Friday, October 14, 2011

Plumbing Results

The drain is clear. For now.

After augering, the plumbing company offered a camera tour of our sewer connection -- free! Gratis! Gee, I wonder why...

...But not for long, as the camera revealed roots remaining and a worrying dip in the old clay pipe. "It's a 6-inch pipe with a three-inch cleanout," the plumber explained, "There's gonna be roots left." (Darn it, they didn't offer a DVD! Tsk.)

While I'm much tempted to call up one of this city's fine concrete cutters,* get the cleanout holesawed out and have a plumber install a 6" cleanout (duh!), that doesn't seem to be the done thing.

Nope; replacement's the word, shiny high-tech plastic pipe, as modern as tomorrow. The plumber did his sums and dutifully offered up an estimate of $7686.00 Federal. That's over 3.5 times the cost of my car! I was at work by the time this was done; I explained as gently as I could that that same amount would pay for 30 drain augerings. "But a new sewer connection would be guaranteed for life," he countered.

As may be. $7.7K? I ain't got it and I don't see it falling from the sky any time soon. I'd have to slambang that chunk'o'change on a credit card, then be scrambling to pay it down ASAP. I'd do it if I had to but I don't have to right now.
* I was fascinated, 15-some years ago, to learn that this was a specialty and that there was very little one could think up along those lines that the better outfits could not do. Ever see a holesaw a yard across, run by a machine small enough to fit in a small washroom?


Tango Juliet said...


perlhaqr said...

Yeah. I got one of those estimates once. Rented myself a backhoe and dug out the bloody thing all by my lonesome. Ended up being lots and lots cheaper, but, of course, there was a significant labor penalty involved. Also, I was unemployed at the time, so it's not like I was taking time off work to do it.

Turns out the dirt in New Mexico is so hard in places that you can dig out a straight sided trench 5 feet deep and 2 feet wide. And the sides of the trench will be burnished shiny from the passage of the backhoe shovel.

Sport Pilot said...

That sounds a bit high to me too; FWIW I’d look into renting a smallish towable backhoe…

Purchase and run your own pipe doing the connection at the house and if required paying a licensed plumber to connect you to the municipality’s sewer line. I would expect your “housepainter” could be persuaded to do the grunt work.

og said...

Consider purchasing a drain snake and auguring out the drain as a prophylactic measure once in a while. You can often find a used Rigid model for not too much cash, Harbor Freight has a consumer model for about $300 which will handle up to a 4" cutter.

$300 once and prophylactic cleaning is much nicer than $8k or even $300 bucks two or three times a year, and it mostly consists of opening the cleanout and running the snake in and out a couple times, hosing off everything, and buttoning it back up.

At my house in Highland I got used to doing this, for many of the same reasons. On a fine day in spring and another in fall, we would run lye and hot water down the drains for a while, which made everything as clean as possible, and the lye softened the roots. Then a quick snaking, and button down.

Homer said...

Hmmm.....3" cleanout, 6" drain line. What's the cost for increasing the cleanout to >5" and running a 4" (nominal OD=4.0", actual OD=4.5") plastic waste line down inside the 6" pipe? That way any digging would be confined to the connection at the far end.

FYI, what's commonly used for buried 4 inch DVW (drain,vent,waste) piping is Schedule 40 pipe (.237" wall thickness); if structural integrity is an issue, Schedule 80 is available (.337" wall) thickness, as is Schedule 120 (.437" wall).

Both Schedule 40 and 80 are also available in 4.5" nominal OD (actual OD=5.0"), which even with the thicker wall of Schedule 80 will give you a slightly larger ID than 4" nominal Schedule 40 , and should still fit inside your 6" clay drain pipe (assuming that 6" is an ID not an OD, and that the "dip" is not so severe as to prevent sliding a 5" pipe past it).

Fred & Larry's Excellent Plumbing Supply Company probably won't have Schedule 80 anything in stock, much less 4.5" OD pipe (which will be tough to locate), but it can be ordered.

If you've got an actual 6" all the way out, increase the cleanout size, de-root the pipe to the walls, and fit a plastic pipe inside it. I've been away from this sort of stuff for a while, so it wouldn't surprise me to find that there's a flexible or semi-flexible replacement for 10 ft sections of rigid pipe that might accommodate the dip better. Probably have to be pulled in from the far end, it might be possible to push 10' sections of rigid pipe in from the house end, gluing as you go.

It'll still be spendy, but a lot less than buying X feet of trench...

BGMiller said...

My $O.02 worth...

Over the winter buy your pipe and fittings a section at a time.
Home Despot will rent you a wicked cool saw for a couple of bills that'll cut up the floor just fine and I'm sure between your house painter and a few loyal readers there would be enough bodies to make shovels perfectly workable.

Have the professional do your hook ups as has been mentioned.

Do it cleverly enough and you'd be disconnected from city service for less than an hour.

Time around an Indy 1500 or something special at the zoo and I'll volunteer. I'll even bring my own shovel and pick ax. Not going to sing Hi Ho or Gold, Gold, Gold though.


WV: coloto - Maybe it's a hint to fly to Denver and buy a ticket?

Bubblehead Les. said...

$7800 for a sewer line!? Oh Hell No! Here's what $7,000 just bought me:
"Remove and Replace existing DRIVEWAY, to include the following: New 12" catch Basin ("Crock"), and connecting it to drain line with #35 PVC Pipe (25 ft); 4" 4,000 psi Concrete; #10 Wire Mesh; Compacted Stone Base; Permits; Sealer; plus 6 ft. Concrete Apron Repair." And I got a Concrete Porch built into that through some Haggling, since the Front walk under picture window needed replacing also.

"Gee, let's see if we can charge a Single Woman the cost of a NEW CONCRETE DRIVEWAY. Nothing wrong with making a Buck off someone who doesn't know Construction, right?"

Find another Plumber, or have your roots trimmed once a year by some friends who can rent the Power Auger at the Tool Rental Shop.

karrde said...

re: concrete cutters

There's a guy I know who used to be in that business. The demand kept him busy.

He's told stories of work at hospitals, factories, in empty pools, and lots and lots of road projects. He even gave my Dad a cut-rate offer for adding an egress window through a basement wall. (I was surprised that there was a man-portable tool that could cut a straight line through a poured-concrete wall...)

Re the other ideas, I don't have a clue.

I've heard stories of plumbing-router-work, the impression I got was that it was rarely more than a yearly problem, if that.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

I know a guy with a backhoe.

Just saying.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Oh, also: Root-X

Anonymous said...

Homer & Bobbi,

The hot setup these days for "liners" is polyethylene, which is flexible enough to go through some fairish dips and bends. Individual pieces have to be joined using a special machine that melts it together, leaving a solid piece. There's a machine that pushes it and joins the pieces. I doubt it would fit in a basement, though.

jed said...

I see Nathan has mentioned Root-X already, and dollars to doughnuts the active ingredient is copper sulfate. A web search will provide many links for using such on roots. The method I have seen employed is not the twice/year treatment, but a more continuous feed. You tie a small handful of crystals into the toe from a nylon or pantyhose, and hang it in a vertical drain line at the cleanout. Replenish periodically.

Bruce H. said...

Root-X is not copper sulfate.

I use it once a year, when the trees first start to leaf and haven't had a problem for three years now.

The instructions say not to use it right after you've snaked the drain. Apparently live roots absorb the poison better than clipped off stubs.

Stranger said...

Nathan beat me to Root-X. It works, and "Liquid Fire" AKA Sulfuric Acid, will also discourage root intrusion.

One dose of Root-X generally lasts a year or more, and $7,000 worth of the stuff would last you 140 years or so.

Liquid Fire is about $22.00 a gallon at the big box store, and 93% sulfuric acid is about $30 for a 5 gallon bucket at the local chemical supply. Ask for "sewer acid."

The acid will leave the inside of the drains extremely clean, but will not harm cast iron, ceramic, or plastic pipe. Do not use acid on lead or copper drains.

A five gallon bucket trickled down the cleanout will remove grease, goop, guck, and roots. Quickly, although you will want to cap the cleanout while it works.

By the way, sulfuric acid will also make those icky looking but uncleanable toilet bowls squeaky clean, as well. Shut off tank supply, flush. A small amount of water will remain in the bowl.

Wearing eye protection, slowly pour a gallon of acid down the side of the bowl. The acid will force the remaining water out of the bowl and trap too quickly for overheating to become a problem.

After the bottom of the bottom of the bowl looks like new, turn the tanks supply back on, lower the lid, and flush the acid down the drain. Do wear eye protection, flush off any that splashes on you quickly.

Did I mention eye protection?


Roberta X said...

Living in the city, there are three reasons to hire a plumber for bi, strange of nasty jobs:

A) Experience. You may never have seen it before, but he has and he knows what's worked in the past.

B) Tools. If the job calls for something more esoteric than a basin wrench (I have one, don't you?), he already owns it or knows where to rent it.

C) He knows what the rules are, what permits are needed and what palms to cross to get them without hassles and on time.

In the case of a big "dig up the front yard and connect to city sewer mains" job, item C may be the most important. Certainly there are few ignominies worse than to be arrested for a crime involving sewers.

Roberta X said...

Root-X and augering as needed will be the order of the day until they stop working.

phlegmfatale said...

I feel your pain on the plumbing issue. If I did everything that "needs" doing on this house, then I'd rack up debt to equal the original sales price. For now I just have to keep patching with chewing gum and duct tape. It sucks, but it beats the hell out of having a landlord with a key to my place. I'll take it.

Crucis said...

Mrs. Crucis and I had that problem at our last house. The clog always seemed to form out about 75' the middle of the street. Roots from our neighbor across the street were the culprit. An old plumber friend of our suggested a monthly preventive treatment of pouring a copper sulfate solution down our basement drain hole. It would help keep the roots back enough to prevent clogging. Thereafter, we did and had no further problems.

Also we didn't care what the affect on the offending tree would be either.

wrm said...

I wanted to suggest caustic, but looks like there are a few options available for persuading new roots not to grow.

We have clay pipes with cemented joints and the roots got in. Applying caustic every now and then made the problem go away.

Blackwing1 said...

We had a similar problem, but the sewer lines from the houses to the street in our neighborhood are clay drain pipe, jointed every two feet. As the pipes and houses settle, they naturally go slightly out of alignment.

We have a spectacular Norway Maple in our front that supplies shade for the house in the summer. It also has roots that go all the way down to the sewer line. With the offsetting of the pipe(s), it found a water source. Whee, nutrients too!

When it backed up we had it power-augered, and then had the video done. Off-set joints, a slight dip, and roots (some actually running the length of the pipe). We had four choices (in order of cost):
-1 Auger and clean annually
-2 In-situ pipe lining
-3 Pipe bursting
-4 Excavation and replacement

1) Not an option...the clay pipes continue to disintegrate, and eventually leave nothing but option 4.
2) Cheapest..but still $100/ft from the house to the street. 61.5 ft. Do the math.
3) The pipe bursting was more expensive, on the order of $125/ft.
4) Excavation would kill our tree. Not really an option.

We did the in-situ lining, since it's guaranteed for longer than we'll live. They clean out the existing pipe (which has to be in relatively good condition), and then shove a sock of fiberglass through it, saturating it in resin as it goes. Then they put through a long balloon, inflate it, and leave it to cure overnight. Cut off the end at the sewer line, splice it into the drain line in the house, and it's done.

Minimal (sledgehammer) removal of concrete floor, and the I.D. of the new pipe is just a little smaller than the old one. Flow is actually much better, since it's smoother. No root intrusion, since it's 100% water-tight.

Long-term it was a good way to go. Everybody else in the neighborhood is opting for the short-term fix of augering, but if their pipe collapses or goes too far out of alignment, they'll be coughing up $10,000 to excavate and replace.

Roberta X said...

I have clay pipe, too. So far, the only option other than augering is dig it up and replace it -- I don't know if there are city code issues, or what.