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 Bubbling Toilet and Slow Tub Drain
Author: Anthony1981 (CA)

Hello, and thank you in advance for any help. I did read through other threads before posting, but didn't find anything related to my issue.

After a long bout of rain a few weeks ago, I noticed my toilet bubbling when doing a load of laundry. The toilet bubbled a bit every time the washer would drain, and the water level doubled, then it would slowly drain to almost nothing. Some water even seeped up from the bathtub drain in the same bathroom. When I flushed, the water would simply rise a bit higher in the bowl, and more water would seep into the tub. The laundry area is further away from the bathroom, and the bathroom is closer to the main drain to the city sewer. No issues with other drains is present.

Everything was fine once I allowed the water to drain, and after the toilet bowl water level sunk to almost nothing. Flushing was powerful and no backup in tub. However, the problem cropped up again the next morning when showering. The tub started bubbling again like before, so I left the water on in the shower, and the shower backed up as well. Again, once everything drained the water level in toilet would drop significantly, and then perform optimally after.

I figured this was a blockage in the bathroom area, so I snaked through the tub with my 25 foot snake. I also used enzyme treatments. I even decided to snake the laundry drain as well. The problem persisted for days so I checked the vents for the bathroom--no visual blockage was seen. There are three vents on the roof, and I started with one by running hose water through. My house mate said the toilet bubbled and water backed up into the tub, but with a "whoosh" everything drained. We tested the drains and all was fine for about two days (shower and washer draining caused no issues, and believe me we tested well), and then the problem re-occurred. I snaked the bathroom area well once again to no avail. I then snaked our main line with a 75' power snake--rented from Home Depot. I went through four times and barely felt resistance throughout, or pulled out anything. When I uncapped the main line access, lots of water was present, however.

This did nothing and the problem was unchanged. Frustrated I check the other vents on the roof, and found that one actually filled up with water when I used the hose. I snaked the vent pipe and kept hitting an unmovable force (not sure what it is, and cannot see from above. The water did drain from the pipe the next day, but our problem is still present.

Could this be a blockage in our main line--further down than the 75' snake could reach? Or could this be a venting issue since one of the bathroom vents filled with water when using the hose? The fact that clearing one of the vents helped is making me think I need to focus there. But any other suggestions or thoughts are greatly appreciated before I move forward.

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 Re: Bubbling Toilet and Slow Tub Drain
Author: North Carolina Plumber (NC)

The blockage is in the main drain, probably just out of reach of your sewer cleaning machine. The vents are not the problem.

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 Re: Bubbling Toilet and Slow Tub Drain
Author: Anthony1981 (CA)

That's where I've been leaning as well, but got thrown off when running water through the vent helped clear things up. Any idea why we had two days of clear drains after that? Did we push the blockage down further?

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 Re: Bubbling Toilet and Slow Tub Drain
Author: North Carolina Plumber (NC)

Yes, I think that's exactly what happened.

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 Re: Bubbling Toilet and Slow Tub Drain
Author: Anthony1981 (CA)

Thank you for providing me with a plan of attack. I used the 75' power snake because I thought the length was more than enough to go from our main access through the service lateral. I guess I could rent the 100' and do it once more. Our neighbor has a 50' manual snake and he's offering to help snake it from the tub again, but I'm not sure if 50' would be enough--although the tub and bathroom area is much closer than our main line access point, which is further toward the back of the house. I'm in an older home (1943) and haven't had this problem before. I do my best to maintain our pipes with preventative measures, but I'm thinking this cropped up due to our low-flow toilet. It was installed in April of 2016, and this happened 8 months later. That's the only real plumbing change since moving into this home a decade ago.

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