Plumbers, HVAC contractors, and electricians have all seen their share of "WHAT is that?" There have been all kinds of bizarre installations, and every time a contractor sees one of these installations, it boggles their mind. If you are currently having a problem with your plumbing in a house that you did not pay to have built for you (i.e., a house that was already standing for decades), then you might have much bigger plumbing problems than you thought. You might even have some of the weirder problems that these contractors and repair people see sometimes. Here is why:
Previous Owners May Have Tried to Fix Things Themselves
Houses dating back over a hundred years undoubtedly had multiple owners. During the Great Depression and WWII, people could not afford to pay professionals to come and fix what was wrong in their homes. They would pay handymen to fix things, and the handymen were not skilled laborers of any sort (not usually, anyway). Homeowners sometimes tried to fix things themselves, rigging up their own repairs to their plumbing and electrical systems. Some of this DIY or "handymen" work may still be lurking in your home when you begin to have problems with the plumbing.
Previous Owners May Also Have Tried to DIY Improvements
Back before indoor plumbing was a thing, people were trying to figure out how indoor plumbing worked. They installed all kinds of crazy systems to make their plumbing work. In more recent years, the craze to DIY home improvements has caused many unskilled homeowners to attempt plumbing changes. The results, while temporarily effective, eventually fail. Then the next owners of the house are stuck fixing the mess (with a plumber's help, of course).
City Streets Plumbing Could Cause Problems Too
On top of whatever strange plumbing is lurking in your old home, city street work can cause problems too. A lot of times when city planners set construction workers to widening or narrowing streets, the plumbing does not always mesh with the pipes that come from people's houses. Then the sewage reaches high levels in the city pipes and backs up into homes. If your plumber ascertains that the problems you are having have something to do with the recent street work by the city, you should take the assessment to the city to discuss how the matter might be fixed, and who is supposed to fix it.