Dampness around waste water pipe
September 3, 2021 2:30 PM   Subscribe

There is noticeable dampness on and around the main waste water pipe where it exits our old house. Obviously I need to get this looked at, but how immediate a problem is it?

It's an old cast iron waste pipe in the crawlspace area of our stone foundation house. We are planning to replace it at some point, but it seems eventually may have moved up. We did have heavy rains a few days ago, but the dampness seems to be coming from the pipe itself. I didn't find an obvious source of a leak with a quick inspection.

It's the start of a holiday weekend, and my partner, who is less panicky about house matters than I am, is away for the weekend.

Is this something I need to get a plumber out for asap, or is it reasonable to wait until after the long weekend, assuming the situation doesn't deteriorate? If it can wait, is there something I should do in the meantime to help diagnose and/or alleviate the issue?

Please tell me if you think it's an immediate issue, of course, but I would prefer not to get horror stories in response to this question. I have discovered myself to be extremely anxious about home maintenance, and will listen to straightforward advice without the need for cautionary tales. Thanks!
posted by the primroses were over to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
Could it be condensation? I'm not sure how you discovered this in the first place, did you go looking for dampness on your house's wastewater pipe? Is it next to your laundry area? I mean, stone foundations are notorious for dampness. My vote is condensation, don't worry about it, and don't look back.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:15 PM on September 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: For more clarity, I noticed a damp spot on the crawlspace floor around the pipe when I went in there to get something.

I've since gone back and there seems to be drip from somewhere near the top of the pipe or possibly in the plumbing above, though I still haven't pinpointed the source. Some of the wood boards near the pipe are wet, and the source is definitely above ground level, so I think I'll be calling a plumber.

More advice is still appreciated though!
posted by the primroses were over at 3:30 PM on September 3, 2021

Best answer: Very reasonable to wait until next week! A few days is not likely to change anything even if something is dripping a little (which may or may not be the case). This is not a rush at all.
posted by ssg at 3:58 PM on September 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

This could be a roof issue rather than a plumbing problem. That pipe is likely to go all the way up and through the roof as a vent. When the rubber skirt that seals around the vent gets brittle and cracks with age and sun, rain can run down along the pipe all the way to the basement.
posted by jon1270 at 4:35 PM on September 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: For pinpointing the source of a leak, it is often helpful to dry the area as throughly as possible, then place paper (newspaper, paper towels, cardboard, etc) in the area. If there is a drip, the paper will be wet below the drip. If you put down several layers and check before the paper becomes saturated, you can tell if you have a drip from above or seepage from below. And for longer term troubleshooting, because paper will show water damage, you can tell if there was a leak that dried up before you checked back, or it has been dry and leak-free the whole time.

You may also wish to run water down the relevant drain(s) and go to the crawlspace to see if you can find anything different, in case it only leaks when water is running.

Assuming that you don't find something worse than a small leak and dampness, I agree with SSG, it is unlikely to do any further damage to wait until next week to get a plumber out. It sounds like this is an old issue that you just discovered, not a new issue, so whatever is wet is already wet, and it probably won't be any worse for waiting another week. If you can determine the source of the leak is related to a particular fixture, then avoid using that drain, but otherwise, make a non emergency appointment for a plumber and carry on through the weekend.
posted by yuwtze at 5:30 PM on September 3, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks from the bottom of my anxiety brain's heart! I am monitoring the leak to try to narrow down a cause and not panicking. I think it might be from an upstairs shower that I can avoid using until I'm ready to get someone out here.
posted by the primroses were over at 9:29 AM on September 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

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