Pictured above is a plumbing stack. For most homes this main plumbing pipe runs vertically from the basement floor through all levels of a house and exits through the roof. While new construction uses PVC pipe for this purpose, most all other homes have used cast iron. In some instances, given the right conditions, the cast iron can split open. This is often referred to as “a cracked stack” and needs to be replaced immediately.
If left untended, the cracked stack will definitely emit foul sewer gas and in some cases will leak raw sewage and deposit it on the basement floor.
It is not uncommon for there to be 2 or more stacks in a home. An area of the home that is separately plumbed may be a guest suite. These don’t get regular use and dry out, contributing to the stack rotting out. These guest suites are used during the holiday season and the cracked stack reveals itself at this time. So, while it’s good to see relatives visit for the holiday season, their presence will potentially lead to an unwanted plumbing repair.
There are two types of cast iron stacks. One is a rolled casted iron that has a seam. The other is actually cast as one solid pipe. One would think that the poured cast would be superior. But this particular type of poured cast iron was “Service Grade” cast iron which actually has a thinner wall than other cast iron. Consequently, it is prone to rotting.
In the situation where this particular piece of rotten stacked was encountered, the pipe was plumbed horizontally to connected with a downstream vertical main stack. At first sight, a layman would think this service grade cast iron stack rotted out along the bottom edge. But, in fact, it has rotted out along the top side of the pipe. This is because the pipe never was cleaned out. It would be much more clean if it were used on a daily basis, because water would flush the pipe. But since it was used sparingly by guests, there was a build up of organic raw sewage inside the pipe. The pipe was half way full for the entire stretch of this plumbing line. As a result, highly acidic vapor and condensation clung to the underside of the top edge of the pipe, slowly eating it away!
For areas of a home that don’t get much use, many people think that they are being frugal by not using the plumbing. They think they are saving money on water and sewer charges. In effect, they are creating a plumbing nightmare. The lesson to be learned is not to allow your plumbing to dry out.
At Verne & Ellsworth Hann our plumbing staff has encountered more cracked stacks in a single year than some plumbing companies deal with in their business lifetime. We able to quickly diagnose the issue and are able to removed the old stack and re-plumb in a new stack. The jobsite is always left clean.
If you’re planning on having guests in for the holiday, maybe you should have Verne & Ellsworth Hann out to do a plumbing inspection of your home so that there are no unwelcomed surprises.
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