In which Sicks Ate does a thing that ends up costing him $12,500.

Backstory pt. 1, every couple years I have to have my sewer main rooted. It’s 70 year-old clay tile, so that’s to be expected I guess. The last time they ran a camera through it, it actually didn’t look too bad. There were a few bellies where water would stand, but the guy was able to get his camera all the way to the city with no problem.

Now the first thing I should have thought about to prevent my little mishap, is that I know exactly where the city sewer runs. It’s at the back of my yard, parallel to fence/property line and it’s been located and even worked on before. But I had a tech here once and he ran 70’ of camera to get to the city, which we thought was odd because it’s only 50’ to where I thought it was. Anyway, he walked around back there and stated with what I took to be professional certainly that the main must actually be somewhere in my neighbor’s yard.

Either way, there was nothing to clue me in to the possibility that my line did anything except run straight out perpendicular to the house.

Backstory pt. 2: A couple yeas ago I put in a sump pump, and ran it out the back, through a pipe, to a dry well like this one. Then the overflow from that ran about 15’ through French drain, and finally out through a pop-up drain if necessary.

The dry well is empty most of the time, but when it rains a lot it fills up and overflows down to the pop-up. Also, I set the tank on several inches of gravel, and then surrounded it with probably 5" of gravel. To get it covered, I would guess the bottom of the hole was probably at least 4’ deep. So when it’s really wet, there’s quite a bit of water held there until it has time to perc out, which takes a while cuz my soil is crap.

Now my back yard has been utility located multiple times for various reasons. I know, or thought I knew, where everything is.

Anyway, to pt. 3, which is yesterday. I got a small backup again, so had RotoRooter out to root my line. Well 40-50’ out, the guy hit something hard that was enough to break the bearings of his machine. So he had a camera come out too.

Camera guy got about 40’, and the camera dove underwater. For about 10’ or so, the pipe was completely full. Then he got a bit farther and couldn’t get he camera through any more.

Well he went out with his locator to find the end, and couldn’t find it anywhere near where it would be straight out from the house. So he wandered down hill a little bit and found it. It takes off about 45 degrees from the house.

Right under my drain line.

Right under where several hundred pounds of water sits in the well, just a couple feet above the line, which is 7’ deep.

So I think I crushed my sewer line.

Wow. Pricey boo-boo. Sorry.

Ai-yi-yi. :frowning:

Well, it’s not my most expensive mistake. That would be wife #2. Still though.

Busted sewer line rates one comment, only: Oh, shit!

So, so sorry. The joys of home ownership!

Wow. He should compensate.

Wow. I’m sorry to hear that. :frowning:

Hmm, how much would it have cost to have someone come out and positively find the location of your sewer line? Because now you know.

Whew. Pays to get multiple evaluations/estimates!

So the guy on Saturday started his estimate at $12,500, and there were other ‘if this then this’ charges that I have no doubt would have magically been required, which would have taken the price up to probably $15k. And that involved a 7’ trench from my house to the back corner of my yard.

Guy this morning, trenchless re-lining, two holes in my hard, one at the house and one at the main. And will cost less than $9k.

Plus, considering how far the damage extended, he wasn’t certain it was my fault, anyway. No way to tell, but, I’ll take what I can get.

Tough break. At least it isn’t as bad as you first thought. It’s amazing how long clay pipe does last, so after this repair you could be good for a long time. Good luck with the rest of it, septic problems are just so aggravating in so many ways, you’ll feel a lot better once it’s taken care of.

That lining “stuff” has saved many municipal systems!

They just re-did the main in question like that a couple years ago. That’s how I know where it is. They had to move my shed. :slight_smile:

Check your homeowners insurance. May be covered.

So I’m actually an engineer at a public water/sewer utility, and we do trenchless sewer pipe lining all the time. Usually it’s with a method known as cured-in-place-pipe (CIPP) lining, in which a resin-impregnated felt liner is pulled or inverted into the host pipe, and then the resin is cured using hot water, steam, or sometimes more exotic methods like UV light.

(BTW, a pet peeve of mine is that it’s actually pipe lining, not re-lining. You’re putting a liner inside of the host pipe for the first time.)

You can also line sewer laterals, which is what your pipe is referred to, Sicks Ate.

With that said, you cannot generally install a CIPP liner in a pipe that has a blockage or collapsed section. The blockage needs to first be removed, or the collapsed section first needs to be repaired (by traditional open-cut excavation techniques).

There is another rehab method that can be used for old clay tile pipes, and that is pipe bursting. A steel hydraulic ram is pulled through the host pipe (destroying it in the process) that simultaneously pulls through and installs a new line (which for sewers is usually HDPE plastic). Pipe bursting might get through some blockages, but you still have to be able to get the pulling cable through first.

Anyway, it’s not clear to me if the work has been done yet, or if you only have an estimate in hand, but if the work has not yet been done, you might want to make sure the contractor knows about the blockage in the middle.

Whaaaaat the everloving fuck.

Just had company #3 out here. I stood there and watched them scope the entire line.

No bellies, no COLLAPSES. Slope all the way, we watched water run down it. Never went underwater. Lots of roots and stuff hung up on them, but he made it all the way to the city main.

He basically said that taking in to consideration it’s 70-80 years old, it’s in fine shape.

Sounds like something is moving around and today was just a good day. CIPP while it’s aligned and be done with it. You’ll sleep better, and the end of the clay pipe’s life is in the mail anyway.

Yes. It’s good to know that it’s not a complete disaster down there. But I think we’ll still go through with the bursting method. Then, like you say, it’s no longer something that even has to cross our minds.

I’m getting another estimate on Monday, in the meantime I dumped some root killer down it. I think now that I know it’s not collapsed I’ll probably start over again with getting estimates for a bursting or re-lining.

Also…as I mentioned earlier, that area of the lawn gets much of the runoff from the houses up the hill from me. So I do have to wonder if groundwater just makes its way in to the pipe, or if since he had me run a bunch of water down it before he scoped it it was just still backed up.

And…if there wasn’t also a bit of drama and salesmanship going on there. I mean I have no doubt that on a $10k job that guy probably makes at least several hundred bucks.

Here’s my best guess (what do you think robby?)the 70 year old clay pipe certainly has enough cracks and holes that groundwater makes its way into the lateral, though the groundwater is only up to the pipe when it’s raining. Normally, the groundwater would just flow right out of the lateral into the main, rather than sitting there in the lateral. But either a) there was some blockage during the first TV that subsequently resolved itself, or b) all of your neighbors also have 70 year old laterals full of holes, so when it’s raining they’re all also getting lots of infiltration and trying to put that into the sewer main, so the sewer main gets full, causing backups into the lateral.

I suspect b), because we know the town recently re-lined the main, likely due to the town noticing how full it got during rainstorms, and they’re trying to fix that problem by eliminating the holes in the main. Unfortunately, they didn’t re-line the laterals and so the problem still exists.

If it is, b), then there’s a tiny chance it’s worth calling the town sewer authority, pointing out that their main re-lining apparently didn’t solve the wet-weather infiltration issue, and asking if they’ll help with the cost of re-lining your lateral, since it will reduce the infiltration problem.

Infiltration is absolutely an issue with old clay tile pipes. (Along with inflow, the two together are referred to as “I/I”). The problem with I/I is that the additional flow can not only exceed the capacity of the collection system (which leads to backups in homes and businesses), but can also exceed the capacity of the treatment plant (which can lead to sewer overflows into local water bodies).

Anyway I/I issues are commonly addressed by lining old clay tile mains and laterals, or replacing them (usually with PVC plastic pipe). Municipalities are usually only responsible for sewer laterals from the main to the property line, and will encourage or force the homeowner address any issues from the property line to the house. With that said, municipalities will sometimes help out or even completely address I/I issues all the way up to the house – it couldn’t hurt to ask.

Awesome insight, thank you! Could it hurt to ask if they say “Ok wise guy, you’re causing us a problem so YOU fix it!?”

I should add that 1) I am at the bottom-ish of a hill and the hill is shaped such that I get runoff from 3-4 lots uphill. As I said, it saturates the back 1/3rd of my yard (where the pipe was filled with water), as well as causing issues around my basement. I always suspected my water problems were at least partially due to water table; I installed a sump/pump and that fixed the infiltration of water up through my floor, but for a couple days after some good rain you can stand my the pit and hear water trickling in.

So yeah, now that you mention it, I could be the only one dealing with that water backing all the way up my lateral.