Any Plumbers In The House?


Three floor apartment complex, built in the 60’s (approximate). History of sewer plumbing problems- just last week Roto Rooter had to come pump an enormous amount out of the pipes, and managment informed they need to install new sewage lines. RR may have “blown” the pipes (used high power air backwards to clear clog), though this isn’t confirmed.

About a week after that, resident on floor 2 complains that brown water is pouring from her ceiling in bathroom, through a light fixture.

Resident on floor 3 is not using tub, nor has had overflow.

Resident on floor 1 also begins to have water pour through their bathroom ceiling.

Landlord blames floor 3, accuses them of “secretly hiding an overflow” - floor 3 incredulous.

Once water main turned off, water stops in about 5 min. Landlords decline to call plumber, even though floors 2 and 3 are adament that this should be done. Landlord decides to wait 72 hours to call plumber to avoid weekend fees.

Meanwhile, approximately 5 hours after water incident, floor 2 sees their hallway light now full with brown water. Floor 3 in floor 2’s apartment at the time. Landlord continues to decline to call plumber, gives floor 2 bucket. Landlord still suspects floor 3 of causing it, though is now slightly less accusatory.

Next morning apartment handyguy tells floor 3 that floor 1 reported water leaking again at 10:30pm (4 hours after light incident, 10 hours after original incident). Floor 3 also reports that at 11:45pm water suddenly poured out of their tub faucet, but stopped within a minute. Water came out loud enough to wake them up, but went right down the drain.

Landlord still has not caused plumber. Landlord still says floor 3 caused it, though they do not have any theory besides the “floor 3 is somehow hiding a tub overflow”.

Meanwhile, floor 2’s bathroom light fixture has a lot of rust in a trickle pattern in it- this isn’t the first time water has come through, but management claims it is.


  • What could cause this?
  • Is this consistent with landlord’s weird theory? Could an overflowed bath somehow cause water to pour out of floors 2 AND 1? Wouldn’t such a flood of that size also cause serious wall damage to floor 3, if possible at all?
  • Can a plumber tell if bath overflow is cause? Or pipes? What about after 72 hours after damage?
  • Could this be connected to sewer issues previous week?
  • Wouldn’t bath water overflow be clear, not a foamy rust-smelling brown?

We’re trying to find our own plumber tomorrow to answer these questions and put it in writing, we’re really trying to get this resolved by Monday, because the excretement is about to hit the air conditioning in a big bad way up in this joint.

Bump. No plumbers? Must my ignorance continue for another day? So sad…

IANAP, but my first guess would be that the Roto-Rooter dislodged some goop that was either holding a joint together or plugging up a hole in a pipe.

IAAP, and it does sound as though RR might have blown the pipes apart. Water overflowing from a tub would indeed be clear. I’m sorry not to have an answer, but your story did raise a few questions: RR used air pressure to clean the lines out by pushing the blockage back “upstream”? The usual method is to run a cable “downstream” to clear the lines. The 3rd floor tub faucet started running water on it’s own, then shut itself off? Sounds like it’s haunted…they don’t do that. In my opinion a plumber should go and run a camera down the vent pipe from the roof and see if (and where) the pipes came apart. Good luck.

You know how if you shower, turn off the water, and then turn the central knob back to “bath” some residual pipe water comes out the tub tap? Kinda like that- but the shower hadn’t been used. It came out noisily enough for us to wake up.

Speaking of roof vents, water previously had repeatedly made the elevator unusable, and water through the vents had come into floor 3 via the kitchen stove vent and the kitchen light.

Between this, the cat piss smells, the gothlings and the white trash neighbors, you need to move!

No shit. All’s we need is the $$$.

If the water managed to jump from a plumbing vent to the stove vent, you’ve got a serious problem.

Surrender to the deceased souls of the meth-cooking kittens. (Band name)

IANAP, but a sewer cleaner…

For starters, the incoming water and the drains operate independent of eachother until they reach your bathroom.

The stove vent is a whole other issue. That sounds like a roofing/flashing problem.

It sounds like Roto Rooter used a High Velocity Water Jet, which uses high pressure water to scour the insides of the sewer pipes clean. Most bathroom sewer pipes are usually pretty clean anyway until they end up below ground.

The rust colored water could be “scale” which is a coat of rust on the inside of the pipes. Whenever RR or anybody messes around with old pipes sometimes all this scale is dislodged and creates its own nightmarish blockage. But a sewer blockage won’t come out of a faucet. The top most floor could only overflow if the faucet were left running AND the drain was blocked at the same time. That sounds unlikely.

I’d definitely ask for proof if they try blaming the tenants.

If that is the hosey thing with the thinish pipe at the end that sprays water hard and makes a poo geyser come back out, then yes, it was used.

They are trying to blame us, floor 3. When pushed to bring in a plumber, they have repeatedly declined. They say they will call one tomorrow.

Ok, but if the floor 3 had the bath off at the time (no water in tub either), would it be a clog in pipes between floor 2 & 3? BTW, the gothlings have apparently been complaining of hearing the sound of “a river of water” below their floor and in our shared kitchen wall for months now.

Little do the landlords know they are being sued now. And I have several other apartments as witnesses to the debacle that is their slum-lord style.

Now, only question I have left is- 72 hours after this mess, can a plunber tell what happened? Or will the subsequent damage of water sitting for days between floors render diagnosis useless?

Is there any chance that your toilet may be running? Not overflowing, but maybe just old enough so that it continually uses a bit of water? If so, that could combine with some dislodged waste pipes to cause the problem you’re seeing.

How’s the tile and caulk around your bath/shower? I suppose if it were crumbling, then water could have built up and be dripping.

Unfortunately, leaks have a way of traveling a long way and it may be quite difficult to pinpoint without ripping a lot of stuff apart (I can see why your landlord is reluctant to do it, although there really isn’t much option.)

As a drain cleaner, I’d try to reproduce whatever it was that created the problem.

I’d run each fixture one at a time, starting at the top floor and having the people below ready to scream when something happened.

I’m assuming floor 3 is the top floor. If you’re friendly with the people below I’d use the phone and start going through these fixtures, the shower, sink then a few flushes of the toilet all one at a time. Sometimes you have to run water for a while before it starts backing up.

I’d do this before a plumber gets there because either they’ll do the same thing or just start gutting stuff, making a giant mess. It’s always ahelp if you can tell them that “the problem only happens when I ruin the hand basin, but not the toilet” or whatever.

It is possible that the water jet RR used helped to speed up a problem. They rarely burst pipes on their own but sometimes old pipes are held together by the dirt inside them. There could be a large break or just a hairline crack inside the wall causing the problem.

The camera that someone previously mentioned works really well and most of them have transmitters in them that can pinpoint exactly where the problem is.

good luck
It doesn’t sound like a water line because that would be a constant leak until a valve was closed, at which point something’s not going to have water getting TO it.

Inkleberry, how about an update? Did a plumber ever come out? If so, what did they find? Hope this all gets resolved OK for you.