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Thread: I don't want to kick out my tenant... main line needs repair

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    DIY Junior Member jfowells's Avatar
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    Default I don't want to kick out my tenant... main line needs repair

    Background: 600 sq.ft rental house built on a slab in 1923. The drains appear to run in a straight line from the kitchen, to the bathroom sink, to the toilet. From there it exits the wall and joins the tub drain in a little 'mechanical' closet, runs down to what I'm guessing is a 90 angle, and out of the building. Until it joins the tub, the whole thing is iron, encased in the slab - at least I think so. Does that make sense? Would pics help?

    The issue: Two months ago, the kitchen sink backed up, quickly followed by the bathroom sink and toilet. Called in a plumber who couldn't(wouldn't) bring his cutter down the hill, so used a regular snake. Pulled up some dirt and gunk. Everything fine until a few weeks ago. Same issue, accompanied by a faint sewer gas smell. Everything but the tub completely stopped up, and this time required hydrojetting to clear.

    Given the toilet involvement - it gurgles when running any faucet - I assumed the problem had to be between the toilet and where it joins the tub, which is accessible from the mechanical room… but a camera revealed a crack and beginnings of an offset somewhere around the bathroom sink. The plumber said he couldn't get past it for fear that it would get stuck, so a month's salary later I still don't know what happens at the business end of the line.

    His solution: jackhammer through the slab and replace the entire system, which means displacing a tenant for as long as it takes to redo the floors (polished concrete) and newly laid tile tub surround.

    I realize that the whole thing will need replacing. One crack means there are likely others, and that roots/mud can get in through the offset and muck things up further down the line… but even then I'm finding it hard to believe that replacing the section after the toilet wouldn't resolve the issue, at least until my beloved tenant moves on and/or I can afford to spend the $5K.

    Am I missing something? Can a partial collapse affect the function of the drains further down the line? Is it possible that a vent is clogged? (the plumbers refused to go up on the roof…)

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions, and for reading the whole thing. I can handle replacing the section from the toilet to the cleanout myself, but if it won't help anything... I just don't know what to do.
    Last edited by jfowells; 02-26-2012 at 06:31 PM.

  2. #2
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    Clogged vent does NOT cause those symptoms. It ESPECIALLY does not cause mud and muck in the line!

    If you have a valued tenant....put him up in a hotel for 5 days while you get the work done.

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    DIY Junior Member jfowells's Avatar
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    I will happily put her up if I can resolve the problem by replacing the section from the toilet to where it meets the tub, but tearing out the floor and redoing everything will take weeks of work, and I'm afraid it would be less expensive to take the house off the rental market than spend the $5K I was quoted plus whatever it would cost to redo the all the floors, tile, etc.

    I know the damaged line near the sink is probably allowing dirt in, but still seems hard to imagine that a crack in the line before it reaches the toilet would be causing it to back up...

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    One thing to consider is the lease your tenant signed.

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    DIY Junior Member jfowells's Avatar
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    no lease. she understands the dilemma, and can move out for a while if I can fix it without taking out a second mortgage on my house... but she also knows that I wouldn't qualify for a second mortgage...

    I have a feeling I didn't explain my questions very well.
    1. Can a partially blocked main cause plumbing down-stream to fail? Am I misguided in thinking that only a problem after the toilet would cause it not to flush well?
    2. Doesn't it make sense to replace the main line where the problem seems to be (from the toilet to where it leaves the building), as opposed to where a small crack was detected?
    Last edited by jfowells; 02-26-2012 at 10:33 PM.

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    IF there was a camera inspection, you should have received a tape or DVD of the results. Show that to a different plumber and get his evaluation. We cannot do it just based on your description. One crack does not necessarily mean there are others so you have to know WHERE the problem actually is so you can decide what has to be replaced. The drain lines are not "IN" the concrete, however, they are "under" it.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

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    DIY Member mliu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfowells View Post
    Background: 600 sq.ft rental house built on a slab in 1923. The drains appear to run in a straight line from the kitchen, to the bathroom sink, to the toilet. From there it exits the wall and joins the tub drain in a little 'mechanical' closet, runs down to what I'm guessing is a 90 angle, and out of the building. Until it joins the tub, the whole thing is iron, encased in the slab - at least I think so. Does that make sense? Would pics help?
    Pics would help. Is there a cleanout or any other access to the drain pipe from inside the mechanical room? If so it may be better to run an inspection camera upstream from that point.

    In any case, you definitely need some additional inspections from different plumbers & contractors. Even if the first guy is 100% correct and well-suited to do the job (and its sounds like he may not be), you would still want at least one "second opinion" before undertaking a repair/rennovation of such a large scale.

    Question to the experts on this forum: I know it's possible to do pipe-bursting and replacement for water supply lines, but is such a thing ever done for drain/waste pipes? Or perhaps horizontal drilling? Obviously holes would still need to be cut into the slab at the fixtuers to connect in the drains, but if such techniques are possible, it would save having to cut a trenches through the length of the floor.

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    TROJAN WORLDWIDE SALES RP MACPLUMB 777's Avatar
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    There is a way of pulling ether a pipe patch for the cracked piece or reline the whole pipe from inside to the outside,

    You just have to find the right contractor

    MACPLUMB 777

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    35 YEAR MASTER PLUMBER, HEATING, ELECTRIC, DRAINS, FIRE SPRINKLERS, WATER HEATER
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