hot water circulation pump. I had to install it in a pretty tight space, in the plumbing wall.

Well, it turns out that I have to re-install it, because that day, I was somewhat spatially challenged.

Typically, the pump is installed under a sink, laying on the bottom in the vanity or base cabinet.

That orientation does not work in the plumbing wall, because I only have 5 1/2 inches to work with. The dimension of the pump, however, is 7 1/2 inches from front to back.

It got much more promising once I turned the pump up by 90 degrees. The pump depth is only 5 1/4 inches. Just about slim enough to fit into the plumbing wall.

I was happy with that solution — happy that I found a way around the spatial constraints — and I installed the pump accordingly.

It turns out that there is a good reason why the pump is typically laying on its side, with the cylinder cartridge in a horizontal position.

The cylinder cartridge contains the pump motor. The pump motor must be in a horizontal position for smooth operation and longevity’s sake. If the cylinder cartridge with the motor is in a vertical position, the motor has difficulties to maintain the same rotation. It may get out of whack and become unbalanced and noisy, and it eventually may break down.

How could I have known? To begin with, I could have followed the installation instructions more closely. Not only that, but we have a number of other water pumps in the utility room. And they are all installed with the cylinder cartridge in a horizontal position. Let’s call that a hint!

I was of the opinion that I did not have the room in the plumbing wall to position the cartridge horizontally. But all it took was to turn the pump by 90 degrees counter clockwise.

I am telling you – spatially challenged!

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DWV details

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
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Let’s leave the potable water plumbing behind and circle back to the drain-waste-vent (DWV) system.

You may recall reading about the rationales and details of the 1st and 2nd floor DWV system and looking at the installation description all the way to the roof vent.

With everything installed and documented I can now compare the schematic layouts and diagrams to the real thing.

To keep us in compliance with the Chicago and State of Illinois plumbing code, all the DWV plumbing is connected to the city sewer. But we structured the plumbing for future separation of the greywater from the blackwater without the need to open any walls. At that point we would collect, filter and store the greywater for later reuse.

Greywater stack

The future greywater system begins in the basement at the drain water heat recovery (DWHR) unit, which we placed at the bottom of the greywater stack.

The horizontal leg that currently connects the DWHR to the sewer can in the future be replaced with a small greywater collection tank that holds a sump pump and has an emergency overflow connection to the sewer.

Atop of the DWHR is a double wye, which connects to the primary greywater source, the 1st and 2nd floor showers. One leg serves the 1st floor bathroom floor drain, the second leg connects to the 1st floor shower drain, while the third leg is set aside for the 2nd floor bathroom.

If we follow the greywater stack from the basement up to the 1st floor, we find the shower drain vent that ties into the floor drain vent, effectively forming the greywater vent stack.

The leg we set aside to drain the 2nd floor bathroom continues towards the ceiling where we placed a simple wye. One branch serves the 2nd floor bathroom floor drain while the other branch connects to the 2nd floor shower drain.

Once we continue to follow the greywater stack from the 1st floor up into the 2nd floor, we can identify the floor drain and shower vent that connect to the main vent stack from the 1st floor. The stack is turning up, over and around the corner towards the main sewer or blackwater stack.

Blackwater stack

The four inch diameter blackwater stack is located in the plumbing wall with two vent lines to either side.

The two inch pipe to the left vents all of the basement plumbing. The kitchen sink vent also ties into this pipe, while the kitchen drain connects to the blackwater stack.

To the right of the stack is the two inch vent for the 1st floor toilet. The bathroom lavatory vents into this two inch pipe, while the drain connects again to the blackwater stack.

Looking at the plumbing wall from the other side, we see the 2nd floor toilet connection and vent towards the ceiling.

Moving up to the 2nd floor, the kitchen and lavatory drain are identical to the 1st floor layout, with both draining into the blackwater stack.

A little up we connect the plumbing wall vents. On the right we have the kitchen sink vent and vent from the 1st floor. To the left we have lavatory vent, the vent from the 1st floor and the 2nd floor toilet vent.

Toward the top is the vent stack connection from the showers and floor drains, before the stack turns over and up through the roof.

The only item visible on the roof is the five inch vent section of the stack.

Even though the bathroom lavatories are connected to the blackwater stack, we have a future plan for reusing the greywater from these sinks. There are simple and small filtering and storage systems, that would fit under the lavatory. The collected water would then be used for the toilet flushing,

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