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WTtoolman 10-31-2012 08:10 PM

Big problem with sewer
I've got a big problem on my hands and I need help. Anything you guys can offer will be greatly appreciated!

I've lived in my house exactly 5 months and 2 days. Roughly 3 months ago my basement floor drain and toilet were backing up so I rented a hundred foot snake and that took care of the problem for the time being.

Last thursday I had the same problem. I tried snaking the drain again to no avail so I called in the professionals. He was sure it was roots in the pipe and proceeded to begin snaking the main. After 100 feet, the water/sewage still wasn't going down so he added another 100 feet to the snake.

At roughly 130 feet out the water started going down but then he couldn't get the snake out. It was caught on something, which ended being a broken/dis-jointed pipe right where the main connects to the sewer.

After 15 minutes of the plumber spinning the snake and pulling with all his might, he went and got a camera to send down the drain. We were able to see where the snake was caught. While we were looking at the video, there was a huge bang that rattled all the pipes and suddenly the snake was free. The plumber said "something just broke!" The sound, I'm assuming was part of the pipe falling into the sewer.

They came back out the next morning with a color camera and confirmed there's a broken/dis-jointed pipe, which of course, requires digging up the street/yard/sewer to the tune of somewhere between $5500 and $8500. My question are, is the plumber at all responsible for breaking the pipe since he was yanking on the snake like a mad-man? Generally, how much of the main am I responsible for?

Do I have any legal rights being as I just bought the house 5 months ago? Please help/advise me in any way you can!! Thank you in advance!!

Daniel Holzman 10-31-2012 09:36 PM

This unfortunately is not a legal forum, so any opinions as to your legal rights should be taken for what they are, unsubstantiated opinions. In your case, it seems likely that the pipe was broken before the plumber pulled on the snake, so it is possible he did no damage to the pipe. I have no idea how you can determine at this point whether or not he did additional damage to the pipe. Had you hired a pipe camera company first, you would likely have seen the damage, and avoided the cost of an apparently useless snaking operation, but that is about all you would have saved.

As to recourse against the previous homeowner, unless they willfully misrepresented the condition of the pipe, I don't see how you have much of a case, but America has lots of lawyers who will no doubt be happy to take your case, for a fee of course. You should contact the sewer utility, they may own the pipe where the connection is damaged, and under ideal conditions they may actually fix the problem. Even if they don't fix it, they are likely going to have rules about what type of pipe you can use at the connection.

TheEplumber 10-31-2012 11:55 PM

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When I worked for a service shop, this scenario happened several times. We had fine print that said we are not responsible for any damage to your plumbing system prior to cleaning a drain. That included stuck or broken cables. More then once we had to excavate, at additional cost, to retrieve a cable or camera. And more then once the homeowner was not happy about it. A plumber has only limited knowledge as to what condition the pipe is in or what caused the blockage until its opened and draining.

In my area, the city is only responsible for the main sewer in the street. All of the lateral line is the homeowners responsibility- even that which is under the street. And from my experience, a camera is useless under water- can't see a darned thing- like swimming in swamp water.

Your best bet is to review everything you signed- the invoice, owner disclosure statement, insurance and warranty papers, etc.
Get other bids on the repair work too.

md2lgyk 11-01-2012 07:17 AM

The price you mention seems high, unless you have a very long run of pipe. I've had to replace the sewer pipe for a couple of my houses, one of which was almost a 100-ft run. It was only about $4,000.

WTtoolman 11-02-2012 12:36 AM

Thanks guys for responding!! I'm not really sure how to handle this situation. I'm a first time home-owner that just can't afford a repair like that!! I had an extensive home inspection done prior to purchase so I never expected something like this to happen so soon. Just my luck. :(

WTtoolman 11-02-2012 12:47 AM

Hey MD, those prices seemed crazy high to me also, and that doesn't even include the actual main line but just the repair of the broken pipe!! The person that does the bids didn't give me any exact numbers as he told me to contact the city first. Of course the city needed more details from the plumbing camera operator before he would send out one of his own guys to video it from inside the sewer itself. Haven't heard back from either of them yet.

oh'mike 11-02-2012 06:32 AM

Rotten luck---try to get a couple of prices from other plumbers----

md2lgyk 11-02-2012 08:16 AM


Originally Posted by WTtoolman (Post 1042968)
Hey MD, those prices seemed crazy high to me also, and that doesn't even include the actual main line but just the repair of the broken pipe!!

Then the prices are even more out of line. In both my cases, the entire pipe from the house to the street was replaced for the $4K or so I mentioned. And one of them was 75 feet long. Both were just a 1-day job.

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