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Thread: Main sanitary drain under house broken.

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member Amy Husband's Avatar
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    Exclamation Main sanitary drain under house broken.

    Today I noticed that while doing a load of laundry, my bathtub was backing up with dirty water and my toilet was leaking around the base. Upon googling I figured it was a main drain clog, so I called a local plumber. He initially agreed the main line needed to be unclogged and proceeded to do so. Once he got in there, he noticed there was a lot of dirt that was in the drain, and was unsure why. A little while later, and still unable to unclog the main drain from outside the house, he went to the toilet in the master bath where I had first noticed the problem. After he was snaking the toilet for awhile, I peaked outside and noticed that his "snake" had come up through the front yard garden and was down the driveway. He told me that my sanitary drain pipe underneath the house had a hole in it somewhere, but that he'd have to take a camera down the pipe to know for sure what he's dealing with. With it being a Saturday after hours, I decided that I'd wait until normal business hours to do anything else. My house was built in 2000, with PVC piping. I have several questions:

    What are the causes? There are no large trees anywhere near my house so I am fairly certain that's not the problem.

    Is it possible that while trying to clear the clog, he could have busted the pipe?

    Most importantly, how much, on average, would this type of repair cost?

  2. #2

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    A snake can break a drain line but I doubt that's what happened here. If the line had dirt in it before he started snaking it, the pipe was allready broken which would have caused the back up. Plastic pipe can break due to stress placed on it. Maybe as it passes under the foundation in the front of the house. Or ground movement. Or a poor joint.

  3. #3
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    You probably have an "Orangeburg" sewer pipe OUTSIDE the house. Since it was basically rolled up tarpaper, AND collapsed, the snake just bored through it and out of the ground. I had it happen once, but it came out of the ground at the feet of the homeowner who was sitting on a yard bench. It would be VERY unlikely to be broken under the house and still come up OUTSIDE the building, because of concrete foundations around the structure that would have stopped it. I, personnally, would NOT invest a few hundred dollars in a camera inspection, which will be useless any way if the pipe has water in it. I would just dig down where the pipe comes out of the building, the snake has told you where that is, and find out exactly what kind of pipe you have. If it is Orangeburg, then complete replacement is the only option. As an aside, IF I cannot unplug a sewer from "outside", I would absolutely NOT try to do it from the toilet opening.
    Last edited by hj; 01-06-2013 at 06:20 AM.
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  4. #4
    DIY Junior Member Amy Husband's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    You probably have an "Orangeburg" sewer pipe OUTSIDE the house. Since it was basically rolled up tarpaper, AND collapsed, the snake just bored through it and out of the ground. I had it happen once, but it came out of the ground at the feet of the homeowner who was sitting on a yard bench. It would be VERY unlikely to be broken under the house and still come up OUTSIDE the building, because of concrete foundations around the structure that would have stopped it. I, personnally, would NOT invest a few hundred dollars in a camera inspection, which will be useless any way if the pipe has water in it. I would just dig down where the pipe comes out of the building, the snake has told you where that is, and find out exactly what kind of pipe you have. If it is Orangeburg, then complete replacement is the only option. As an aside, IF I cannot unplug a sewer from "outside", I would absolutely NOT try to do it from the toilet opening.
    Well the snake came out right where the front door/garden meet, so that makes me think it was trying to find it's way out for a while before that, which would place it somewhere in my living room/foyer. The plumber told me (and bear with me because I have no knowledge of plumbing what-so-ever) that while he was first trying to snake out the main drain(the hole in my front yard) he was only able to get about 15 feet, so that is how we guestimated the break to be somewhere around the living area/garage, depending on what direction the pipe goes.

    What kind of costs am I looking at if I do indeed need to remove part of the foundation to find this broken pipe?

  5. #5

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    Is your house on a concrete slab?

  6. #6
    DIY Junior Member Amy Husband's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dcelite View Post
    Is your house on a concrete slab?
    Yes, it's on a concrete slab

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    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    If your home is on a concrete slab, then the piping inside the foundation is going to be schedule 40, fairly robust.
    It's the outside line you have to worry about, and like hj mentioned, you know where the damage is.

  8. #8
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    Just to flog a dead horse, you almost certainly have Orangeburg pipe outside. It was supposed to be the answer to a maiden's prayer for a time and was used quite extensively for a period of time. It obviously was a complete flop. HJ pretty well sums it up. Replacement is the only answer to Orangeburg. Don't even consider a patch job.

  9. #9

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    You can replace the pipe with a trenchless pipe bursting. Then you would just need one hole in the slab inside and a hole outside. Then they pull a new pipe through and make the connections at each end.

  10. #10
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    IF the break were under the house, and IF the snake was trying to get out of the ground under the house, it WOULD have hit the concrete foundation, which completely encircles the house and could NOT have come out of the ground outside the house. Either you are not telling us what we need to know, or we are interpreting what you are writing incorrectly. The pipes UNDER your house would NEVER have been made of a material that his snake could have "drilled" through, even if it impacted something solid that it could not go through, which is also unlikely. He SHOULD have been able to tell which way the snake went, and if he couldn't then you need a different plumber. (But then, that was my initial reaction when you said he tried to snake it through the toilet, which is something I would normally have NEVER done.)
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

  11. #11
    DIY Junior Member Amy Husband's Avatar
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    Well the break IS under the slab of the house. I had a 2nd plumbing company come out today with the camera, and they estimated the break to be right between the front porch and living room. This is about 10-12 feet from the site the snake exited(the garden). It looks more like a separation of 2 pipes versus an actual hole, based off what he showed me on the camera. Upon initially snaking out the line today, they didn't find any problem, but because they apparently used a larger bore snake, it just found it's way through the gap in the pipe with no problem. The first company used a smaller bore snake, and that's how it found it's way out through the garden. The estimate given to me today to fix the pipe was $800-1200, IF they don't have to drill through the slab inside. If so, I'm assuming that'll jack the price up significantly.

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