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Old 04-25-2010, 08:04 PM   #1
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Leaking cast iron drain pipes + roots in 4" main line


Hello all,

This past weekend, I've come across somewhat of an unpleasant discovery..We have a corner house, and the north side of the house drains to one main sewer line, and the west part drains to another sewer line.

I'm in California, house built in 1950s, 2bath, all original cast iron drain pipes, which turn into 4" clay somewhere before the street. the problem is with the northern side of the house, which only has one bathroom. There are roots in the main line, which we've been getting snaked every two years (when the stuff starts to drain slow). Last weekend I took a look under the house because I heard a spraying copper supply line, and saw that the tub and sink drain lines each had 1 inch holes, to which all the water was draining into the crawl space. we immediately stopped using that bathroom, and for the copper pipe that was leaking, I was not in the mood to solder, so i cut it off and threw on a stop valve. (since we wont be using that bathroom anymore due to the leaking drain lines).

the leaking drain lines started to leak sometime in the last two months. I say this because I was down there two months ago with the plumber to replace the tub drain. He charged $300 to replace a couple feet of tub drain and snake the main line. It took him about 5 hours.

Now for the fix. I am thinking that its time to get everything done. I don't think it's worth it to fix just the leaking sink and toilet drains, because later on, the cast iron line might pop a hole somewhere between the toilet and the street. And I would assume that the roots in the main line are causing the added pressure to the sink and toilet drain causing them to pop holes. I'm thinking about getting all the cast iron (and clay until the street) in the north side (problem side) of the house replaced, as well as the west side (drains other bathroom and kitchen). We could possibly split up the work since the drain lines are totally separate. what do you guys advise?

I heard that they have this machine that can shoot a new pipe through the clay so they don't have to dig it all up? Also do plumbers ever agree to being paid by hour? I could tell him that we'll go to the hardware store and I'll pay for the parts and pay him an hourly rate? This may work well for both of us, since replacing all iron drain and copper supply lines could take quite some time and might be hard to estimate a price beforehand.

Gimme your thoughts.. Looking forward, thanks again.

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Last edited by aminus21; 04-25-2010 at 08:08 PM.
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Old 04-25-2010, 10:11 PM   #2
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Leaking cast iron drain pipes + roots in 4" main line


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Originally Posted by aminus21 View Post
Hello all,

This past weekend, I've come across somewhat of an unpleasant discovery..We have a corner house, and the north side of the house drains to one main sewer line, and the west part drains to another sewer line.

I'm in California, house built in 1950s, 2bath, all original cast iron drain pipes, which turn into 4" clay somewhere before the street. the problem is with the northern side of the house, which only has one bathroom. There are roots in the main line, which we've been getting snaked every two years (when the stuff starts to drain slow). Last weekend I took a look under the house because I heard a spraying copper supply line, and saw that the tub and sink drain lines each had 1 inch holes, to which all the water was draining into the crawl space. we immediately stopped using that bathroom, and for the copper pipe that was leaking, I was not in the mood to solder, so i cut it off and threw on a stop valve. (since we wont be using that bathroom anymore due to the leaking drain lines).

the leaking drain lines started to leak sometime in the last two months. I say this because I was down there two months ago with the plumber to replace the tub drain. He charged $300 to replace a couple feet of tub drain and snake the main line. It took him about 5 hours.

Now for the fix. I am thinking that its time to get everything done. I don't think it's worth it to fix just the leaking sink and toilet drains, because later on, the cast iron line might pop a hole somewhere between the toilet and the street. And I would assume that the roots in the main line are causing the added pressure to the sink and toilet drain causing them to pop holes. I'm thinking about getting all the cast iron (and clay until the street) in the north side (problem side) of the house replaced, as well as the west side (drains other bathroom and kitchen). We could possibly split up the work since the drain lines are totally separate. what do you guys advise?

I heard that they have this machine that can shoot a new pipe through the clay so they don't have to dig it all up? Also do plumbers ever agree to being paid by hour? I could tell him that we'll go to the hardware store and I'll pay for the parts and pay him an hourly rate? This may work well for both of us, since replacing all iron drain and copper supply lines could take quite some time and might be hard to estimate a price beforehand.

Gimme your thoughts.. Looking forward, thanks again.
I don't know of any professional plumber that would want to have you get the parts and pay him by the hour. Basically you will have 2 types of pros out there. one will give you a flatrate up front for the job and the other with charge by the hour and for whatever material he uses. both will warranty the material they use. Supplying the material yourself will just mean the plumber wouldn't be able to warranty it as they didn't sell it to you. Not worth that risk IMHO.

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Old 04-26-2010, 10:18 AM   #3
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Leaking cast iron drain pipes + roots in 4" main line


I agree with Jim. You are not going to find a licensed Plumber who will do the job the way you described. You may want to check on having a liner installed in the current pipe. It will probably be cheaper in the end.
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Old 09-25-2010, 01:45 AM   #4
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Leaking cast iron drain pipes + roots in 4" main line


I have a similar vintage home in so cal, and I have run into some of these same issues, just not all at once. Old copper in the foundation will usually need to be re-routed to go in the wall or attic.

Based on quotes I got, the old clay sewer line can be dug up and replaced with plastic 2 to 4 times before you match the cost of shooting epoxy, so I chose to dig. It all depends on where the line runs, how far, it's condition, and can you get to all of it without going into the city right of way. I would not pay a plumber to use a shovel, but he can identify where to dig if you don't know. Once you know there are lots of 'shovel technicians' in your area. Bring in the plumber to do the plumbing work. He won't mind if you make his job easier.
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Old 09-25-2010, 10:07 AM   #5
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Leaking cast iron drain pipes + roots in 4" main line


Quote:
I heard that they have this machine that can shoot a new pipe through the clay so they don't have to dig it all up? Also do plumbers ever agree to being paid by hour? I could tell him that we'll go to the hardware store and I'll pay for the parts and pay him an hourly rate? This may work well for both of us, since replacing all iron drain and copper supply lines could take quite some time and might be hard to estimate a price beforehand.

Gimme your thoughts.. Looking forward, thanks again.
As others mentioned, you probably won't find a plumber willing to work by the hour and use your parts. You need to find a service plumbing company that has all of the resources to do everything you've mentioned (inside and outside plumbing). Options are good. The company I used to work for had all the latest technology for bursting, lining, and conventional excavation. In some circumstances, i.e. under the street or other obstruction a liner is typically less expensive and time consuming than conventional excavation. If you're just going to the street, bursting may be an option. However, if there are belly's (low spots) in the line, conventional excavation is advised and may actually be required by the city rather than bursting or lining (here you can't burst or line a belly since the new pipe or liner follows the path of the old pipe). A large company that has all of these resources may be a bit more expensive than your average starving handyman, but the peace of mind in having everything done at once and done properly would be priceless. As far as pricing goes, it can vary across the country dependent on simple economics (supply and demand). Typically you would get a bid for the entire project. There are a lot of variables that can lead to a job going south. Thus, a flat rate bid can actually protect you. If they come out and figure the job is going to take 2 days, give you a bid, and it ends up taking 4 days, you're not adding to the bill; they're just losing profit.
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Old 09-25-2010, 11:21 AM   #6
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Leaking cast iron drain pipes + roots in 4" main line


I would consider two different contactors. For the inside work, take a day off during the week and call some plumbing shops in for quotes. I'd pick some small shops that do new and remodel work. Their employees are usually more skilled than service plumbers when it comes to the type of work your doing. Be sure they are licensed and bonded and check references.
You're not going to find a shop that wants to use your parts either. I've done that and always come up short on materials or the wrong parts. Plumbers buy wholesale, charge you retail, thats how business works.

For the outside work, take the same approach. Find experts in sewer work. Take your time. Get your quotes and don't fall for any sales pitch. Make sure to have your line inspected with a camera so you can determine where the problems are.
Plumbing shops have specialties, such as service, new const, sewer, mechanical. Be sure you find shop that is experienced in your type of work and not some "handyman" from the local want ads.

After typing all this I'm thinking "hell, he could do that crawl work himself and save a fistful of cash"

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