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Thread: First Post, need some help/advice, Big help.

  1. #1

    Default First Post, need some help/advice, Big help.

    Hi all,
    I found this place by googling (just so you know how I got here).
    I know absolutely nothing about plumbing but i've offered to help a neighbor because I think she's being ripped off. Here's the situation:

    My neighbor had a blocked toilet so called someone out from the sewage company who "routed?" her toilet and said she doesn't have a blockage and he checked it 500ft. Ok the blockage is gone, maybe he unblocked it when he "routed" it. The major problem is now when she flushes the toilet which happens to be at the back of the house, it floods in the front yard.

    I'm no plumber and am not going to pretend I know anything about plumbing but what comes next (to me) is unbelievable. She got a guy round who told her sure enough there is a leak, either a broken or cracked pipe and he will sort it out for her for...wait for it....$1600
    She can't afford this kind of money, she is in her 80's and on oxygen and just gets a pention so she asked if there was a way she could get the price down at all, he says "if you can get someone to dig the whole we'll do it for $600"
    Ok your plumbers and i'm not but is this for real??? He's charging her $1,000 for digging a 6ft hole??? Ok so I can dig the hole, I don't want to but i'm not about to let her sign her pension away to this guy.

    Now my problem:
    If I dig this hole, it's going to be about 6ft down, and it's next to her porch where the flower bed is in front of her living room window, I can do that much.
    When I reach the pipe, if it's a cracked pipe or got a hole in it, how can I repair that for her??? I haven't started digging yet so your going to have to give me some info, maybe different types depending on what the pipe is made of, is it even possible for me to do such a thing considering I know nothing about plumbing. The pipe could be clay/cast iron/plastic

    I've been thinking deeper than this though, what if I dig this hole and the cracked pipe is under the house??? If this is the case it's going to probably cost her more than the original quote anyway, i'm hoping that I dig this hole and get to the pipe and find a neat little hole in it that can be repaired but I know exactly how "hopes" go.

    Ok guys give me your knowledge/help/advice please, i've already decided to at least save her the money and dig the hole, but what can I expect? Worse scenario and best scenario and in each case can I do the job. If not what would you recommend, how do I look for a professional who won't rip this lady off. Thanks in advance

    P.S. Excuse spelling mistake or certain terms as I live in america but born in the united kingdom and I still use many english phrases which on occasion gets misinterpreted in america

    Tony

  2. #2

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    Start digging in the area that is flooding. Once you've uncovered the bad section of pipe, take a few pictures and post it here for further advice.

    One possibility is that tree roots had punctured her drain and the drain guy cleared out the roots, but the holes in the pipe still remain.

    It's also possible to send a camera through the drain pipes to see what's going on. Is this a septic system?
    Last edited by Verdeboy; 10-26-2007 at 09:15 PM.

  3. #3

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    Hi Verdeboy,
    Forgive my ignorance but I couldn't tell you if it is a septic system, I don't even know what that is. I'm going over this afternoon to have a look at where the water is gathering and i'll probably start the digging too, it's probably going to take me all day tomorrow as well (i'm guessing).
    I will post my findings once I get to the pipe but I don't have a camera (that works) so i'll have to be as descriptive as I can. It's a good possibility that a tree root has punctured a pipe as there are plenty of trees close to the house.
    Will update as soon as I know more, thanks.

    Tony

  4. #4
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    Well, you have our best wishes for trying to help your neighbor.

    This is not easy do-it-yourself stuff, but let's think about some possibilities:

    > The fact that a leak started showing up in the front yard so soon...to me indicates that the sewer main at that area may not be so deep at all. After all, the sewer main basically has to slope from floor level at the house, down to the middle of the street where it connects to the city main ( assuming we are not talking septic). It may be 8' deep in the street, but it starts at zero feet under the house somewhere. Anyway, my point is that you might get started by digging just a couple of feet and see what you find.

    > I am a little concerned by your comment that the guy cabled out 500' of line. Most plumbers I know do not have 500 feet of cable on the truck. In most homes, 500' would take you out to the street, down the block, and half way to the pump station! Now, we don't know anything about your house or your neighborhood. But does the 500' thing make any sense to you? Might be time for another plumber

    > Good plumbing contractors have a camera system that can inspect the sewer pipe. This would cost a few hundred dollars, but might be worth the investment before a lot of money is spent digging

  5. #5
    DIY Senior Member Mike Swearingen's Avatar
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    Tony,
    She apparently has a punctured or broken/collapsed section of main drain line. Doesn't matter whether it's to a septic system or to the public sewer at this point. (That 500' is pure BS.)
    Dig it up, but if you go more than waste deep, shore up the sides of the hole with plywood and bracing. Trench collapses can be deadly.
    We can tell you how to repair what you find if you will describe it in detail.
    An in-line plumber or drain cleaning company's camera inspection is the best way to go, but if she can't afford it, your repairing it may be best for now.
    Mike

  6. #6
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    A camera cannot tell anything if the line is full of water. Since the hole fills with water the house must not have a basement or it would be full of water also. This implies that the sewer should not be more than 3' deep, normally. No plumber has 500' feet of sewer snake and could not use it even if he did. The stoppage is not gone, otherwise the water would not fill the hole. What probably happened is that the water she is using is coming out of the hole instead of backing up in the house.

  7. #7

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    Hi all,
    Wow thanks for all the responses, I just thought i'd check in before popping over there. I've just sent my son over first to dig up any plants she might want to spare. Yes I thought 500ft seemed strange because as you stated above (and I can confirm) that this would indeed take you out to the road and to my house, my house is opposite the old lady.
    Also you are correct in assuming this particular house does NOT have a basement, lucky for me as mine does.
    The other thing I thought strange was her toilet is in the back of the house, when she flushes this water can be seen coming from the outside front of the house next to her porch. The house is on a fairly steep slope, and thinking about it now if when she flushes her toilet the water comes out at the front of the house then maybe your right also in assuming the pipe wouldn't be as far down as 6ft as the men stated to her. I hardly think one toilet flush would make it to the surface unless it was fairly shallow.
    Ok i'm going to have a bit of lunch then make my way over there, thankyou for all the advice so far and appreciate the reminder of shoring the sides once I get so far down, i've heard about those accidents before.

    Tony

  8. #8

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    Hi all,
    This could be a long post(sorry). I don't know if you can help me as I don't know if I can explain it as I see it but i'll try.
    Ok i'm standing at the front of her house, my son flushes her toilet and almost instantly (a few seconds) water comes pouring out of a clay pipe sticking out of the ground at the corner of her house, I have no idea what this pipe is for apart from it could be some kind of emergency overflow in case of a blockage???
    This overflow clay pipe outlet? is right on the corner of her house immediately before her concrete driveway. She says that same type of pipe runs under her concrete driveway before it turns down towards the street. Now I noticed that her driveway has cracked and subsided by around 2 to 3 inches, exactly where she says the pipe runs.
    I could be completely wrong here but my guess is that when she had a large truck on the drive from having her roof done the concrete driveway couldn't handle the weight and cracked and sunk 2 or 3 inches. If this is a clay pipe could it be possible that the sunken concrete could have collapsed/broken this pipe? It looks like that there is a blockage which is why there is water pouring out the "overflow?" clay pipe at the corner of the house. Maybe the blockage is under the driveway, I don't think this concrete is that thick as it would have only had to take the weight of an average car and obviously not designed to take the weight of large trucks/lorries, this could be a big factor because it means if it's only a couple of inches thick I can get through this concret with a sledgehammer etc...
    I guess what i'm asking now is do you think my guess is correct? Do you think I should lift the concrete? If so once I get to the pipe and it's a clay pipe should I then get someone in to take a look? Should I tell her to get the pipe replaced using plastic pipe so this doesn't happen again?
    Actually lets take one step at a time, I want to help her but i'm going in blind which is why I need your help. The other thing that confuses me is the guys that told her to dig in front of her living room window according to her are completely wrong, she has seen work done on this pipework in the past so she knows where the pipework runs and it runs under her driveway,which makes sense to me seeing as where that overflow clay pipe is sticking out the ground, where they told her to dig is completely the opposite direction so how did they come to their conclusion?
    I'll wait for some feedback before I continue with this, i'm not afraid of hard work but I dislike wasting time and really don't want to be digging in an area where there is no pipework, everything points to the lady being right, what do you think? Thanks again in advance.

    Tony

  9. #9
    Plumber patrick88's Avatar
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    The guy had no clue. The pipe coming out of the ground was for a rain leader. I would bet he was thinking that is the place to start once the pipe was open he could snake it better or keep going. The price would go up the more he went. If you get him back I would watch him close to make sure he doesn't screw you. I would bet he is thinking of sleeving the drain line with a smaller pipe. Taking a 4" plastic and shoving it into the larger clay pipe.
    I'm just starting to work with an old friend of mine to bring solar electric and hot water systems, wind turbines, Flex Fuel Boilers, batteries, hydroponic gardening, books, pellet grills and more. Also the parts for DIY installation.

  10. #10

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    Hi again,
    Something I didn't previously mention, when the toilet was flushed the water which came out at the front of the house was black, could this be an indication that the pipe has collapsed and filled with dirt/soil?
    Do you think I should start to dig the other side of the driveway first until I find the pipe? Before hitting the concrete I mean. I told her i'd pop back over in a couple of hours but I need some kind of advice as to wether i'm doing the right thing or not. I will keep checking back.

    By the way, you need to get yourself a "donate" button on this forum so people can donate as a thankyou for your help, not everyone you meet is willing to help and me and the lady across the street sure appreciate it, thanks.

    Tony

  11. #11
    Plumber patrick88's Avatar
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    Drains tend to build up some grease this grease tends to smell a little like tar. It could be dirt but I doubt it. Did the drain guy give a warranty? If so tell him to come bag and snake it again. From the drain pipe in the yard. I have not seen a camera that is 500' long The largest I have is 200' and it is very hard to push after 100'.


    I'm just starting to work with an old friend of mine to bring solar electric and hot water systems, wind turbines, Flex Fuel Boilers, batteries, hydroponic gardening, books, pellet grills and more. Also the parts for DIY installation.

  12. #12

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    Hi Patrick88,
    There is no smell like tar, just the smell of sewage, but the black water is showing every time the toilet is flushed which is why I suggested it could be dirt/soil.
    I've since found out also that the first guy who did the "routing?" was from city, all he checked was that it wasn't their problem so he could have only "routed" from the main street to her driveway (where it becomes her problem) we know it's ok from the toilet to the front of her house so it's got to be the section of pipe under her driveway, again drawing me to the conclusion it's the sunken concrete which has broken/collapsed the clay pipe.
    Thanks for the instant message, appreciate all the help here.

    Tony
    P.S. Can't start digging until tomorrow now as it's starting to rain.

  13. #13
    Homeowner geniescience's Avatar
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    enlist a neighbour. Tony, based on your first two posts, I advise you not to be the sole helper. No matter how much you learn in a day. No matter how high your comfort level goes.No matter how much confidence you have in your native ability. Not to put too hard a touch on it, you are not the right person to be advising her of much if anything. Be a bystander, spectator, commentator, and constant friend. But insist that she call in other people that she has known since before you crossed the pond.

    david

  14. #14

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    Hi all,
    Not sure why you say that geniuscience but it's a little late for that, I start digging tomorrow, this woman has been panic stricken since she heard that quote and the only thing that has calmed her down is that i'll at the very least save her the money she needed to get to the pipe, i'm not advising her, i'm taking advice from here and what I understand i'll do but I will not go past the point where I am doubtful, I will leave that to the professionals. As it is it doesn't take a professional to dig a hole so i'm going to save her something.
    This lady has been virtually a grandmother to my 4 boys and I can't leave her to get ripped off by anyone who sees the oxygen tank and thinks she's made of money, this is a sorry situation and it could kill her and I don't want that on my conscience so i'm doing all I can to get her through this.
    I have done many jobs I didn't think I was capable of simply by taking good advice from professionals but I know where to draw the line. I'm going to help her and would appreciate any positive advice anyone can give me here, please.
    Tony

  15. #15
    DIY Senior Member molo's Avatar
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    Maybe she's from across the pond too. Yea sure, if Tony could recruit some other neighborhood help that would be great, but then that would be just way to friendly of a neighborhood, and last time I checked, those aren't allowed.

    My advice to Tony is not to do anything before you have had several reputable opinions from this site or elsewhere. Remember that all details are important. It sounds like there is some old pipe in the ground, this might be a big job.

    Good Luck!
    "Any American who is prepared to run for President should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so."
    Gore Vidal.

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