Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Gutter Guards

 When the new roof and solar system was installed, they also took down the old gutters and put up new ones.  But the crud that was in the French drain re-enforced the concept of putting screens over the gutters to keep out leaves and twigs.  I think I've already put them on the sections of the roof that run along both sides of the garage.  I don't think we need them on the gutter in the back -- it gets very little in terms of leaves and in any case just runs out into the yard.  We don't have gutters along the West side of the house.  So that just leaves the front gutter.

We found the cheapest gutter guards available, from Home Depot, consisting of 3 foot sections of plastic screens.

We slid them under the last row of shingles and push them onto the front edge of the gutter.

Until we had them covering the entire front gutter.

French Drain Camera

 Kyle showed up this morning with the drain camera.  The camera is on the tip of a long cable and communicates with a specialized iPad in a case.

The camera and cable go down into the clean out pipe and transmit video back to the computer which displays and records it.

Most of the video is uninteresting -- just a long sequence of a white pipe.

But you can see, in the upper left corner, a time-stamp.  And in the lower left corner, in white, in brackets, how far down the pipe we are.

As I said, mostly it's uninteresting, but occasionally, you hit a joint

Or here, at 9 feet in, we have gone under the gate into the back yard and are turning to go over and run along the fence.

At 18 feet, we are along the fence and turn to run parallel to it.

Further down, we run into some twigs that got into the drain and have not yet been flushed down or decomposed.  We actually ran into some at 26 and 34, but the camera will actually push them down the pipe as it moves forward.

At 53 feet, we hit another turn, where the side fence stops at the fence along the back of the lot (on the West side) and turns to continue down the back yard.

Then, at 59 feet, the bottom of the pipe seems to fall off.  Kyle says this looks like the pipe has been broken or collapsed.

And a few feet more, a massive root ball.  Kyle says this is most likely from the big old oak tree in the back.

Then, to know exactly where the camera is, Kyle could turn the cable into an antenna of some kind generating a signal that he could pick up with a locator device to follow the cable from the clean out pipe down the back yard to exactly where this root ball is, and he marked it on the ground with a big white circle ( and I stuck a yellow flag).

So we know exactly where the problem is.  I can dig down and find the French drain at this location, take it apart, repair it and we will be back in business.  Also this would be a good spot for another clean-out pipe.  Apparently, good practice is a clean-out pipe every 50 feet.

Monday, June 3, 2024

French Drain stops working

 The French drain was put in back in 2003 and has been working fine since then.  It was extended and terminated into the blue rock pool in 2008, and then the front end was rebuilt when we built the retaining wall in the front yard.  We exposed parts of it when we moved the gas line, and when we dug out the stumps of the two elm trees.

But when we got the roof replaced in 2023 and new gutters installed, it seemed to stop working.  Heavy rains would cause the downspout in the front West corner to overflow and erode away the dirt around where the downspout went underground to enter the French drain.

The first step to fixing this is to expose the end of the French drain in the blue rock pool in the backyard, between the Bamboo Grove and Zone 7.

The pipes in the French drain should terminate at the rock wall, under the rock.  So first we remove the blue rocks.

That exposes a badly weathered landscape cloth.  Removing that we find a layer of limestone rock.

Removing that, we get down to the actual pipes. 

The center one, sticking out the most, is the main pipe that should go all the way back to the downspout.  The other two, one on the left and one on the right should be perferated drain lines that run parallel to the main pipe, just to drain more.  The main pipe is 39 inches from the fence, and down 16 inches from the top of the rock wall between Zone 7 and the blue rock pool.

We can test for a problem by putting a house in the downspout and turning on the water.  After a long enough time, the downspout is full of water, but nothing is coming out of the pipes in the blue rock pool.

If we put a hose up the pipe from the blue rock pool, we get about 30 feet up the pipe before hitting something that keeps us from going further up.  But we do manage to flush out a dark material we believe is decomposing leaves and the protective granules from the asphalt roofing.

In trying to understand the French drain, we notice old pictures of it showed a clean-out pipe which would now be under, or in, the Rive of Rocks, and digging just a little, we find that.

Pushing the hose down from this clean-out pipe into the French drain, we only get about 9 or 10 feet before it stops.

But the French drain is not just a straight pipe.  It was imagined originally as going along the fence, and only later brought over to attach to the downspout.  So it goes from the clean-out pipe back under the fence gate and then turns right to the fence.  There it turns left and follows the fence down until the fence turns left again and follows the fence to the blue rock pool.  So there are 3 turns.  I think those were 30 degree turns, but possibly 45 degrees, or a mix of the two.  Those turns may be what is stopping the hose.

We tried a Large Drain Bladder from Home Depot ($21.97).  That is a balloon type device that you hook to a garden hose and then stick into your clogged drain.  The water pressure causes the bladder to expand until it seals the drain and then water shoots out the end at high pressure washing away any clog and debris.  Putting it in at the clean-out should then push all the roof granules and decomposed leaves out the other end into the blue rock pool.

That didn't do anything either.  After running the water for about 10 minutes, there was some seepage from the pipes at the blue rock pool.

So we called a Radiant Plumbing to clean out the line.  They could come out two days later.  Matt showed up and after inspecting things offered three solutions: (1) a water blaster for $740, (2) a rotating cable for more, or (3) both the water blaster and the rotating cable for $1074.82.  We went for the least expensive -- the water blaster.

That was similar to what I had done, but with better equipment.  The water blaster put out much higher pressure out the front to break up any clogs, and also put water out the back to (a) move the head forward into the pipe all by itself, and (b) to push anything that was loosened up back out the pipe.  We tried it from the clean-out pipe

and from the blue rock pool back up the pipe.

And then back to the clean-out pipe again.  But we were getting nothing.  Well, almost nothing.  There were small artifacts of PVC pipe and some small pieces of shingle that had worked there way into the drain, but unless there were more, bigger, pieces that didn't really tell us anything.

 So we decided to try the cable snake to see if that would clear things out.

It seemed to get a bit further, but it was hitting something solid and could not get all the way thru the drain.

But we were able to get some flow.  Putting water in at the clean-out pipe would cause water to come out at the blue rock pool, but out of the wrong pipe!  It seemed to come out of the left pipe, not the center one.  Which made no real sense.

Since we had some flow (although we did not understand why), we had done as much as it seemed we could.  The cable hitting something hard was puzzling too.  So the suggestion was to bring a drain camera out and put it down the clean-out pipe.  The drain camera would give us a good view of what was in the French drain, and that would tell us what was needed next.