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Clogged basement floor drain.


clayton578
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I am taking a home inspection course and would like some feedback about the following scenario. A client finds out that a floor drain does not work. The drain appears to be clogged. The plumber indicates that the trap is damaged, and has been for years, and needs to be dug out of the concrete and replaced. My question is could and should this have been picked up at the inspection? Do the standards of practice address this case?

Thanks.[:-magnify

[:-graduat

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A clogged floor drain? I guess the only way to tell would be to pour a copious amount of water down the drain to see what happens. I don't think I have ever done this and I don't think I ever will do it.

So I would have to say that it is a condition that I could not verify as it is not a visible condition, nor is it a condition that lends itself to an easy test.

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Welcome Clayton,

There are two types of home inspection.

A standard home inspection costs roughly 2-5 hundred dollars. Its effectiveness is determined by the experience and knowledge of a generalist. (That experience and knowledge varies much more than it should.)

An exhaustive, technical inspection costs roughly 3-5 thousand dollars. It's effectiveness is determined by the experience and knowledge of several specialists.

An experienced home inspector performing a standard home inspection finds many signs/indicators of common issues. In your example, if the drain has been plugged for a long time, then there should be some sign of water stains or rings around the drain. There may be a smell coming from the drain. There may be other drainage issues that cause an inspector to be concerned about the floor drain. Shining a flashlight into the drain may or may not indicate a problem. Pouring a gallon of water down the drain might not indicate a problem either.

In the absence of any sign of a drainage issue anywhere in the home, a standard home inspection is likely to miss this problem. We cannot see through things.

An important part of your course should be about setting client expectations. Don't base you inspection on any SoP's - you should exceed all of those.

Originally posted by clayton578

I am taking a home inspection course and would like some feedback about the following scenario. A client finds out that a floor drain does not work. The drain appears to be clogged. The plumber indicates that the trap is damaged, and has been for years, and needs to be dug out of the concrete and replaced. My question is could and should this have been picked up at the inspection? Do the standards of practice address this case?

Thanks.[:-magnify

[:-graduat

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Depends on the drain; if it's visible & accessible, I've poured water down them to see if they work.

No one's going to be pissed if they see you testing a drain. They're going to be mega pissed if they discover the drain doesn't work after their bsmt. floods due to a leaking water heater (or anything else). Been there, another war story.

I tell folks to rod & videoscope their drains all the time.

Screw the cheesey standards; folks act like they're some sort of sacred document. They're a bottom of the barrel absolutely baseline minimal standard. The SOP is the worst job we are professionally required to do.

After you finish your home inspection class, immediately come back here so we can undo the idiotic brainwashing the goofballs that teach these classes constantly blather. You really need to understand this; nearly all the schools, and almost all the instructors, have very bad ideas about how to do this job.

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I have been thinking about this a little more. I have only been in the land of basements for about a year, so I have not really seen all that many issues with floor drains.

Do home inspectors in basement areas test the floor drains as a normal procedure? I have done it on some commercial jobs that have floor drains, but not in a home. I really have not even thought about it that much.[:-dunce]

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The only problem with testing a floor drain is just how much water is enough?

Also I would imagine that our experience lets us look for clues without even realizing we are doing it.

Interior water line at the furnace when opening the cover,waterline on the walls,smell etc;Also I would imagine that would fall under diclosure in most states.

When you start pouring water is their a chance of more liability?

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There's a fair share of basements here in Seattle.

Lots of floor drains.

I never test them. The clog or defect could be a foot down and only take a few gallons of water or the clog could be 30 feet downline and take dozens of gallons til it backs up.

Either way, I never imply that I'll find any subterranean drain defects using any method.

I recommend scoping if they really want to know.

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Sometimes I've done a gallon; sometimes 5 or more.

It's true that one can look @ lots of stuff & figure out general condition of floor drains, especially on old joints. One unique thing we have in Chicago is grease traps/catch basins in the really old places. You can check those and see if the sewer has backed up. If the catch basin is running clean, and it's not backing up sewer gas into the basin, it's a reasonable likelihood the main drains are doing what they should be doing.

No one's going to pound you if you don't find a break in the sewer line 20' down the line. Someone can get pretty pissed when one doesn't find a simple screwed up floor drain trap. Checking floor drains is easy, cheap, & smart.

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Kurt, I'm intrigued.

What makes you stop at one gallon or six?

What makes you keep going after three gallons?

I carry a gallon milk jug for testing floor drains, but I don't go beyond one gallon. I keep a hose in the Jeep, but often can't use it for one reason or another.

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Originally posted by clayton578

I am taking a home inspection course

You have my deepest sympathy.

and would like some feedback about the following scenario. A client finds out that a floor drain does not work. The drain appears to be clogged. The plumber indicates that the trap is damaged, and has been for years, and needs to be dug out of the concrete and replaced. My question is could and should this have been picked up at the inspection?

Maybe. Depends on what you told the customer you'd do.

Do the standards of practice address this case?

No. Testing floor drains isn't part of any standard that I've ever seen.

Like so many other questions that new home inspectors ask, this one comes down to communication. It's really, really, really simple. Just tell the customer what you know about the drain. For instance: I didn't test the floor drain. It might not work.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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As one of the new guys on the block, my opinion may not be realistic, but here it is.

If I looked at at floor drain and the grid did not appear clogged, I don't think I would take it any further. If if saw signs of flooding/clogging or if the grid appeared impacted, I may poke a screwdriver into it to confirm. I don't think it is my RESPONSIBILITY to do an exhaustive test as much as it is my RESPONSIBILITY to reccommend repair. OK, dumping a gallon is a nice gesture, but it reallly doesn't tell you much and having dumped a gallon, aren't you then liable for testing it and not determining a problem? What if it needed two gallons or six? Or running a hose for ten minutes?

When you test something I think it should be a reliable test or don't test it at all.

How many of us run the water and then inspect the house trap to see how it is flowing? Would we know if all was running through or if some water was leaking underground?

Likewise, when walking a roof, if the gutters appear clean I am not going to attach a hose and drag it up to the roof to check for clogs either. Nor am I going to run the water on the roof to check for leaks.

And if I see a common crack in a foundation wall and there are no signs of a leak, I am not going to flood the yard to see if it is leaking.

I believe that the basic home inspection is a game of visual clues and simple non exhaustive tests. The better you are at recongnizing these clues... the better you are at being an HI.

If I am wrong, and in a very humble fashion, I concede that there are inspectors on this site, that if they tell me "Steve, you are wrong, you should always test floor drains by running x amount of water through them" I will shut up and consider it something new that I learned here today.

Now there is no test or no limit that I am not capable of doing or arrange to have done... for a fee.

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Originally posted by StevenT

I believe that the basic home inspection is a game of visual clues and simple non exhaustive tests. The better you are at recongnizing these clues... the better you are at being an HI.

I really, really like that. You, my friend, are an astute witness to the simple facts of the matter.

If I am wrong, and in a very humble fashion, I concede that there are inspectors on this site, that if they tell me "Steve, you are wrong, you should always test floor drains by running x amount of water through them" I will shut up and consider it something new that I learned here today.

Tain't wrong; probably right.

Why I test floor drains is real simple. Chicago floods, both w/leaks & sewage backup through floor drains (the curse of combined sewers). Repair is freakshow expensive. A gallon of water to know if it works isn't.

The argument of "I've looked @ thousands of floor drains & never had a problem" doesn't hold up. The same can be said of pretty much anything in a house. There's thousands of things that can go wrong in a house, and whether or not we find them or not has more luck involved in the process than most are willing to admit.

Any one of us would think it was necessary to know if the bathtub or shower drained. How is the bsmt. floor drain different? What happens if the tub doesn't drain?

Abridged war story.......

Never used to check floor drains/did job/between inspection & closing water heater failed/bsmt. filled w/4' of water, disovered by neighbor because water was pouring out bsmt. windows/approx. $57,000 in damage.

I got lucky; in this case, the seller was on the hook. One or more critical days, and I'd have been on the hook, if for nothing else, a lot of explaining on why I don't check floor drains. No way to get out of that one looking anything other than dumbshit.

Folks that think their contract protects them are amusing little furry animals sitting in the highway imagining that big truck bearing down has a soul, and will see the logic in why they shouldn't squash little cutie.

Wrong. Big trucks will do all sorts of things, most likely that which benefits them. If squashing little cutie is what benefits them, squash it will be.

There's an inverse proportion to the equation; the more money the "truck" has, the greater the likelihood the squash job occurs. Think about this a long time if you work for rich people.

I have been educated by the head of the real estate dept. of one of the largest law firms in the country that contract law has little to do w/jurisprudence, and almost everything to do w/accounting, i.e., how much is the damage, how much the cost of litigation, balanced against how much the defendendant is capable of being drained of. It's a very simple arithmetical deduction.

When attorneys then start talking about "oh no, there's this and that", most folks don't understand that also costs money. IOW, the lowly HI can get drained of their lifeblood before any of this shit even begins to find the courtroom, or before the judge might even begin to consider if the contract is valid or not.

As my customer the rich powerful real estate attorney sez...." It's only a contract".

Think about this real hard; there will be a test tomorrow, and every day thereafter for those of us that do this thing we do.

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Jeez Kurt,

You just scared the bejezzuz out of me and I've been doing this 11 years. Hmmm, I saw something in one of my military retiree newsletters the other day where the military is recruiting from the retiree ranks now. Think I'll go check it out. It sounds safer.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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So, Clayton!

You see from this thread that it's easy to get a variety of answers from good people.

Get used to it. There are geographic, experiential, and philosophical differences that often make a single answer impracticable.

Lacking consistent rigorous training and testing, this 'profession' offers the consumer great risk. An inspector with experience and knowledge of building systems, materials and workmanship offers the best value of any real estate transaction. Inspectors without that knowledge and experience don't.

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I don't put a lot of faith in contracts either but I have seen reports stop those big trucks bearing down on the little HI bug dead in their tracks.

A well written report with clear and concise disclaimers is a very effective defense.

I have never tested a floor drain. I look at them. If I think there is any reason to have a concern then I will state again in the report in my list of findings that I did not evaluate any floor drains and to have them evaluated by a plumber. The disclaimers elsewhere in the report already say that. Otherwise if the client is there just tell them that you don't check them and have a plumber check them.

But by the sounds of it, I think if I was practicing in Kurts area I would do as Kurt does.

Chris, Oregon

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OK, what you say makes sense. Enough sense that I will either begin checking every floor drain I come across or make sure that I specifically include a disclaimer regarding them in my contract... or both.

In my opinion, the only way that I would put my name on claiming that a floor drain is functioning properly is to run water into it and then check the house trap. And of course all points in between.

This could be a bit inconvienient at times.

Thank you for the enlightmentment.

This now causes me to look at alot of other items in a whole new light too.

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If you do run water into the floor drain, be sure to explain what you did and don't go beyond that and then conclude that the drain is OK.

"Concerning the floor drain in the basement, it accepted the gallon of water I poured into it; however, this is not conclusive evidence that the drain is indeed OK. To be sure have a plumber evaluate the drain."

Chris, Oregon

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This is a localized issue but in Milwaukee you better well lift up that drain cover and check and see if the Palmer valve is there and fuctioning.

For those who don't know, in Milwauke the drain tile was routed to the floor drain and out to the municple sewer system. The Palmer valve is a spring loaded flapper that opens to allow water out and snaps shut to keep out all the nasties in the event of a back up.

If the valve is inoperative it can sometimes be resurrected back into service with a little oil and persuasion.

If missing or the persuasion method does not work then a sump crock will need to be installed. A expense you do not want to be funding.

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