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Washing Machine Drains Into Combination Rain Drain


Brandon Whitmore
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I inspected a 1950's house this morning where the washing machine drain ran through the exterior wall and drained into the rain drain. Due to the age and location of the home, I believe that the rain drains run into the sewer system as well (combination), but can not be sure.

I know on newer construction this would not be allowed, but I am trying to figure out the harm in running the washing machine drain into this rain drain (if they go to the same place anyway).

Does anyone have any opinions on this installation?

If I recommend repair it will be difficult due to the location of the laundry room to the rest of the DWV system (other side of home in crawlspace-- this on basement side).

Thanks

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I would recommend against it(BUT)

I have found out through a water dept official that some municipalities allow it or tag an assessment fee.

So some may make a big issue of it,but I am not aware of anyone ever being forced to reroute the plumbing in an older residence.

May depend on your area?

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Originally posted by Brandon Whitmore

I inspected a 1950's house this morning where the washing machine drain ran through the exterior wall and drained into the rain drain. Due to the age and location of the home, I believe that the rain drains run into the sewer system as well (combination), but can not be sure.

City officials don't like rain drains that run into sewer systems. It puts an unnecessary burden on the treatment plant. Occasionally, they'll pump smoke into the sewers and look for the smoke to come out of rain drains around houses. When they find this, they'll disconnect the drains and seal them with some official-looking caps.

So the first problem is that these folks may come home from work to find their rain drains (including the washer waste pipe) disconnected and spilling onto the yard.

I know on newer construction this would not be allowed, but I am trying to figure out the harm in running the washing machine drain into this rain drain (if they go to the same place anyway).

Does anyone have any opinions on this installation?

If the rain drains go into the sewer, I don't really see a mechanical problem with it. If they go into the storm sewer (that'd be the nearest river) then there's a slight problem with pollution. (phosphates, etc.)

If I recommend repair it will be difficult due to the location of the laundry room to the rest of the DWV system (other side of home in crawlspace-- this on basement side).

Thanks

Did someone move the location of the washer? You can bet that it didn't drain into the rain drain in the 1950s.

The building sewer line is almost always deeper than the rain drain. Is it really that tough to run a proper washer drain?

I've seen lots of washers discharge into sewage ejector pumps. A system like that would involve a modest initial expense but would work well for years after that.

You don't need to offer only one recommendation. You can explain the situation and offer several courses of action.

-Jim Katen, Oregon

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I did explain that they could install a sewage ejection pump if they wanted to move the laundry room into the partial basement.

The laundry room is currently in the kitchen on the far W. end of the home (basement), and the rest of the plumbing is on the crawlspace side of the home (far E. end). I was unable to locate any other locations where the laundry room could have been at one time.

The home was a flip and many items were covered up so it is hard to say whether the laundry room was moved. (could find no other locations where it could have been and visible plumbing was all original)

I told them that the way it sat, it should not cause any harm if it is in fact running to the sewer and not to a storm drain and told them to verify when they have their sewer scope that is scheduled.

Regarding the combination rain drain/ sewer. I am not aware of the city requiring the disconnection of rain drains in combination systems, but am under the impression there are incentives for disconnecting them-- please correct me if I am wrong because this will change things greatly if I am wrong.

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Originally posted by Brandon Whitmore

. . . Regarding the combination rain drain/ sewer. I am not aware of the city requiring the disconnection of rain drains in combination systems, but am under the impression there are incentives for disconnecting them-- please correct me if I am wrong because this will change things greatly if I am wrong.

I think it varies by town. McMinnville & Portland both disconnected downspouts and sealed rain drains in the past without so much as a may-I-please. Nowadays they may be more diplomatic about it.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Jim,

I went onto a website from the city of Portland and read that there were incentives for disconnecting and gave some good alternatives. I never saw where it said that is was required, but you never know. Of course disconnecting the rain drains and installing a drywell or other alternative system would be great, but I get sick of seeing green foot long splash blocks against homes causing serious foundation issues.

Out of curiosity, with the installation the way it sits-- completely improper or grey area?

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There's another possibility that works very well, particularly if the house is in the country. But it isn't exactly legal.

They could run the washer waste into a dry well. This is a time-honored system that works very well. My neighbor built one for his washer waste. He got the plans for it from the county santiarian.

I used to have one that received water from two lavs, a shower and my washing machine. It was under a massive plum tree in my backyard. We had so many plums that we used to have to call the gleaners to come ge them. One year that single tree produced 600# of plums.

Then I remodeled, put in a new septic system and re-routed all waste lines into it. The plum tree has been pissed off at me ever since.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by Brandon Whitmore

. . . but I get sick of seeing green foot long splash blocks against homes causing serious foundation issues.

Splash blocks are just this side of totally worthless.

They provide one nice benefit. The space beneath them is a good habitat for frogs & toads.

Out of curiosity, with the installation the way it sits-- completely improper or grey area?

If there's a standpipe, and the rain drains go into the sanitary sewer, I'd say it's ok as long as the city allows the rain drains to stand.

If there's a standpipe and the rain drains go into the storm sewer, I'd say it's a grey area. The waste from a washing machine isn't all that terrible. Perhaps, if the occupants wanted to be good citizens of the earth they could use a low phosphate detergent.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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I did not realize it was allowed to run grey water anywhere but into the sewer. I can see this being just fine in the country, but is it allowed in the city? I can't see why it would cause a problem- is this an option when there is a large backyard such as in the home I inspected?? (light bulb going off)

There is a standpipe (older) with a shiny new vent pipe-- P trap questionable. I told them to ensure there was a trap to keep out pests and also told them I was holding the report ransom until I figured out what to recommend for this issue.

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Originally posted by Brandon Whitmore

I did not realize it was allowed to run grey water anywhere but into the sewer.

It's not.

I can see this being just fine in the country, but is it allowed in the city?

It's not officially allowed anywhere around here. But the officials seem to look past this particular issue.

I can't see why it would cause a problem- is this an option when there is a large backyard such as in the home I inspected?? (light bulb going off)

It'd probably work fine if the dry well were big enough and if the yard were well-drained. It won't work in those yards that are always soggy all winter.

There is a standpipe (older) with a shiny new vent pipe-- P trap questionable. I told them to ensure there was a trap to keep out pests and also told them I was holding the report ransom until I figured out what to recommend for this issue.

I'd just explain the options and the good/bad points of each and leave it at that.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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