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Thread: Drain backup and conflicting diagnoses

  1. #1

    Default Drain backup and conflicting diagnoses

    My house was built in 1987 and I bought it two years ago. I have had 2 sewer drain backups in 14 months and the second time, the plumber offered to "camera" my sewer line. The sewer pipe is 1/2 full of water for almost 30'. Ultimately, he says my drainage pipe is level when it should be sloped down. As a result, he says water and solid waste cannot drain correctly, resulting in the backups. He says my pipe cannot be replaced because there is no way to get the necessary slope and he is recommending I install a sewer pump for $6000. He would not give me a copy of his camera footage.

    Needless to say, I paid a different plumber to camera my line so I could get a second opinion. 2nd plumber gave me a VHS copy of his footage. He claims the pipe is mis-aligned at a specific point. He wants to break through the floor of my house and repair the portion of pipe that is affected for $3400 (this cost factors in professional removal and re-installation of my laminate floor).

    How can 2 plumbers be so different in their diagnosis? My house was built by a reputable builder and I am finding it hard to believe the sewer pipe was installed without the correct slope over 20 years ago, so am inclined not to believe the 1st plumber. But, could his diagnosis be valid?

  2. #2
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    The second opinion may be correct, but at this point there is enough money involved to make sure. I would be suspicious of the guy that wouldn't give you the tape of the job you paid for. Get another camera job. Regardless of who does the work and what their charge is, I would insist on a written guarantee that the pipe would drain.

  3. #3
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default pipe

    Regardless of how much pipe is affected directly. YOU will have to replace as much as it takes in order to establish the correct pitch. Depending on many factors, it could be a short section, or the entire pipe. I had one recently where the elevations at the house and the sewer connection 300' away were such that the pipe could not have been regraded and still give adequate slope. I had to reroute the sewer and make a new connection to a different sewer main.

  4. #4
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    I don't like what #1 said. While it is not possible to completely evaluate the slope via the camera, a 30' section of pipe full of water is probably not due to being just flat. There is quite possibly a belly, or an obstruction or offset, as the second guy says. If it is an offset or misalignment, it could just be a break, or could be cause by shifting ground. Probably not goint to know for sure until you get hands on. But with the amount of money at stake, a 3rd camera would be a good idea.

    I can't tell you from any "BTDT" experience, but I do not like the suggestion that you could overcome this problem with a pump. I would like to hear hj and wheelchair and eplumber chime in on this issue.

  5. #5

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    Thanks for the feedback so far. I really have a bad feeling about the first plumber. He discouraged me from talking to anyone else and that made me suspicious. I also really don't like the idea of a pump and would rather fix the existing pipe if at all possible. I've debated about a third camera, as the cost adds up, but it sounds like that may be necessary to have peace of mind about my ultimate repair decision.

  6. #6
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    Problem is, you're dealing with a hidden problem where the only ways to determine what and where the problem is will be to invest a another camera job or just start breaking concrete. Face it, this is not going to be a cheap repair, no matter what, but getting as much information as possible before jumping in seems to me to be the wise way to go. You may spend a few hundred, but end up saving thousands. Or maybe not, but at any rate you will know for sure the right way to proceed.

  7. #7
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default camera

    At this point a camera is not necessary. What you do need to know is the exact depth of the pipe at many points, and from that you can determine where the problem starts and how far you have to go to correct it. An accurate depth detector and a surveyor's level would do the job.

  8. #8
    I&C Engineer (mostly WWTP) Lakee911's Avatar
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    When I repaired a section of pipe the plumber put the camera in and then went up and used a detector to locate it and get the depth. Besides something like ground penetrating radar, is there something that can determine the depth without camera-ing it again?

  9. #9
    Homeowner Thatguy's Avatar
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    If you get enough bids, you can probably tell what you really need. To get 5 bids you may need to call 10 or 15 plumbers.

    .........a...bcd...e.........f
    $0....1.....2.....3.....4.....5
    ........^relative price^

    Bids a and f are probably outliers, and bcd seems to be the true price of doing your job in your zip code, today.

    Incompetence and/or greed may cancel out to some extent with this method.

    Here's your plot so far

    ............a.......b
    $0....2.....4.....6.....8
    .....^actual price^

    I'd also look up consulting engineers who do this kind of thing, but decide ahead of time how much you are willing to pay for this info.

    "In decision theory, the expected value of perfect information (EVPI) is the price that one would be willing to pay in order to gain access to perfect information."
    Last edited by Thatguy; 08-16-2009 at 05:23 PM.

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