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Old 12-29-2007, 03:18 PM   #1
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Sewer Drain Issues


I own a 35 year-old single story house on a slab. Over the last year, we have had an original toilet back-up and overflow, not once, but twice. Both times, it continued running, for 30 minutes or more before we caught it. The first time required replacement of four rooms' and a hallways' flooring. Less than six months later, it happened again, this time causing less damage, but still requiring an insurance claim. Our insurance company is planning on dropping us, unless we locate the source of the issue and resolve the problem.

Steps we've taken so far:

Called a plumber, who charged us $400 to run a camera into the sewer line. He said there was about 65' of 4" drain pipe running between the house and the public sewer line. About halfway up, he said, the pipe was collapsed and full of roots. My wife was at home when the plumber came, so I didn't have the chance to see the images myself. The plumber said that for another $1700, he could replace the drain line.

The plumbers comments made perfect sense. My house is about 45 feet from the street; the main clean-out extends from the north side of the house, parallel to the street, about 20 or so feet back front the front of the structure. Halfway between the clean-out and the street are a twenty year old pine and young cedar tree. It appeared that the trees were exactly in the path where the line would run. Rather than cough up $1700 more dollars, I figured I'd invest a weekend and a few hundred dollars for a trencher rental and some pipe.

Today I dug up the ground around the clean-out, trying to ascertain the path of the drain line. To my surprise, the drain line extends straight out of the side of the house and crosses the property line into my neighbor's yard. There is only about six feet between my house and the property line. Other details: the drain line is made of ABS and appears to slope much more than 1/4" per foot. There is a 45 degree bend that points down about 8 inches, immediately after the clean-out, after which the slope appears to be about an inch per foot.

We live at the lowest point in or neighborhood, so there are public sewer easements at the rear of our property and on the neighbor's side of ground between our two homes. About a year ago the city dug up and replaced the sewer lines between the homes and in our back yard, (as well as in several other places in the neighborhood). We had called the city to fix the sewers as we constantly dealt with sewer water backing up into our tub and shower whenever it rained heavily.

So...

I guess it shouldn't surprise me that my sewer drain leads to my neighbor's property. The scar from the city's digging last year is still visible about eight feet from the property line. But...

Why and how did the plumber come up with a 65' drain pipe?
Could it be possible that my drain line runs onto the neighbor's property?
How can I locate the main sewer line and my connection to it?
If there is an easement, can my neighbor prevent me from digging my line on their property?
What about the slope?
Am I even looking in the right place?
There are no trees between my house and the sewer line in the neighbors yard, where are the roots coming from?
Is it possible that the sewer line takes a left turn towards the street and runs 65' to the street in their yard?
Or is it more likely that it simply connects a few feet into their property?

I'm sure I'll have more questions.

Sorry for the long entry, but I've learned more detail is better than less.

Thanks in advance.

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Old 12-29-2007, 03:35 PM   #2
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Sewer Drain Issues


Its hard to say from this. I am led to believe that maybe the line runs elswhere. try removing a toilet in the basement close to the cleanout. Run a snake in and see if you can see it. If not then the line you see may be an old one and not being used.

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Old 12-29-2007, 03:47 PM   #3
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I can run a snake through the toilet, but there is no basement as the house is on a slab foundation.

I can take a photo of the pipe if you think it will help.
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Old 12-29-2007, 03:53 PM   #4
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Stand at the clean out, have someone flush the toilet and see if any water comes past the clean out
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Old 12-29-2007, 04:16 PM   #5
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I just rammed an auger through the shower drain, which is about 8 feet from the clean-out. Lo and behold, the auger line appeared in the clean-out.

I definitely have the right pipe.

So where does it go?
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Old 12-29-2007, 05:03 PM   #6
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Hard to say, I have had them share a 6 inch line with the neighbor. If its not too deep and the ground is soft you could use a probe to follow it. A probe is a steel rod with a point on one end and a t bar at the top so it can be pushed into the ground. They are about 4 foot long and probably 1/4 inch or 3/8 inch steel rod. These can be made yourself if you have the steel and welder or know someone who does. If it goes to your neighbor then you will need permission from them to proceed. If the town does it then they do not need permission.
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Old 12-29-2007, 05:45 PM   #7
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Sewer Drain Issues


Contact the town for details on the easement and what you can and can't do. You probably need to pull permits for this job and have it inspected. Whether or not a homeowner can pull permits is up to the local authorities. They will also tell you what materials to use and so forth.
As for pitch your sewer line needs to meet the one in the street. It could be 30ft (yes I've seen them that deep) down in which case you need a lot of pitch or it could be 6ft down. Typically a trencher isn't going to do this job.
$1700 is an excellent price if it's a complete line replacement. That job would be over three grand around here.
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Old 12-29-2007, 05:48 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marlin View Post
Contact the town for details on the easement and what you can and can't do. You probably need to pull permits for this job and have it inspected. Whether or not a homeowner can pull permits is up to the local authorities. They will also tell you what materials to use and so forth.
As for pitch your sewer line needs to meet the one in the street. It could be 30ft (yes I've seen them that deep) down in which case you need a lot of pitch or it could be 6ft down. Typically a trencher isn't going to do this job.
$1700 is an excellent price if it's a complete line replacement. That job would be over three grand around here.
good call, agree 100% with this. cost would be the same here in VA. One piece of advice is if you do get someone check on them so you dont get burned. Also some towns do not allow anyone but the town to dig next to their lines.
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Old 12-29-2007, 06:13 PM   #9
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I'm in an unincorporated area. No town...only county. My water and sewer is provided by the City of Columbia, SC although my home is outside of the city limits. Should I contact the water/sewer folks or the county?

In the past, anytime I've dealt with the city about water/sewer, they've been very responsive. I've found the county doesn't seem to care about anything except collecting taxes.
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Old 12-29-2007, 06:16 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by allenzachary View Post
I'm in an unincorporated area. No town...only county. My water and sewer is provided by the City of Columbia, SC although my home is outside of the city limits. Should I contact the water/sewer folks or the county?

In the past, anytime I've dealt with the city about water/sewer, they've been very responsive. I've found the county doesn't seem to care about anything except collecting taxes.
same thing here
But yes I would call because if it is city or town or county sewer and you dig next to it or up to it and damage anything then
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Old 12-29-2007, 06:29 PM   #11
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Sewer Drain Issues


Another thing...

I'm concerned that the problem may not be in the sewer line at all, based on the "report" I got form the plumber. He told my wife the path is in one place, and it is proving to be completely wrong.

Based on the distance from my house to the scar left by the the city sewer replacement the distance to the main sewer line is only about 15 feet. In the rear of my property, there is a stream that is traversed by the sewer pipe. The pipe is only about 4 feet below grade at the rear of the property. Since *stuff* rolls downhill, I can't see how the main line can be deeper than that.
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Old 12-29-2007, 06:30 PM   #12
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Sewer Drain Issues


You've given me some good input...

I think the next call goes to the city sewer department.
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Old 01-05-2008, 10:58 PM   #13
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So I called the city...

They sent a crew to look at my issue who dropped a camera into my clean-out. Results:

It is only eight feet to the main sewer which runs under my neighbor's property in between our homes.

The main sewer line is damaged and collapsing, which has caused all of the issues of the backups into my house.

The plumber that initially checked the line didn't realize that he was looking a the city sewer line when he suggested replacement (that would have been fun watching him dig up the city line and then charging me for his mistake).

The city will fix the main line a no cost to me, (Yay!) and will even contact my insurance company who was threatening to drop me after two claims in one year.

A happy ending with minimum effort on my part. Thanks for the good advice.

Do you think I have recourse against the plumber who charged me $400 to run the fiber-optic camera and give me an incorrect diagnosis? Or should I just let it go and not risk the bad Kharma?

Thanks again for your good advice.
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Old 01-05-2008, 11:21 PM   #14
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Sewer Drain Issues


I don't understand why you would think you were entitled to a refund from the plumber that ran the camera. You called him out to your house...he performed a service...and you paid him as you should have....the problem could have just have easily been on your property and the water dept. would have put the ball back in your hands....and you are very lucky that you got some good (free) advise on this forum. Not many plumbers run into situations such as yours with such a short sewer run and to a city main between two properties to the side. Very odd indeed. Where the problem ended up being has nothing to do with the plumber doing his job.
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Old 01-06-2008, 09:28 AM   #15
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Fair enough, but I should be able to count on professionals to be accurate. Unusual situations should not trip them up. That is why DIYers call them.

The part that bugged me wasn't the cost as much as the mis-diagnosis. Because of the plumber's incorrect information, I spent an afternoon knee deep in muddy clay, shovel in hand. Had he assessed the situation correctly, I would have gleefully run to the city and considered myself fortunate to get away with only spending $400. Instead, i kinda feel misled.

Anyway, I'll leave the plumber alone and chalk the $400 up to experience: Ask questions to the good folks at DIYChatroom BEFORE calling tradesmen to my home.

Thanks to all again.

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