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Old 07-01-2015, 01:26 PM   #1
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Drain line under basement floor


Hi;
I have talked here before about a 3" (estimated dia) pipe that runs from the kitchen (1st flr) and laundry room (basement), both in the rear of the house, under the concrete basement floor to the sewer. The main sewer stack is in the front of the house, as that is where the bathrooms (there is one on the 2nd flr, and one in the basement) are. I guestimate the direct distance would be about 20ft - longer if the pipe doesn't go the shortest route.

The house is 90 years old - and I assume the pipe is as well.
We have had trouble over the years with this pipe getting clogged, had the drain guy in about once every 1-1/2 to 2 years to clear it.
Yesterday, the drain guy spent an hour but was unable to get his roto-rooter far enough into the pipe to do anything. He told us that the pipe is most likely rotten, and needs to be replaced.
So he recommended a plumber, and I have that plumber coming by tomorrow to give me an estimate.

There will be a lot of work, digging across the floor, which I expect will be more expensive than installation of the new pipe. So I had the thought - what if I could do the digging myself - to rent an electric jackhammer from HD, plus purchasing ear and eye protection, and a pair of steel toe shoes (I could use a new pair of hiking boots anyway).

First question: Is this something I (as someone who has never done this kind of work) would / could undertake on my own?

Second question: Would a professional plumber even consider allowing the homeowner to do part of the job himself?

Regardless of who does the work - it will surely require permits - at least a permit for plumbing, but perhaps one for the digging as well.

Then I have a second idea: To avoid having to dig up the old pipe at all.
I know you're going to laugh, or maybe criticize me about this, but please hear me out.

Let's say that I purchase some PVC pipe and/or rubber hose to run a line from the laundry room to the sewer cleanout in the bathroom.
The cleanout is a threaded PVC fitting close to the floor with a cap screwed into it. The fitting was replaced about 10 years ago when the iron pipe was cracked. The main sewer line is still iron pipe.

That run would be significantly longer than a direct run across the floor, but if it to be above ground, it has to follow the foundation (on the inside).
There would have to be a total of 2 tee fittings in the laundry room to connect the tub and a vent pipe to the line that comes down from the kitchen and goes under the floor.
I would cut off the line coming down from the kitchen, and use a combination of the PVC fittings and rubber hose and clamps to connect it to the line running to the sewer cleanout.

I don't know about the legality of this setup, but I am fairly sure that a rubber hose would not be legal. Would a PVC pipe running along the floor at the foundation to that cleanout be legal?
Would I need a trap at the cleanout, or would having one at the laundry tub be sufficient - there is of course one on the kitchen sink.

So what do you think? I am open to your ideas and suggestions.
Please be assured that if the majority of you tell me that this is not a job I would want to get involved in myself, or that it is totally illegal (in the case of the alternate idea), that I will not attempt it.

Thanks

FW
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Old 07-01-2015, 02:54 PM   #2
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You will need a permit for plumbing to do the repair and have an inspection. No on any other ideas you mentioned. Wait till you plumber looks at it they may have better and legal ideas. Make sure you have 3 come out from different shops.
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Old 07-01-2015, 03:14 PM   #3
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You should have the line scoped all the way out to the street. If it's disintegrated under the floor of the house, the piping going to the sewer(cesspool), under the ground outside, probably should also be replaced.
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Old 07-01-2015, 04:29 PM   #4
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I wouldn't do anything based upon a rotorooter guy saying the drain is rotten. Get it scoped so you know what really needs to be done. Could save you a lot of work. Or like Ron indicated, you may need to do more and you might as well get it fixed once instead of twice.

It's possible that you or a plumber could come up with a code compliant method of routing the drain above the floor and save you the mess of opening the floor. So it wouldn't hurt to explore that option. But the way you described it did not sound code compliant though the details weren't there.
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Old 07-01-2015, 05:27 PM   #5
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The plumber who is coming to look the situation over told me over the phone that he doesn't own a scope, and thinks that it would cost $500 to have it scoped.
Does it really cost that much?

This drain is not the main sewer line, but I don't know exactly where it joins the main. I did not see an increase in water or change of colour of the water going past the cleanout in the bathroom when the washing machine was pumping out a tub full of water, which was darker than the clear water in the drain, so I suspect that the pipe from the laundry meets the main sewer either at the stack, which is located about 6 feet away from the cleanout, or perhaps even outside the house??

I don't think we're going to think about replacing the entire sewer line. There just isn't enough money available - unless it came to be absolutely necessary, then the cash would have to be borrowed.

I will wait and see what the plumber has to say, and talk to someone who can scope the pipe.

FW
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Old 07-02-2015, 09:51 AM   #6
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Plumber came by this morning to have a look at the situation. We estimated that the problem area is within 10ft of the pipe entering the floor - that concurs with what the drain guy told me when he tried to get his snake into the pipe.
The estimate we got from the plumber to dig up and replace 10ft of pipe - this is based on the hope that there will be good pipe after 10ft - and replace the lines from the washtub and add a new cleanout for the line - and to refill and patch the concrete at $1800. He said it would be a day's work.

Based on our experience with this plumber - who runs a small company - is that he is honest, does good work, and has reasonable rates.
Of course, I understand that if he doesn't find good pipe to patch into after 10ft, he would continue digging, and the price will go up. I guestimate myself that if he has to replace the entire pipe across the basement floor, it would be in the ballpark of $3500. Maybe that's too low - I don't know.

Remember that this is not the main sewer line. It is only a 2-1/2 to 3" pipe that runs from the laundry and kitchen to the main sewer.
We are probably going to schedule the work next week.

Just a point of interest:
Talking with the plumber, we discussed the fact that I have been seeing a lot of homes in our town where the entire sewer line is being replaced. He told me that for houses built before 1940 (ours was built in 1925), the pipe coming from the house is cast iron for a few feet, then runs into a 6" clay pipe, which is in 3ft sections, one piece fitting into the next. Over time, the ground settles, these pipes become misaligned, roots get in, and eventually the pipe collapses.

I have decided that trying to scope the line is worthless. If there is an obstruction that a snake can't get past, then a camera isn't going to get past it either, and will tell us that there is a major problem at that point. I'm not even sure that a sewer camera would be able to get into such a small pipe.

The whole situation has me thinking: exactly where does this drain line hit the main sewer?
As I said earlier, there is a cleanout in the bathroom, where the "house trap" used to be. That trap was removed (due to the pipe being cracked) about 10 years ago and a new clean out installed.
When I ran a whole tubfull of water from the washing machine through I did not see this water passing that cleanout. I should have seen not only an increase in water flow, but the colour of the water should have become darker, as it was in the tub.
This morning, I listened (with my ear) at the cleanout while the tub was emptying, and I thought I could hear water running somewhere, but it was not very distinct.
So, either the line from the laundry hits the main somewhere past the cleanout, or the pipe is completely broken and that water is draining into the ground. I find that hard to believe though, since the tub is draining fairly quickly now, and I really don't think there could be a way all that water could just disappear into the ground. I see no signs of this in or around the basement or outside the house.

Any thoughts, comments?

FW
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Old 07-02-2015, 10:36 AM   #7
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There can be multiple drain pipes that hook up to the main sewer line. If your basement is unfinished these will be evident. Many times the drains are incorporated into the basement walls. The drain lines from the various bathrooms and kitchen will generally be under those rooms. If these rooms are spread out all over the house, each will have a separate vent going through the roof. This will also generally relate to the drains going into the floor to meet up with the main drain.
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Old 07-02-2015, 01:02 PM   #8
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Consider calling another plumber to scope the line. To be able to actually see what is going on will eliminate all doubt and tell you exactly how to proceed.
$500 it outrageous for a scope, plumbers around here charge $99.
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Old 07-02-2015, 01:28 PM   #9
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Get 2 more prices.
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Old 07-02-2015, 03:34 PM   #10
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Thanks for your advice guys;
I'll check into scoping, and get a couple more estimates.
Can anyone recommend someone in the Bergen County NJ area who can do the camera inspection?

Is the camera inspection something I might be able to do myself if I can rent the equipment?

FW
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Old 07-02-2015, 05:43 PM   #11
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IMO, there is no need to scope a 90 year old pipe- simply replace it.

I don't know any plumbers in my area that scope small lines as owning that camera is costly compared to how few times it gets used.

Scoping your sewer is different- much more common. If yours is original then you might consider it. Or wait until it has issues too.

Something else to think about- back in the day it was not uncommon in some regions to pipe laundry and kitchens to a gray water pit outside. The sanitary line was ran separate to a septic tank. Later, sanitary was connected to sewer and the gray pit might have remained in service. Perhaps this is why you're not seeing water flow in the CO?
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Old 07-02-2015, 09:59 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheEplumber View Post
IMO, there is no need to scope a 90 year old pipe- simply replace it.

I don't know any plumbers in my area that scope small lines as owning that camera is costly compared to how few times it gets used.

Scoping your sewer is different- much more common. If yours is original then you might consider it. Or wait until it has issues too.

Something else to think about- back in the day it was not uncommon in some regions to pipe laundry and kitchens to a gray water pit outside. The sanitary line was ran separate to a septic tank. Later, sanitary was connected to sewer and the gray pit might have remained in service. Perhaps this is why you're not seeing water flow in the CO?
That's creepy. As far as I know, this house never had a septic system. The sewer plates in the road are 1923, and the house was built in 1925.
When the drain guy snaked the pipe in the past, I could always hear the snake at the cleanout, although I never opened it to look.
Many years ago, we used a product called "Clobber" in that drain. It was very strong Sulfuric acid solution. I'm sure that didn't do any good to the pipes.

I am almost curious enough about the whole situation to rent the scope and do it myself. I would do the main sewer line as well, since I would have the equipment for a whole day. That would cost around $150. I don't have the money myself, and I doubt I can convince my dad that it needs to be scoped.
I have to agree with you about this pipe. It's cast iron, 90 years old, and has been a problem ever since we bought the house some 40 years ago.
The hope that we can get away with replacing just 10 feet or so is probably a pipe dream (pun intended)!

I guess we really owe it to ourselves to get a couple more estimates.

FW
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Old 07-02-2015, 11:05 PM   #13
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As a plumber, I wouldn't be offended if you wanted to break out and pour back the floor to save money. In fact, I'd suggest it to you- I hate doing it...... Ask you plumbers for a sweat discount
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Old 07-03-2015, 02:47 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheEplumber View Post
As a plumber, I wouldn't be offended if you wanted to break out and pour back the floor to save money. In fact, I'd suggest it to you- I hate doing it...... Ask you plumbers for a sweat discount
Since I posted, I have decided that breaking the floor would be beyond my capabilities. I have never operated any kind of jackhammer or concrete saw.
I have seen the work being done on YouTube, and it looks both difficult and dangerous.
I would be more inclined to let someone do the concrete work and let me do the actual plumbing! I think I could actually handle that part. But I don't know how the inspector would feel about that. I don't even know whether I am allowed to do any sort of sewer work myself. I would have to check the town code.
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Old 07-04-2015, 11:03 AM   #15
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Interesting development.
Today I decided to try out my Zircon multiscanner i500 one-step in its metal scan mode to see if it could detect the pipe under the floor.
Believe it or not, it appears to be doing so. I traced metal pretty much in-line with the pipe where it enters the floor in the laundry, straight across to a closet under the stairs, where it makes a 45 bend and heads towards the bathroom, where it makes another 45 and follows the line that the drain from the bath basin would take. It was harder to detect the pipe under the bathroom floor, because it has ceramic tiles over the concrete.

If my readings are accurate, the pipe does not take the shortest route across the floor - why am I not surprised
Do you think this little Zircon scanner is actually able to find the pipe under concrete? The specs say up to 3" deep. Would concrete reduce that range?

So anyway, we are going to get some more estimates, and perhaps one of the plumbers will have a "real" metal detector and can accurately trace the pipe. If not, I can rent one locally.

My thought is that if we can avoid having to dig under the stairs (in the closet), and go directly across, it will save time and money. All we would need to do is make sure the pipe is capped off at the sewer end.

The other alternative (which I suggested to the first plumber, and was told that it would probably meet code) is to eliminate the washbasin in the laundry, bring the washer hose up to the level where the pipe runs close to the ceiling (from the kitchen sink), install a new connection for the washer up there, add a check-valve to prevent water from backing up into the kitchen sink, and run the new pipe along the foundation walls to the existing cleanout in the bath, where a Y would be installed to allow the new line and the cleanout.

The plumber told me that the washer's pump should be able to pump properly up to 10ft vertically, and the height from the washer to the ceiling is closer to 6ft.

FW
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