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Thread: Replacing Cast Iron Sewer Line (Pittsburgh Area, PA)

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member Sibs's Avatar
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    Default Replacing Cast Iron Sewer Line (Pittsburgh Area, PA)

    Hi All:

    I’m in a 1940s home in the Pittsburgh area. The main line backed up this past weekend and I had Roto Rooter cable the line and it was flowing and back to normal (I know, big box plumber…not my first choice but on a Sunday I couldn’t find anyone else to make it out). As part of the repair, they offer free camera service of the main line.

    Due to the age of the home, it’s not a big shocker that there are some issues that need to be addressed. Granted the tech was a bit overzealous in his sales pitch: “Cast Iron isn't meant to last more than 20 years!”… “See how jagged the pipe is!”… There were a few shifts in the pipe, obvious corrosion, and root growth.

    Based on the camera assessment it appears that the cast iron pipe will need to be removed in the basement, replaced with PVC, and a liner installed in the main line under the driveway to the tune of $22,000.00

    Dramatics aside, I’m looking for a reputable plumber in the Pittsburgh area. The Roto-Rooter price seems a bit absurd. I am quite aware it is not a cheap fix, but 22k…wow!
    Also, what is your opinion regarding liners? Is it better to excavate a portion of the driveway and replace the cast iron?

    Thank you for your help.
    Last edited by Sibs; 02-19-2013 at 09:35 AM.

  2. #2
    DIY Senior Member DougB's Avatar
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    Thirty-six homeowners filed a lawsuit in Hennepin County, alleging that Roto-Rooter systematically pressured them into expensive and unnecessary excavation and sewer line replacement.

    According to the Complaint, Roto-Rooter deliberately misrepresented the nature of its customers' plumbing problems, conveying that the homeowners had far more extensive plumbing problems than actually existed. As a result, Roto-Rooter charged homeowners between $3,500 and $17,000 for these unnecessary repairs. The lawsuit asks the court to order Roto-Rooter to stop its deceptive practices and to reimburse homeowners the amounts they paid for all unnecessary repairs.

    http://www.zimmreed.com/Roto-Rooter-Lawsuit/44293/

  3. #3
    In the Trades mtcummins's Avatar
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    Agreeing with Doug... they, Gilese, etc are all con artists.

    FWIW, in the Pittsburgh area, A-1 is the best for snaking/etc. They do emergency calls (prolly cost you about $250 for that). They're very professional, do the work right, and don't seem to BS you about work like RR did.

    I have no opinion on liners. My general impression is that if you already have problems, a liner is a band-aid, but I'd defer to the more experienced plumbers here on that one. If you have some time and are handy, you could probably save yourself a lot of money on the work by renting a jackhammer and busting up the concrete and digging out the basement lines yourself, then have plumber do the work, and you backfill them with gravel and pour concrete again. If it doesn't have to be pretty, this work isn't too challenging, but the plumber is charging you at his normal rate to do labor work.

  4. #4
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Some of the rooter companies in this area have "stock tapes" that they show to the customers and tell them it is THEIR sewer that they are looking at. There are cast iron systems that to back to the 1920s and before tha are still working. My first house from 1972 still has its original cast iron sewers. He was trying to "dazzle you with his brilliance", but if that didn't work his second choice was to "baffle you with his B.S.". There are probably a lot of "reputable" plumbers but they may not be a "national franchise" with TV ads showing their backhoes digging up lines. Old cast iron lines WILL develop stalagmites and stalactites, and they would have to scoured off, which is NOT an easy job, before you could even think about inserting a liner in the pipe. The ONLY part of his diagnosis which seems legitimate is the part about corrosion because it IS a metal pipe. Normally, cast iron pipes do NOT shift, nor can roots infiltrate the joints. The "main line under the driveway" has NOTHING to do with the cast iron, since the cast iron normally stops just outside the building wall.
    Last edited by hj; 02-19-2013 at 03:09 PM.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

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    DIY Junior Member JTlikestobuild's Avatar
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    Hey Sibs

    I'm doing a home reno and change the DWV pipe (it was running through the neighbor's property) from on side of the house to the other. The new line I install was ABS but I keep wondering if I did the right thing.

    The old cast iron had been 6ft in the the ground for 103 years. Smashing the lead hubs apart took some effort. I measured the wall thickness of the old cast iron pcs I pulled out . The worst one was less than an 1/8" thinner on the bottom than on the top.

    I also pulled out a bunch of the lead DWV line. Thinking of it now I could have sold pcs as antiques on ****.


    John

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    Consultant cwhyu2's Avatar
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    NO it should be ASTM 3034 sewer pipe for a building sewer.

  7. #7
    In the Trades mtcummins's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    The "main line under the driveway" has NOTHING to do with the cast iron, since the cast iron normally stops just outside the building wall.
    In Pittsburgh, we're dealing with many original plumbing systems that are about a century old. With the steel boom, my understanding is that Pittsburgh was one of the early adopters of the indoor toilet, for example. It was always in the basement (you know, b/c outhouses smell, so why would anyone put a toilet near where they live?). These early systems went in fast and furious.

    There are many outside undergrounds done in cast around here, though probably the majority of those old ones are terra cotta. Of course they don't put cast in out there these days, but we do have a lot of old buried cast in the area.

    FWIW...

  8. #8
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    quote; The worst one was less than an 1/8" thinner on the bottom than on the top.

    103 years ago the pipe could be "cast", (castung the pipe concentrically was not an exact science until they started spincasting the pipe), that way, so it was probably not "wear" that caused it.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

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