Jump to content

Pump out nightmare


Featured Posts

Hey all, 

 

It's a bit early to tell yet, but my mind is jumping to the worst so I thought I'd put a post on here. I've recently moved into a 57ft narrowboat. Despite getting the all clear from my surveyor I have discovered that the pump out toilet tank is leaking. This combined with the fairly substantial sideways list (which I was reassured was due to the way it was fitted out) has lead me to believe that the tank might have been leaking into the bilge for a fairly long time. 

 

Has anyone had to deal with this before? I'm in the process of cutting out some access holes but my inverter wont run an angle grinder so I need to find some mains power to finish the job - why on earth would you fit out a boat without inspection hatches to the bilge! I wondered if I could just drop a smoker in the tank to find the leak, although judging by the wood around it, it has soaked in pretty thoroughly so I fear I may end up having to rip up the floor. 

 

I would greatly appreciate some advice, I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to do next. 

20240610_214815.JPG

20240610_214832 (2).JPG

Edited by MixingWizzard
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, MixingWizzard said:

I would greatly appreciate some advice, I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to do next. 

 

Buy a house? 

 

But more seriously, this is a particularly brutal lesson that boating is not like houses. Surveys are not worth the paper they are written on and boat-owning requires a substantial degree of practical ability or a hefty dose of good luck. If you have neither you will need to be seriously wealthy.

 

If you are sure the sheet tank is leaking (a commonplace problem) then you'll need to either get a new one made and fitted or switch to a cassette bog. A "Porta-Potti" from ebay will cost you about £75 or a new sheet tank maybe a £k or two. Plus a further hefty chunk of money to have the leaking one emptied, removed and disposed of. 

 

Boating can be very cheap for long periods punctuated by very large bills such as this. Sadly you drawn a short straw. This problem is probably why the previous owner sold the boat. 

 

Welcome to the forum by the way!! 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm sorry to break the news, but often the pump out tank is built in to the structure of the boat. In other words the base and probably at least one side of it will be the shell of the boat meaning that if you decide to have it removed it would have to be cut out from the rest of the boat. Hopefully you'll find the leak isn't too bad and that it can be easily repaired in situ.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thankfully this one is not built into the hull, and I'm fairly confident I could even get it out with one cut due to it's shape. I'm less worried about the tank as I was planning on replacing it with a composting toilet eventually - I'm more worried about what's happened underneath. I've got a good 5° list on the boat, which from experimentation takes about 500kg to correct. I was hoping this was just a fit out issue, or at the very worst water from the leaking mushroom vents that could be pumped out. 

 

I'm trying to think of a way of dealing with compost under the floor that doesn't end up with me effectively fitting it out from scratch, but perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

10 minutes ago, MixingWizzard said:

Thankfully this one is not built into the hull, and I'm fairly confident I could even get it out with one cut due to it's shape. I'm less worried about the tank as I was planning on replacing it with a composting toilet eventually - I'm more worried about what's happened underneath. I've got a good 5° list on the boat, which from experimentation takes about 500kg to correct. I was hoping this was just a fit out issue, or at the very worst water from the leaking mushroom vents that could be pumped out. 

 

 

If the list is due to effluent sloshing around in the bilge, temporarily over-correcting the list by adding some weight should make the fluid all flow to the other side of the boat and the list re-appear on the other side. If this doesn't happen then it is probably a fit-out/ballasting problem. 

 

Or the boat might even be deliberately ballasted so the list reverses when the effluent tank is full. It the tank on the centreline of the boat or off to one side? What sort of volume does it hold? 

 

Re composting bogs, these are a right can of worms on a narrowboat. Several long and bad-tempered threads on here if you have a search! 

 

 

 

P.S. effluent in the bilge will be corroding the steel but it takes decades to do any serious damage, so no particular hurry to solve it immediately.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, MixingWizzard said:

Thankfully this one is not built into the hull, and I'm fairly confident I could even get it out with one cut due to it's shape. I'm less worried about the tank as I was planning on replacing it with a composting toilet eventually - I'm more worried about what's happened underneath. I've got a good 5° list on the boat, which from experimentation takes about 500kg to correct. I was hoping this was just a fit out issue, or at the very worst water from the leaking mushroom vents that could be pumped out. 

 

I'm trying to think of a way of dealing with compost under the floor that doesn't end up with me effectively fitting it out from scratch, but perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Is the tank full and leaking from the vent pipes or filter that some people often put on the vent. My tank if offset and from empty to full I move 70Kg from one side to the other.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, MtB said:

P.S. effluent in the bilge will be corroding the steel but it takes decades to do any serious damage, so no particular hurry to solve it immediately.

I removed two steel pumpout tanks from Belfast. Had to cut them up in situ with an angle grinder. The tops of both tanks were heavily corroded on the inside with only rust blocking the perforations in many places. But the bottoms and sides were almost as good as the day the tanks were built some 25-30 years earlier. So I wouldn't worry too much about the effect on the hull.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, MtB said:

composting bogs, these are a right can of worms on a narrowboat

If your composting loo is full of worms, you'd better review your diet!

2 hours ago, MtB said:

If the list is due to effluent sloshing around in the bilge, temporarily over-correcting the list by adding some weight should make the fluid all flow to the other side of the boat and the list re-appear on the other side. If this doesn't happen then it is probably a fit-out/ballasting problem. 

 

Surely a serious, or even a mild effluent leak would be noticeable from the smell alone?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just an update. My attempts at creating an access hatch have failed. I can't get any of the tiles up. With a bit of an excavation with a drill it appears my floor is tile on MDF, with what appears to be a concrete subfloor - is it possible the bottom of the boat has just been filled with concrete?! That seems like a terrible idea. It might explain the list though - if it's just a flat concrete base it won't have been balanced properly. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 minute ago, MixingWizzard said:

Just an update. My attempts at creating an access hatch have failed. I can't get any of the tiles up. With a bit of an excavation with a drill it appears my floor is tile on MDF, with what appears to be a concrete subfloor - is it possible the bottom of the boat has just been filled with concrete?! That seems like a terrible idea. It might explain the list though - if it's just a flat concrete base it won't have been balanced properly. 

 

Yes it is possible, several builders have done it, and yes it is a terrible idea.

 

If the concrete is below the MDF then it is very likely unless you hut a paving slab, but one would hope there would be an air gap above the paving slabs.

Edited by Tony Brooks
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Tony Brooks said:

 

Yes it is possible, several builders have done it, and yes it is a terrible idea.

 

If the concrete is below the MDF then it is very likely unless you hut a paving slab, but one would hope there would be an air gap above the paving slabs.

The MDF is completely flush to the concrete so I'm almost certain this is the case. There also isn't at hint of hollowness when banging on the floor. At least this means I'm unlikely to have effluent under the flooring, although I'm not sure what it means for future maintenance. 

 

Thankfully the hull is pretty sound. It was built in 2000, and at its worst it was 0.4mm down from 6mm. Even that was a galvanic issue rather that internal degradation so I'm not overly worried. 

 

Now for the joyous task of tearing out the bathroom and removing the offending tank! Thank you for all your advice. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You'd definitely know if the tank has a leak into the bilge, due to the smell. And if its a dump through, you could check the level easily. A starting point would be to try actually pumping it out under vacuum, but if it is a leak (and even if its not.........since you have a significant list) you'll need to create 1 or more access holes in the floor. If you can't create them, go to a boatyard and ask them to do it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 hours ago, MtB said:

 

P.S. effluent in the bilge will be corroding the steel but it takes decades to do any serious damage, so no particular hurry to solve it immediately.

No hurry? If I had a bilge full of 'effluent' I would want to clean it out sooner rather than later 

 

It's not going to be a fun job but no one  else is going to volunteer to do it .

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

36 minutes ago, ditchcrawler said:

What boat have you got and who was the builder, I would expect a 10mm base on a boat built in 2000, not 6mm

My mistake, I was talking about the sides, the base is 10mm and also with very little sign of corrosion. The builder is unknown but it definitely exhibits some annoying design flaws, such as a leaky side hatch (now resolved) and poor drainage above the engine bay. Then again the surveyor can't cover every inch of it so you never know what's going on under the concrete - for all I know it could have a crack in it which has rusted a nice line all the way around the hull!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A house has domestic water, gas, electricity pipes and cables coming in; and a waste water pipe out, which is essentially taken for granted. A boat, by necessity, is a sealed "box" which is floating on water, it is necessary to get those things in and out of the boat by other means than utilities companies providing them for a monthly fee.

 

I would suggest its not too complicated a fix:

 

1. Create some access hatches.

2. Inspect thoroughly to determine if/where the contents of the pump out waste tank is leaking.

3. (Probably wearing rubber gloves due to the chemicals used in the loo) sponge or mop or wipe the effluent up

4. Thoroughly rinse underfloor

5. Repeat steps 3-4 until the fluid is odourless and has no taint.

 

6. Determine where the pump out waste tank is leaking

7. Deconstruct bathroom area around the leak/tank

8. Weld repairs and/or new panels to make the tank watertight once more

 

If it is a separate tank, and not part of the boat metalwork, it should be possible to remove the tank then refit a new one of the same shape/size.

 

 

  • Greenie 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 11/06/2024 at 10:12, MixingWizzard said:

Thankfully this one is not built into the hull, and I'm fairly confident I could even get it out with one cut due to it's shape. I'm less worried about the tank as I was planning on replacing it with a composting toilet eventually - I'm more worried about what's happened underneath. I've got a good 5° list on the boat, which from experimentation takes about 500kg to correct. I was hoping this was just a fit out issue, or at the very worst water from the leaking mushroom vents that could be pumped out. 

 

I'm trying to think of a way of dealing with compost under the floor that doesn't end up with me effectively fitting it out from scratch, but perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. 

 

Have a look here :

https://www.justheaven.org.uk/2018/08/new-holding-tank/

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When the top of the pump out tank on our boat decided to perforate, I just emptied it washed inside thoroughly, intending to fill it with spray foam but I never did. I then ripped out the macerator and fitted a cassette toilet instead.   

I didn't remove it as it meant destroying the bathroom and bedroom woodwork.

Think long and hard before trying to remove it as it's not easy and there is always a way round it. Composting toilets are not an option on a NB unless you have somewhere to fully compost the waste.

  • Greenie 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

48 minutes ago, GUMPY said:

When the top of the pump out tank on our boat decided to perforate, I just emptied it washed inside thoroughly, intending to fill it with spray foam but I never did. I then ripped out the macerator and fitted a cassette toilet instead.   

I didn't remove it as it meant destroying the bathroom and bedroom woodwork.

Think long and hard before trying to remove it as it's not easy and there is always a way round it. Composting toilets are not an option on a NB unless you have somewhere to fully compost the waste.

 

Which narrowboats don't have, unless perhaps they have a mooring and little pots of shit everywhere in varying states of maturity are attractive to the neighbours.

 

And on a CCing boat the temptation to empty them into a CRT bin "a little bit too soon" must be overwhelming. Then it slips to "a lot too soon", them eventually becomes "immediately you see one".

 

Composting bogs on boats really are best avoided. 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Plastic effluent tanks are available from TEK Tanks or the appropriately named CAK Tanks. You can get bespoke sizes/shapes made if necessary & I'd go for plastic if you decide to stick with pumpout. FWIW I'd go for cassette in your position, have a couple spare, no paying for pumpouts or their associated problems. I had an all singing all dancing fresh water flushing macerator bog on my boat, after dismantling it all, cleaning & reassembling it a couple of times I ripped the lot out it was a nightmare to me but others seem to get on alright with them. Now have a close to zero maintenance bog & a very large tool locker where the effluent tank was. You know it makes sense...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 hours ago, Crewcut said:

Plastic effluent tanks are available from TEK Tanks or the appropriately named CAK Tanks. You can get bespoke sizes/shapes made if necessary & I'd go for plastic if you decide to stick with pumpout. FWIW I'd go for cassette in your position, have a couple spare, no paying for pumpouts or their associated problems. I had an all singing all dancing fresh water flushing macerator bog on my boat, after dismantling it all, cleaning & reassembling it a couple of times I ripped the lot out it was a nightmare to me but others seem to get on alright with them. Now have a close to zero maintenance bog & a very large tool locker where the effluent tank was. You know it makes sense...

 

Mintball has a custom built plastic  tank from Midland Chandlers ( When they did those sort of things )  - I dread the day if we decide to take it out as it went in sideways

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.