Forum Title: Toilet water bubbling and sputtering
Let me start with the problem, and then I’ll provide some background. I live in a typical suburban neighborhood of homes built in the mid-1950s. Every year or so, the city cleans out the main sewer line down the center of the street using some kind of long cable, probably a pressure sprayer. When they do this, my two first-floor toilets bubble and sputter some water all over the bathroom floors. No sewage comes up, just enough toilet water splash to be a nuisance but not a catastrophe. It’s been happening annually for years. Last month we finally replaced our sewer line connection in the front yard because tree roots were getting into the old clay pipe. We now have three sewer cleanouts in the front yard: one near the street, and two near the house. I told the plumber ahead of time about the sputtering toilets, and he put a "Sewer Popper" on one of the cleanouts near the house to hopefully stop the problem. He recommended that as a cheaper alternative to a more expensive backwater valve.Sewer Popper link You know what happens next: the city did their annual cleaning a couple of days ago, and our toilets still sputtered water just like before. I called the city the same day and they sent out the guys who were doing the sewer cleaning that very morning. They checked the line from the property line to the city pipe, and it’s clear. One of the city guys said they already use a lower PSI on their cleaning equipment in this area. I think he said 500 PSI rather than a number in the thousands. He left the cap off the cleanout near the street and recommended leaving it that way, but he also said the cap was ALREADY loose and that it’s common to keep them that way. If the cap was already loose (I don’t know for sure), then there was an air gap near the property line AND the Sewer Popper closer to the house, but sputtering still occurred when the city did their line maintenance. I have not called the plumber who did the work yet. It was a decent chunk of money to replace the sewer line, and I was hoping to be rid of the sputtering problem in addition to just having a sewer line that would no longer clog up from tree roots. What are my options? Here are some ideas I could think of, and I’m interested in your opinions.* Wait and see what happens next year with the cleanout for sure opened up near the street.* Prop open the Sewer Popper with something to provide an air gap closer to the house. I read elsewhere on the web that it’s wrong to expect it to pop open just for air. Rising water is really necessary.* Call the city back and see if there is more they could do. For example, if they opened a separate cleanout on their line while snaking the problematic one, maybe air would vent there rather than inside my house.* Get a backwater valve installed. Thanks for your help. -Russ
Category: Plumber Post By: SARA PRICE (Charleston, SC), 07/13/2017

I did call my plumber. He thinks that leaving the cleanout open near the property line should provide enough of an air gap to prevent sputtering toilets when the city cleans the main sewer line. He suggested that the cleanout cover likely wasn't left open enough (if at all) when the sputtering did occur. He also suggested removing the Sewer Popper lid on the cleanout near the house. It's concealed inside of one of those rectangular green access boxes, so I went ahead and did that. Now I'll just wait until next year to see what happens when the city cleans the main sewer line again. There is a vertical pipe that vents the sewer line in the subfloor up and out through the roof. I'm going to hold off on checking it for clogs. There is a good chance it could be clogged, but I'm hoping the two other openings will do the trick. Does this seem like a reasonable approach?

- JEROME SCHNEIDER (Warner Robins, GA), 09/11/2017

Is your home on a hill and is the street level? Are you the first home at the end of a sewer line? When they pressure wash sewer lines they use a lot of water at I believe around 10,000 psi or more. Someone will correct me if I am wrong, but there is so much water and pressure coming to your bath room that it could blow water back up through your toilet causing the bubbling and girgeling you experience. Does water come up through the lower traps in you home, the tub or shower? The head used by the city on their hose can have a small hole with water jetting out forward but they also can have jets blowing on a 45 degree angle backward so when they go through any stoppage or lots of paper in the sewer, the backward jets flush the debris toward the city manhole so they can vaccume it out. Another thought is that perhaps your home isn't vented properly or with large enough vents to equal the size of the main sewer line coming into your home. A vent could have a partial blockage in it not allowing the pressure from the city's work to escape and cause the toilets to bubble. You will have to be a detective and eliminate every possibility.

- ANDRE MCDANIEL (Norwich, CT), 09/23/2017

sloren, thanks for the response and for the ideas on things to check. It definitely gives me some questions to ask the plumber. The neighborhood is completely flat and level. I may be near one end of the sewer line because I can see the city truck out my front window at the manhole one house down when they are cleaning the main sewer line and the sputtering is occurring. And -- forgot to mention this in my original post -- my neighbor in that house has sputtering toilets too.

- LUCILLE HANSON (Southfield, MI), 10/11/2017

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