Ah, the joys of home ownership

About four months ago we had to call out a plumber on a weekend because the toilets wouldn’t flush. He fussed around and snaked the line, pronounced it fixed and charged us $1700. Fast forward to yesterday, when the same problem happened again. Loud gurgling in the toilets, then they wouldn’t flush or clear.

Called the same company and told them I was a bit unhappy with this and please come back and check it out. This guy ran a camera down the sewer line and not only discovers a blockage, but also a busted sewer line that has caused said blockage. His sonar located the break point about ten feet outside the foundation. This callout was $1300. He then calls the home office and they work up an estimate to dig up the line and see if there is an easy fix or. . . The estimate was $9500.

The digger showed up today and went at it vigorously, finds the break and also finds that there is a negative slope on the sewer line (this is a Very Bad Thing, for those of you who don’t know). So now they are trying to figure out a game plan for this, but I am fully confident that we are going to hit the $20K mark before it’s all over. They will have to excavate the line back to a point where the slope is positive, and who knows how far that will be.

Oh, and insurance? They basically told us to fuck off. If there had been damage inside the house, they would have possibly paid for that, but not this.

So what’s your major tale of woe? How has your home and castle suddenly turned on you like a bitter ex-lover?

Sorry to hear about the big expense. :tired_face: But your experience with the first plumber reminded me of this:

We’re in a condo; the upstairs neighbors own their unit but won’t maintain it unless forced to. Their balcony door was broken for a long time and made a hellish noise whenever they moved it; it got to the point where we had management tell them to leave their door alone after 11 PM.

Then there’s the bathroom plumbing. These units have a full bath and a half bath; when we moved in, their full bath was a catastrophe. They had a cracked tub and tried to pass it off as one of their sons not closing the curtain when he showered. Management forced them to remodel their full bath and tacked the cost on to their condo fee but we still see evidence of their plumbing problems approximately every five years. Right now, there’s a very large hole in our ceiling because the wax gasket for their toilet degraded to the point of leaking. Management had plumbers come in and replace the gasket; we’re waiting for management to hire a contractor for the ceiling.

Wow, Chefguy, you have been hosed! I have a very long run to the street and 3/4 of it is PVC. But towards the end it dives down too deep for my backhoe guy to easily do it so we stopped there. Of course over the years the roots clog the old portion. I installed cleanouts in the PVC so it clogs 40 feet from there. I am used to doing it myself. I rent the Electric Eel for $45 and it takes me about an hour to unclog it, clean the rest of the line and pack up to return it. I even bought my own 4" root saw for the Electric Eel so it would be sharp.

Earlier this year I was scheduled for my knee replacement and the night before it clogged. I couldn’t do it myself and would not be back home for at least a week. So I called Roto-Rooter. At least they do not have a premium for weekends or after hours. It took them a very long time because, as I explained to the worker, they really need an Electric Eel with a 1 1/4" cable that does not twist up. They fussed around with their 3/4" cable. Took them 2 hours to break through. In the meantime they called a supervisor with a camera to show me they got through. Huh. They barely made a hole in the roots. This cost me almost $500. Their estimate to dig up and replace some of the old tile pipe (they would not go all the way to the main line) was $8000 or so.

I don’t know how your plumber justified those charges but there are times we are at their mercy.

Our worst plumbing story is nothing compared to these, tho It seems wrong that we figured it out after the plumber failed.

Our kitchen sink wasn’t draining properly - I assumed it was grease clogging somewhere down the line. When we finally found a plumber to come check it out, he ran a snake down, but it did nothing. He couldn’t figure out what the blockage was or where it was. He also didn’t know what to charge and asked my husband how much he thought was fair. Personally, I thought the $150 was too much for nothing…

My husband and SIL wound up tearing down part of the basement ceiling to track the pipe. It turned out we’d caused the problem ourselves when we built our laundry room, accidentally shooting a couple of nails thru the drain pipe when installing a wall panel. The nails kinda crossed, and several years of gunk accumulated, causing the blockage. We were lucky, I guess, that the PVC sealed around the nails.

So for the price of a length of PVC, a couple of fittings, and some adhesive, we were back in business. It’s 2 years later, and the ceiling still isn’t repaired in the basement… Priorities…

Get three quotes

Sewer lines are expensive to replace/repair. And maybe your sewer line is f*ed up.

Most plumbers are honest hard working people. But…

This company has been in business here for a long time and is highly rated. I’m sure they are paying union rates, plus overhead and materials. I can’t do the work myself, for sure.

I posted about it here when, a few years ago, I had our septic tank dug up and replaced. Ten months later, we had serious issues that a plumber diagnosed as failure of the connection between the house line and the tank, something the excavator was responsible for.

He insisted it wasn’t his fault. I hired another excavator who dug up the area and reconnected the system.

To this day, I tell the story, naming names, whenever the topic arises. The original excavator guy called me years ago, threatening to sue me for messing with his business. Two weeks ago a neighbor asked if I’d recommend an excavator for a project he’s doing. I told him the story and the dude’s company’s name.

I always use a local plumbing firm that was recommended to me when I move in.

I also called them out on a weekend (to clear a blocked toilet.) It took them about 25 minutes.
The total (including callout) was £37 ($51).

Snaking a clogged toilet does not cost $1700. Seriously, consult another plumber. I might so bold to say, he f*ed you over.

what the hell… they didn’t even charge that much when they replaced our outside line from the laundry room after the old one was clogged with so much clay that it blew the top off …

Remember that this was on a weekend, so double-time right out of the chute, plus the call-out fee by the company. The guy was here for about two hours. I don’t know what their hourly pay is, but add OH and profit to that and it adds up quickly. Here are some other plumbing tasks I’ve had done in the past and their costs (not from the same company):

Patch drain pipe in the basement: $500
Replace kitchen faucet: $300 ($75 of that was the fixture)
Replace a hose bib: $90

Getting old sucks, doesn’t it. I wouldn’t know how to patch a drain pipe, but I’ve easily replaced faucets and hose bibs in the past. I certainly couldn’t do it now.

At our last place, which was built on the side of a hill, the stem wall behind the front deck cracked. We thought it wasn’t a big deal because it wasn’t a load bearing wall. Bees found the crack and moved in. When we saw them covering the deck, it suddenly became a very big deal. (I’m epi-pen allergic to bee stings, btw.)

The bee removal guy couldn’t get to the hive without removing bricks. The stem wall couldn’t be repaired without removing the deck.

I wanted to get some of that spray foam and seal the crack so the bees would go to sleep forever, but the bee guy said that other bees would be able to smell the honey and would think that somewhere under the deck would be a good place to build a nest.

It wasn’t as bad as you have it, we came in under 15 grand, but the deck was much smaller and not as nice as before.


I swear I just heard Strother Martin in my head when I read this!

We replaced our deck. Pulling the old one off, the contractor discovered that we had years of water damage that completely rotted some of the 2x4s that in theory were holding up the first floor (walkout basement). Had to get about half of the basement wall rebuilt, which led to having to get the back of the house resided. Which is not yet done, but hopefully in a couple of weeks.

$1700? Cheap.
Our kitchen sink was backing up. We called someone. It turned out our 50 year-old pipes were all half blocked with sediment, and we had to have them all replaced.
Clogged toilets are cheap. Toilets clogged because your sewer pipe has collapsed or been filled with tree roots, expensive. I’ve rented equipment that goes in the trap on the side of the house and plunges things out, but sometimes it takes a camera and bigger equipment than you can rent.
I feel for you.

Amen. A few years ago in the rental house my brother and I co-own the renter was complaining the shower was draining slow. It turned out the 50 year-old cement sewer pipe* had collapsed under the slab and it had to be hammered through to gain access to it and a new line run from there about thirty feet to where the line was still in good shape. $8,500 plus $300 refunded to the renter since she had to live somewhere else for a week. After looking at the OP, we got off easy.

*I didn’t even know there was such a thing.

My wife and I under contract right now to buy a house and we’re scheduled to close at the end of the month. The house was built in '67 and as far as I can tell has never had any updates to it other than one bathroom has some new finishes.

However it appears to have always been well maintained. The inspection came back clean, only finding little piddly crap like missing window screens. We decided to go ahead with the purchase, no repair conditions.

I just hope we have no big, ugly surprises.

[And yes, we are going against Doper advice and buying a house. We found a great place and with our down payment – about 35% – our mortgage will be ~$250 / month less than what we’re paying now in rent.]

Well, they’ve dug back to where the reverse slope problem starts, which is good news. They’re going to temporarily connect back up while waiting to get a proper (newer) Fernco coupling (a connector that goes between the existing old cast iron pipe and the newer ABS pipe). The old Fernco coupling is what ultimately failed to cause this mess. Then they’ll have to return and put proper backfill in the hole that will support the connections and the pipe, and also place new concrete sidewalk sections to replace the ones they broke out after that’s done. But at least we should have temporary drainage by the end of today.

Somewhere up above, I mentioned that I thought this could get to $20K. Turns out I was in the ballpark. Closer to $24K. The backyard looks like a war zone.