Woman needs help!
I'm new to this forum, and I urgently need advice :)! Sewage rose in my shower drain, bathtub, and from the base of two toilets on the first floor of my townhouse. Prior to this happening, I heard gurgling sounds in my kitchen and bathroom, and the toilets were clogged that day. I had to call an emergency plumber at 11pm to stop the sewage flow from ruining my floors.
He took the cap off from the cleanout outside which relieved the pressure. He cleaned out the cleanout and ran a video cam. He discovered a belly beneath my cement slab of about 3-4 feet and a break in the sewage drainage pipe. He recommended jackhammering the floor and replacing about 7' of pvc pipe.
My home warranty plumber came out the next day and ran a cam too. He said it may be a slight separation or bushing instead of a break. But he said there are 2 bellies - one below the cement slab and the other in the cleanout outside because there is standing water. His recommendation is to replace 12' of pipe that extends outside to include the cleanout because the pipe needs to be laid level. Currently my drainage pipe goes down from my toilet, hits the belly and then comes up clear to the cleanout outside. Then it dips down again to the main sewer line. So he recommends getting rid of that "hill" by laying the pipe flat and thus avoiding another problem in the future.
Unfortunately I can't go with either plumber because they only have general liability but not workers comp (NC does not require workers comp for business with 3 or fewer employees).
My question is: Do you agree with their assessments? How should this job be handled and what should it cost? I need to justify it to my homeowners insurance which will cover access to the pipe and pouring back cement but not the repair or pipe replacement itself. Also I have an HOA. In your experience, has HOA insurance covered this type of work since this is a significant section of pipe in its sewer system?
Thank you so much!
Well at least two different plumbers have come up with the same diagnosis so I don't think anyone is trying to swindle you into doing something for nothing. You should have the floor broken up and ALL of the bad piping replaced or you are just going to chase this problem for years to come. As far as cost, get three estimates and go with the middle guy. In all good faith I don't think it would be fair for anyone to shoot a price at you because every job is different. You will need to call your insurance company for the particulars. As always the coverage depends on your policy.
I was willing to go with either of plumber, but neither carry workers comp so that's why I'm still looking. I've called different places and have gotten different approaches to the job. My original plumber recommended PVC, 4-inch cupling and 4-inch Y. Another suggested replacing it with foam core pipe and no-hub band, but then he offered as an alternative gluing Schedule 40 PVC and not use any sleeve. Yet another said replace it with Schedule 40 PVC and sleeve with metal clamps. Which is the best approach?
Also, should a P-I licensed master plumber do this job or is it okay for a P-II licensed journeyman to do it without supervision from a master plumber?
Plus, should I go with a permit? Some plumbers discourage it, but one said they insist on it if replacing more than 5' pipe. I'm confused because when I called the permit office, they said I definitely need a permit. When I called the code enforcement office, they said I don't need one because it's a repair.
Lastly, is it standard protocol for a plumber to charge the same hourly rate to wait for the inspector to show up onsite? One estimate includes 5 hours of labor to wait for an inspector. What do you think?
The repair itself is easy,
so either the P-I or P-II is capable.
This is a standard repair that is done day in and day out. Fixing the pipe is easy, hard part is getting to it....
As for materials I'm in California and all we seem to use is ABS cellular material, I like it and trust it.
PVC is used elsewhere and seems to be a quality material so should be fine as well.
As for the permit, yes get one. It is important for there to be a check on the plumbers.
As for the five hours, seems like you have already started the process,
why don't get the permit and meet with the building inspector. If there is nothing wrong with their work then it should not matter, wheither you or the plumbing contractor are there for the inspection. For a lot of my jobs the inspector shows up when no one is around, I can't aford to kill a day sitting there waiting on them. They sign the inspection card which is posted at the job site, and done.
Thank you for your feedback! I'm relieved to hear that this is a straightforward job. Would you recommend gluing ABS or PVC pipe to repair?
Regarding access to the pipe, 2 plumbers said they can jackhammer the floor, and 2 other plumbers said they would use an electrical saw and then jackhammer the concrete pieces. Which option do you prefer?
I'm glad you endorse the permit idea. If by any chance shoddy construction work is at fault for this sewage drainage pipe break, what do you think the inspector's recommendation may be?
I didn't start the process yet. I asked for an itemized estimate with a turnkey quote. When I asked him if he could just take the day off and not charge me for waiting for the inspector to show up, he said that he would be losing business that day and therefore would need to be compensated. Do you charge for that day off the project?
Personally, I would NOT agree with either one until I either ran my own camera or saw a DVD of the situation. From your description NEITHER belly sounds bad enough to have caused your problem, but if they are the cause, you should NOT do anything until you find out if there is adequate fall between where the first one is and after the second one. Digging up the belly does NOT ensure that the solution is just to install a new piece of pipe to replace it. In fact that repair may NOT cure the problem if it is caused by the original installation, not from the pipe settling. I charge the same rate for ALL the time expended on the job, although it is not always necessary to be there when the inspector comes.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this. I did see the camera video the first time the plumber ran it. From the toilet the camera was clear until it hit water. That water was washing up against camera until it became clear again and then came out of the cleanout. He also showed me where the pipe from the second toilet connected to the mainline, but I don't remember if it was before or during the belly. He said his camera could not record it so I did not get a DVD of it.
My home warranty plumber also confirmed that a belly existed under the cement slab and recommended replacement. They both said I cannot use any of the toilets in my house so I'm living in a hotel right now until the problem is fixed. They said that any waste or toilet paper would get stuck in cleanout and sewage might rise again. So essentially my home is uninhabitable due to this problem.
How do I find out if there is adequate fall between the first belly and the second? Would excavation be needed to find out? If there isn't adequate fall, what would Plan B be?
By the way, my next door neighbor's cleanout is different from mine. When you take the cap off of my cleanout, there's the mainline pipe with standing water. When you take the cap off her cleanout, it's a long vertical funnel of about 1-1/2 or 2 feet that then connects to her horizontal mainline sewage drainage pipe. There is no standing water in her cleanout. Incidentally, she is the original owner when these attached townhouses were built 11 years ago. She was on the construction site from day one during the building process.
And thank you for letting me know how you charge for time on the job. I'm new to this so I wanted to get an idea of industry standard. Seems like it would cost a lot more to include an inspection. Maybe he'll be an early bird :)
Hopefully I can still feel hopeful :)
So, if you live in your home the line may back up? If they cleared the line, then you sould be fine for a while.
Originally Posted by Carolina
With the belly the line will eventually clogg and back up. But then there are a lot of homes where they know this is an issue and rather than dig up the home they just have a drain cleaner come out once per year.
This is not a new problem, you lived in the home before the backup and once the line is cleared you should be able to live there again.. No need to stay in a motel.
As for materials I like ABS, but most of that is because that is what I work with I know it I like it. Cannot give a fair copairison between ABS and PVC because I so seldom work with PVC fittings.
As for the plumbers cost to hang out waiting for the builing inspector, if he is there he should be compensated for his time.
But you could be there instaid, or hell hire the teenager next door to babysit your home for the day to let the building inspector in.
All you need is someone to open the door.
Plumber does not need to be there for the inspection. If it is passed, he can come back and fill in. If it fails, the ticket will give the reason why.
Make sure to be clear, on your contract...yes you really should have a contract......as to who will redo the cement slab, and to what standard...rough pour, broom finish, trowel smooth, etc.
I agree with others that if the camera does not show a break,just the belly, you could live with it. It will be prone to back up, so proactively have it cabled on regular basis...3 to 6 months. That does start to add up, so it makes sense to just fix it.
Do not worry about the materials. ANY pipe is acceptable, PVC, Cast iron, ABS. Most important part is a reputable contractor so he will use correct methods to join the old pipe and new. Yes, ABS and PVC are glued, but special mechanical connectors are use to join dissimilar pipes.
Thanks so much for your advice again! You said that if they cleared the line, I would be good for a while. Would that be for about a year when I need to get the next drain cleaner? Since there is a break in the drainage pipe below the cement slab, could sewage be seeping underneath my house and create an environmental hazard?
Regarding the sewage back up, a restoration company immediately came out with HEPA filters and air machines to dry out my place in 24 hours because this category 3 water ruined the wood floors in my half-bathroom, spilled over to the wood floors in my dining room and soaked part of the carpet in my bedroom that was adjacent to the tiled master bathroom. I guess that's why I'm a little freaked out about all this and want to fix the problem permanently to avoid a similar scenario in the future.
When the home warranty plumber came out, he was skeptical of the first plumber's diagnosis and said that maybe the line just needs to be cleared. But then after running his own cam, he agreed about replacing the pipe but not just the belly under slab but also the belly in the cleanout outside. Otherwise, he said this problem could recur.
Since I already opened a claim with my insurance compay and living in a hotel, I don't know if they would cover my additional living expenses if I told them that I will use a drain cleaner instead of replacing the pipe. I just don't want to get stuck with this hotel bill. In any case they have to replace the floors and carpet and can't do that until the plumbing is resolved.
If you were me in this situation, what would you do?
Thank you for clarifying too that the plumber doesn't need to be present for the inspection. With regards to the contract, I will ask the plumber I select to include specific terms like those you mentioned. I want a smooth cement finish, but I've been told rough cement finish is fine because the carpet contractors will add a primer before putting down the carpet. What do you think?
I definitely want this problem fixed so I'm just concerned about doing it right the first time. Do you know how much this type of job would run? A ballpark figure? I'll be responsible for the labor and materials to repair/replace the pipe so I want an idea of what the going rate is for that portion of the job.
Thanks so much!
If you are putting carpet over it any finish within reason is fine
Most of the job is getting access to the pipe, backfilling and repairing the concrete. The pipe repair itself shouldn't take more than an hour especially if its plastic pipe!
quote; They both said I cannot use any of the toilets in my house so I'm living in a hotel right now until the problem is fixed. They said that any waste or toilet paper would get stuck in cleanout and sewage might rise again.
That problem did NOT occur overnight so you have been using your toilets for months, if not years, and once the problem was cleared, it might take just as long to happen again. Your plumbers were either using hyperbole or scare tactics to get you to take immediate action so they can make this month's truck payment. Stuff seldom gets stuck in a cleanout, if it is installed properly. It is NOT enough to just "see" the water. The degree of severity depends on how "deep" it is and how long.