View Full Version : Old house - What are these things?

Wade Lippman
11-22-2017, 8:26 PM
My son bought a 107 year old house. I spent a few hours pulling out old dead wires from the basement; its been rewired a few times, but they didn't bother to remove anything. Not to mention lots of old pipes and ducts; but those aren't easily removed. There are a few things I don't understand. Well, more than a few things, but these are the oddest.
This is in the basement floor. It measures maybe one by two feet. The white pipe is a drain from the A/C. There is an empty piece of conduit going into it, and a black cable goes to it from the electrical panel. There are two 1/2" copper pipes coming out of it, cut off at the surface.
The inspector said he had no idea what it was.

This is in the backyard. If it was in the front I would figure it had to do with the sewer, but can't imagine why it would be in the backyard.

Any ideas.

Scott T Smith
11-22-2017, 8:32 PM
Lots of old houses has cisterns; your backyard photo appears to be a cistern cover.

The other photo appears to be some type of sump.

Lee Schierer
11-23-2017, 8:21 AM
Either a cistern or a dry sink for draining water from the kitchen sink or possibly a septic tank. I would suggest pulling the cover and determining what is underneath it. Some old septic tanks were iron and rust to the point of failure. If it is a tank and no longer used it should be filled with gravel.

Dan Hunkele
11-23-2017, 8:29 AM
That appears to be a cistern in the backyard as Scott said. I had one at my last house which was fed by the downspout from the roof. There was a pipe from it into the basement and I assume a Jet well pump was hooked to it at an earlier time and the water was used for maybe showers and laundry.

Ronald Blue
11-23-2017, 10:14 AM
Cistern's used to be common. They collected rain water from the gutters and used for various things. I think most commonly to save the well and do laundry and bathes with it. When I was a kid we had a separate faucet at the kitchen sink. It wasn't for drinking. I don't recall if it was used for cooking things that the water would be boiled during preparation. The other advantage was it was "soft" water. No minerals in it and nothing to cause stains from iron or build up from lime. I initially thought it might have been part of a gas light system and generator but I don't think it is. I think that it likely was for the rain water collection and use.

Curt Harms
11-24-2017, 10:07 AM
The other advantage was it was "soft" water. No minerals in it and nothing to cause stains from iron or build up from lime.

That's what I remember. I grew up in an area where the bedrock was limestone and the water was pretty hard. The eaves led to a downspout with a diverter. Rainwater could be routed into an underfloor cistern or, if the cistern was full, to the ground away from the house.

Mark Bolton
11-24-2017, 11:24 AM
I remember a lot of older homes (an not so old homes) that had a galvanized pail, perhaps 20 to 30 gallons that sat in a receiver in the ground (either a concrete or steel tube) with a hinged cast iron lid and a foot actuated tab on the lid. You would carry your kitchen waste out to this receptacle, step on the tab, lid opened, and you dump all your kitchen waste into this pail (round galvanized cylinder with a bail handle on it like a giant paint can). Once a week the hog man would come down the street, walk up, pull the galvanized pail out of the receiver and dump it in his trailer, and put the empty pail back in for you to fill for next week. These were often in the back yard right near the kitchen door so the Mrs' didnt have to walk very far out of the kitchen. She got rid of her smelly kitchen waste that would sit in the trash til' trash man came and hog man got great slop for his hogs.

Just another option