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Old 07-29-2016, 03:00 AM   #1
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Sewer drain overflows, possible main sewer line collapse


A few weeks ago the drain to the sewer in our finished basement (technically first floor since it's a split level house) was overflowing when we flushed, dishes, or showered. We had tree roots in our main sewer line, so I rented a roto rooter from home depot which didn't get any of the tree roots. We had Roto Rooter come and remove them, the roto rooter guy was successful, he had basically the same type of rooter that I rented but obviously he was much more skilled. HE DID SAY that he "hit something" near the end of the sewer line near the road and "thinks it may be a partial collapse." Everything was good for 2 weeks after that though after the tree roots were removed.

Now all of the sudden starting a few days ago, it's overflowing again, but only when we shower. Flushing toilets, dishes, laundry, etc are all fine. The shower is on the second floor. We can only shower for about 8 minutes before it overflows, so it's making it difficult for a family of 4 to shower in the morning, to say the least. It takes about 2 hours for the water level in the drain (in the basement floor) to go back down to normal after that 8 minute shower. So basically we have to space our showers out throughout the night, and we are not getting any sleep.

There's no way it can be tree roots again, there's no way they would regrow that fast especially when we are in a drought.

So we assume we probably have a collapsed main pipe, we suspect it's that cardboard piping called Orangeburg pipe since our house was built in 1960. The orangeburg pipe I guess was made after world war II because supplies were low so that installed this useless cardboard **** for pipes.

We got a few estimates to have the whole line replaced, they ranged from $12,000-$19,000 depending on what type of fix we do (excavate and replace or inserts). Unfortunately, we simply do not have that kind of cash on hand and home equity loans are out of the question since we've been in a legal battle with the previous owner's bank for 4 years now but that's a whole 'nother topic. And obviously we can't sell the house with this issue.

To rule out just a simple clog of grease or toilet paper somewhere in the main sewer line in our yard, I poured 3 gallons of liquid plumber (yes 3 gallons) into the shower, basement drain, and even the mushroom breather in our yard. Didn't do anything to fix the issue. I've tried snaking it, but apparently all of the access pipes (cleanouts, drains, breathers) are an upside down "T" and not a curve, so I can't get a snake more than a few inches down any of the drains, it just wont go down the pipe. I tried the snake in both the basement drain hole and in the mushroom breather thing in the yard. Same issue. Even the roto rooter guy had trouble getting his auto snake into the pipes and said our pipe layout sucks.

So my questions are: 1) Why does the drain in the basement only overflow and spill all over the floor when we are showering but not flushing, doing dishes, or doing laundry. 2) Does anyone have any tricks we can do to try to fix it or diagnose it without spending thousands.

As a temp fix I ordered a shower head limiter off amazon that reduces my shower from 2.5gpm to 1.5gpm hoping it will at least help for a while. My guess at the answer to the first question is just that showers are using a lot more water than the other things and filling the pipes up to where they overflow out the floor drain. Would I be correct? And because the shower is on the second floor and closer to the road than the drain hole in the basement, that would rule out a clog anywhere in the house and would mean the clog or collapse is definitely in the yard somewhere. The shower drains down into the main sewer line under my house AFTER where the drain hole is in the basement.

Last edited by Photog0411; 07-29-2016 at 03:03 AM.
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Old 07-29-2016, 03:09 AM   #2
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Re: Sewer drain overflows, possible main sewer line collapse


How close to the road does he think the blockage is? Most yards have a utility easement. When our lines were blocked and the main drain collapsed the municipality replaced the sewer line section because it was within their easement. Not sure if this applies in your area but might be worth looking into. Easements in our area vary from 11 to 20 feet.
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Old 07-29-2016, 04:02 AM   #3
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Re: Sewer drain overflows, possible main sewer line collapse


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How close to the road does he think the blockage is? Most yards have a utility easement. When our lines were blocked and the main drain collapsed the municipality replaced the sewer line section because it was within their easement. Not sure if this applies in your area but might be worth looking into. Easements in our area vary from 11 to 20 feet.
He said it was hard to tell, but thought it was within 10 feet of the road.

From my house, through the front yard, and to the road is about 60ft.

My dad says that the town won't do anything about it unless the problem is where my property ends (edge of the road I guess) but I guess it could be worth calling the town to find out??

But they wouldn't do anything without knowing for sure, any way, right? And I guess I would have to pay someone to dig the yard up and figure out if the problem is really there ...
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Old 07-29-2016, 05:21 AM   #4
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Re: Sewer drain overflows, possible main sewer line collapse


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He said it was hard to tell, but thought it was within 10 feet of the road.

From my house, through the front yard, and to the road is about 60ft.

My dad says that the town won't do anything about it unless the problem is where my property ends (edge of the road I guess) but I guess it could be worth calling the town to find out??

But they wouldn't do anything without knowing for sure, any way, right? And I guess I would have to pay someone to dig the yard up and figure out if the problem is really there ...
Hire a company to send a camera down there.
It even measures how far down the pipe it is and you'll know if it's on your property or not.
They even give you a CD for Saturday night viewing with a bowl of popcorn.....

Best couple to few hundred bucks you can spend in this situation.
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Old 07-29-2016, 06:36 AM   #5
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Re: Sewer drain overflows, possible main sewer line collapse


I believe some of those cameras have a radio frequency transmitter on them, so when they find the blockage, they can go on your yard with a detector and mark the spot where the problem is.
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Old 07-29-2016, 07:36 AM   #6
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Re: Sewer drain overflows, possible main sewer line collapse


Homedepot rents it as well. It is a diy job. Once youre on the problem, put a tape on the rod, remove the camera and measure.
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Old 07-29-2016, 07:58 AM   #7
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Re: Sewer drain overflows, possible main sewer line collapse


I dont know where you are located, but here in the Philadelphia area there are companies that do not have to dig up your yard yo fix this type of problem. As I understand they hav a drill bit on the end of a snake like tool, and they put it into the line and drill through the collapsed pipe. At the same time that tool brings in a sleeve that lines the inside of the pipe with some type of plastic/pvc material. When they are done it is like you have a new pipe. It is especially useful if you have a patio or other structures, since you dont have to ruin those. A friend of mine had it done at his home about 5 years ago and has had no problems since. The cost was $120 per foot at that time. One company was called Shark or Sewer Shark. Hope that helps.

One more thing..i think oramgeburg is terra cotta not cardboard but i could be wrong.

Last thought... You can buy a rubber disk at home depot that screws on to the end of 1/2" threaded pipe and use that like a giant plunger in the vent line in your yard. That might clear it enough until you make a decision. The disk costs about $12 as I recall.


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Old 07-29-2016, 09:06 AM   #8
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Re: Sewer drain overflows, possible main sewer line collapse


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I believe some of those cameras have a radio frequency transmitter on them, so when they find the blockage, they can go on your yard with a detector and mark the spot where the problem is.
That's correct.
Excellent stuff they got these days.
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