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unfortunateluck 12-06-2010 11:50 PM

Did they know?
 
I will try to summarize my situation briefly, as I desperately need info/opinions. My wife and I moved into a new (to us) house 2.5 weeks ago. After living here for less than 3 weeks, our sewer backed up in our basement...twice. we had the line inspected with a camera today and were told our lateral sewer line is separated at the joint and has major root infestation. there is only one problem spot in the whole line and it's right by our porch. His recommended repair is an injected lining, which will supposedly seal the line back up and fix the problem (obviously after clearing out the roots). Total cost: $5000. he also said he could dig up and repair for 3800, but he didn't recommend. said that the earth settling afterwards will cause porch problems, foundation problems, and so on. Mind you, he also kept saying things like, "no hurry, but if you commit to us by thursday we'll knock $100 off the price of the liner", and..."no hurry, but cabling the drain won't help you, so you need to repair asap" We contacted another company for a second opinion, and were told that they don't do the lining, and don't know anyone in the industry who does. they said 3800 for a spot repair is excessive. they said it'd be 2500 tops to dig to and fix the line. at this point we feel we've been screwed by the previous homeowners and don't want to be screwed in the repair as well. The previous homeowners did NOT disclose the problem and claim they knew nothing about it. Yet there are many signs that say otherwise. first, the floor drain that backed up is in an unfinished storage room. yet they put green drywall up on the three walls that surround the drain. but there is no green drywall anywhere else in the storage room, and really no drywall at all besides that area. second, there is rust on the floor under the furnace and water heater, all running down to the drain. We were told by the plumber and also by a carpet cleaner that that is suspicious and didn't just happen from our two backups. Third, the previous owners weren't living in the house for the last several months they owned it. They moved their family of 5(3 young kids) in with their inlaws, according to their agent. The claimed it was to help take care of a sick parent but we believe it's because they knew they couldn't live there any longer without spending thousands to repair. And finally, as the plumber stated, the root infestation was one of the worst he'd seen, and obviously didn't happen overnight. the chances that they never experienced the problem when they had 5 people living here are slim. Especially when just my wife and i and our 1 yr old son put it over the edge in less than 3 weeks. So I need some opinions desparately:
1. Based on the info, do you believe they knew? and do you believe we have a strong enough case to pursue them legally for the costs?
2. do you believe the liner is the way to go? or would digging and repairing suffice? we feel like the guy offering the liner is a little sketchy, just gut instinct. but we also think the "earth settling is bad argument" makes sense. so we don't know what to believe.
HELP!!!!!!!

Just Bill 12-07-2010 06:07 AM

Not an expert here, but know enough to keep out of trouble. Is the drain terracota?? If yes, dig it up and replace with PVC. There is a joint every 3-4', so you will continue to have problems as long as it is down there. Not familiar with the "liner', but the guy sounds like a snake oil salesman.

Did they know? Kind of hard not to, if it has backed up on you twice in two weeks. Roots don't happen overnight. But litigation will cost more than you will get.

COLDIRON 12-07-2010 06:54 AM

I agree with Bill. Did they leave you a film of the pipe ? Should have you paid for it, it will have the date and time on it that you might need for litigation or to show another company.

Michael Thomas 12-07-2010 07:53 AM

Are there any stickers advertising a plumbing or sewer company attached to anything at the property? - if the problem is that bad, it's quite possible - perhaps even likely - that the previous owners were aware of the problem. If you live in a smaller community, it might be worth calling around to see if you can locate someone who recently rodded the sewer.

That said, in my experience it's usually so expensive to recover cost of repair of know defects from a seller that it's seldom worth it for losses under 10K.

BTW, Did you get a home inspection? Did the inspector recommend that you get a video inspection of the line? (I recommend this every time a property is 15 years old or older, and the seller cannot demonstrate that this was done I the last year).

Home inspectors are generally are not responsible for defects which are not "readily visible" (as for example a underground sewer line, unless there is evidence of previous backup in a basement or crawl space), but IMO it's a useful recommendation to make.

TheEplumber 12-07-2010 09:03 AM

1. I think they knew.
2. Not enough info to tell if the prices are excessive though they appear to be little high:
How deep is the line? What are your soil conditions? How excessable is the excavation area? Room for spoil pile? Are there utilities in the ground? Is the liner a spot repair or the whole line? 5 grand is a lot of liner. Hard to answer with out seeing your project. However, lining is a nice way to go if you have a properly laid line (because it conforms to the existing pipeline).
If settling is an issue, make them compact the soil better using a mechanical method. Its done under streets and foundations all the time.
As mentioned, what kind of pipe do you have now? You may want to replace all of it.

unfortunateluck 12-07-2010 09:25 AM

The plumbing line is PVC. And we've been told PVC is pretty resistent to root infestation. but not ours obviously. Also, for a job like this, would the repairing company have to apply for permits to complete this work? And obviously they should be licensed and insured I assume?

LateralConcepts 12-07-2010 09:26 AM

Quote:

BTW, Did you get a home inspection? Did the inspector recommend that you get a video inspection of the line? (I recommend this every time a property is 15 years old or older, and the seller cannot demonstrate that this was done I the last year).

Home inspectors are generally are not responsible for defects which are not "readily visible" (as for example a underground sewer line, unless there is evidence of previous backup in a basement or crawl space), but IMO it's a useful recommendation to make.
By looking at my signature line, you'll see that I would obviously agree with Michael Thomas. It's always in the best interest of the buyer to perform your own due diligence in having appropriate inspections completed prior to closing. Not only does it give you peace of mind, but in many circumstances can give you additional negotiating room in a purchase transaction. Some people say, "I can't afford a home inspection." or "I can't afford a sewer lateral inspection." The truth is; you're making one of the largest purchases you'll ever make, and a few extra hundred dollars is nothing in the big scheme of things. You can't afford NOT to!

I gained my knowledge after several years in the service plumbing industry. Unfortunately I have seen this happen all too often. Most service technicians are paid by the job (commission). Thus, if they can turn a $300 job into a $5000 lining or excavation job... it makes for a pretty nice pay check. I've seen the best of the best and the worst of the worst in the service plumbing industry. I've witnessed unscrupulous technicians tell all kinds of stories, lies, and overly exaggerate problems to sell.

The difference however with my company however, is that I am unbiased in giving forthright information to my clients. I don't benefit from the service, repair, or replacement of a sewer or septic line. I strictly do the inspections. The camera pretty much speaks for itself, and what the client doesn't understand I can explain. I don't know where you're located, but hopefully you can find a similar company that will give you honest advice. The line may be maintainable, or you might be able to buy some more time with regular maintenance; high pressure jetting or water laser root cutting. Or.. it may actually need repair. I would check with your neighbors, the local BBB, etc. Ask for recommendations on who to call.

As far as "pursuing" the previous owner; a sewer back-up isn't pleasant for anyone. Thus, if the previous owner had money to fix it properly.. they probably would have. So trying to get blood from a turnip is probably a waste of your time.

Lining can be an effective alternative to conventional excavation under the right circumstances. Actually in some circumstances, is almost the only option if there are obstacles in the way. (porches, streets, etc.). I wouldn't commit to anything by Thursday for $100. Do your homework.

As someone else mentioned, did you get a copy of the video or were you watching over their shoulder when they ran the camera?

LateralConcepts 12-07-2010 09:45 AM

Quote:

The plumbing line is PVC. And we've been told PVC is pretty resistent to root infestation. but not ours obviously. Also, for a job like this, would the repairing company have to apply for permits to complete this work? And obviously they should be licensed and insured I assume?
Root infestation comes from water and sewage leaking from the pipe into the ground. Any tree nearby will find the source of the water and added nutrients to the soil. PVC is less resistant to root infestation as long as it's properly installed. There could be several problems that contributed to the pipe leaking.

Either...

A joint wasn't glued properly or a poor connection was made.

The pipe wasn't properly bedded prior to backfill and ended up breaking

It was carelessly backfilled, and a rock or other debris was dropped on it

At some point in time; someone penetrated, broke, or cracked the pipe with a ground rod, ditch witch, etc.

To answer your question, yes they would need to pull a permit. They would also need to be licensed and insured.

So where are you located?
When was the house built?

unfortunateluck 12-07-2010 10:19 AM

To LateralConcepts:
yes that's what the first plumber told us...he said the pvc pipe separated at the joint and it was likely due to one of the reasons you mentioned. We are located in the st. louis, mo area. the break in the line is directly in front of our porch. It so happens that the yard/ground right there is sinking/settling. It was even noted in our inspection but our inspector chalked it up to the house being 20 years old and probably just normal settling. Of course now knowing what we know, we're pretty sure the problem has been ongoing for a while and it's impacting that area. Which is another thing that makes us question the lining. If we don't dig it up and repair it from below, then there is still what seems to be a sinkhole or problem with the soil where sewage has just basically been dumping in. We were told the line is 10 feet underground. The second plumber asked us why the first plumber did a camera on the line before cabling it out. He said they would never camera a line without cabling first, because it's too hard to see what's really going on with the pipe itself. So we just don't know who or what to believe. But again, our gut instinct is that the first plumber is a bit sketchy. anyone who tries to commit us to a repair by thursday by offering a measly $100 off a $5000 bill is suspect in my mind. Something else that is suspect about him is that he told us our neighbors down the street have the same problem and he's doing their yard this week. So we went and talked to them last night and found out that they in fact havent commited to him at all yet, and they are seeking multiple bids. We also found out that they have an HSA home warranty as we do, and HSA is who referred this same plumber to them. and he told them they have the exact same problem in the exact same spot. So...it's all too much for us to handle right now. I wish you were located in our area so that we could have you look at it for us!

LateralConcepts 12-07-2010 10:39 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by unfortunateluck (Post 547324)
To LateralConcepts:
yes that's what the first plumber told us...he said the pvc pipe separated at the joint and it was likely due to one of the reasons you mentioned. We are located in the st. louis, mo area. the break in the line is directly in front of our porch. It so happens that the yard/ground right there is sinking/settling. It was even noted in our inspection but our inspector chalked it up to the house being 20 years old and probably just normal settling. Of course now knowing what we know, we're pretty sure the problem has been ongoing for a while and it's impacting that area. Which is another thing that makes us question the lining. If we don't dig it up and repair it from below, then there is still what seems to be a sinkhole or problem with the soil where sewage has just basically been dumping in. We were told the line is 10 feet underground. The second plumber asked us why the first plumber did a camera on the line before cabling it out. He said they would never camera a line without cabling first, because it's too hard to see what's really going on with the pipe itself. So we just don't know who or what to believe. But again, our gut instinct is that the first plumber is a bit sketchy. anyone who tries to commit us to a repair by thursday by offering a measly $100 off a $5000 bill is suspect in my mind. Something else that is suspect about him is that he told us our neighbors down the street have the same problem and he's doing their yard this week. So we went and talked to them last night and found out that they in fact havent commited to him at all yet, and they are seeking multiple bids. We also found out that they have an HSA home warranty as we do, and HSA is who referred this same plumber to them. and he told them they have the exact same problem in the exact same spot. So...it's all too much for us to handle right now. I wish you were located in our area so that we could have you look at it for us!

I wish I were there also. Either way, I'm happy to help any way I can. Actually, I know someone in St. Louis that may be able to help you. His name is Anthony Clarke. He's a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Gundaker. He also owns a business like mine. His website and contact info can be found here: http://videosewer.vpweb.com/. Tell him I referred you.

LateralConcepts 12-07-2010 10:42 AM

Also I find it hard to believe the sewer is 10' deep right outside the foundation. If you have a full basement with plumbing, it's most likely not more than 8' deep.

unfortunateluck 12-07-2010 09:46 PM

Wow, that's great that you know someone in the st louis area! We will definitely give him a call. Thank you so much for your help and the referral!

Docwhitley 12-07-2010 10:52 PM

Sewer Replacemant VS Liner
 
This is the real question you need to decide.

Advantage of the Liner is that it is less invasive. You will not have problems with your yard as far as a big mound. Question i would ask is if he is doing a entire line or just a patch in that spot. Either way I think he is trying to capitalize on the fact he is the only guy around there doing the liner.

Now digging.... I Never ever recommend just doing a repair if I am digging up a yard. I can rent the dig machine for an entire day and do the job correctly for just a little bit more. What Do I Mean by Correctly? Well I give a Lifetime warranty on my replacement because I know it was been don CORRECTLY! I only warranty the repair for 1 year and it is not that I do not do the repair correctly it is because say I see the hole at the 10 foot mark... I cut out from the 6-14 foot mark... fill my hole and you have another break at the 20 foot mark. I would need to tell you you are not covered and I do not like to do that. So go for the Full Line or the Liner

Camera- I always snake before putting my camera in a line... Why? well 1- I want to see what is going on... 2- I hat Dirty Equipment.

My suggestion have another Plumber come out and actually do a real Quote. Actually Do 2 if Possible.

Good Luck

LateralConcepts 12-07-2010 10:58 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by unfortunateluck (Post 547700)
Wow, that's great that you know someone in the st louis area! We will definitely give him a call. Thank you so much for your help and the referral!

You're welcome! Hope that helps. I already emailed him regarding your situation. I'm confident he'll point you in the right direction. If you need any more help, feel free to give me a call or shoot me an email directly. What comes around goes around.

Plumber26 12-07-2010 11:25 PM

I'm not very familiar with the "liner" option as no one does that in my area. That being said, I would still always prefer to do a complete replacement as opposed to a repair. With the replacement option (if you have a good plumber who takes pride in his work), you'll know that everything was done properly and work will be inspected by the local inspections dept. The replacement option, (I always call the 'shot in the dark') because no matter how good, water-tight, and perfect a repair you make, you'll never be able to change some other screw-up the last guy did 5' down the line.

For the record, I've replaced sewer lines before that were 15' deep at the house and have yet to have anyones house or porch or anything else fall down and collapse. Reason being, if it's properly backfilled and tamped, ground will be just as solid as it was before it was disturbed.


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