Is Roto Rooter Ripping Us Off?

Discussion in 'Drain Cleaning' started by Chgo, Jul 27, 2012.

  1. Chgo

    Chgo New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Hi,

    I've posted this in two other forums, so if you've read this, I'm sorry.

    We live in a Chicago 3-flat condo building. All three units are owner occupied.

    Last week, our main sewage drain, under the basement leading to the city sewer line under the street, clogged and backed up.

    We called Roto Rooter, they came out and managed to unclog the pipe.

    Then the guy with the camera came and told us we had some roots growing in.

    The cleanout in the basement is 3 1/2 inches and is at the front of the building. Outside in the front of building is a 4-inch pipe leading to the main sewer line and has a downspout running into it. At the back of the building, about 115 feet from the roots, is a 6-inch pipe leading to the main line and that too has a downspout running into it.

    Roto Rooter wants to tear up our front lawn and install a 6-inch clean out. They say that because the main line is six inches and the two clean outs at the front of the building are 3 1/2 and 4 inches, they need a six inch cleanout to get the roots. I asked if they could use the six inch pipe at the back of the building, but the guy said 115 feet was too far.

    This is the first trouble we've had with the line since the building was rehabbed 12 years ago.

    I'm having a hard time believing they can't use there blades from the opening at the back of the building. It seems like it would be pretty much a straight shot to the roots once they were in the pipe.

    Roto Rooter wants $4000-plus to dig up lawn, pull permits, install cleanout etc. It's an additonal $500 if we choose to have a jet wash.

    Am I right about the 6-inch cleanout in the back of building? What do you guys think.

    Thanks for your help
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 21, 2012
  2. johnjh2o1

    johnjh2o1 Plumbing Contractor for 49 years

    Messages:
    1,143
    Location:
    South*East
    It's hard to say without being able to see what's going on. But what I will say is get another estimate or two. Get the estimates from company's that don't have ROOTER in there name. These people are very well known for over pricing and not being very honest or knowledgeable.

    John
  3. MACPLUMB 777

    MACPLUMB 777 TROJAN WORLDWIDE SALES RP

    Messages:
    679
    Location:
    Houston, Texas, United States
    Sewerratz is out running errands but he is the one you want to call !
    A archer plumbing and drain service,
    sewerratz@gmail.com
    he can clean your 6" pipe from your existing 31/2" & 4" clean outs

    630-932-9800
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2012
  4. Chgo

    Chgo New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Yeah, very possibly. I see his name a lot here.

    I guess what I want to know is if it's possible to use the 6-inch cleanout at the back of the building for roots at the front of the building. I'm guessing it's 115 -125 feet. Roto said it was too far. I'm not sure I buy it.
  5. SewerRatz

    SewerRatz Illinois Licensed Plumber

    Messages:
    1,705
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    My ears where burning, lol

    All of our trucks have 160' of cable on the trucks. The machine has 110' (100' cable 10' anchor), and 50' extra in a rand for those slightly longer sewers. We also carry a 4" x 6" expanding cutter for those homes with only a 4" clean out.

    So a 6" clean out is not necessary, but does makes things easer for the guys that do not carry the extra cable or the expanding cutters. As for the price, its hard to say site unseen. Our starting price for an outside clean out install is $2800 excluding any city fees and permits, and goes up depending on depth and location. We can give a firm price after seeing the job site.

    To power rod with our expanding cutters or from the back access point, our starting rate is $265.00 for the first hour, and $80.00 per half hour after the first. If you have any questions or just want to pick my brain feel free to call (630)932-9800
  6. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,855
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Macplumb, do you have any recommendations for a guy like Sewerratz on Long Island, NY? I mean knowledgeable, honest, fair, and supremely-competent? I had the $49.99 Sewer and Drain guys snake a few of my gutter drains and a patio drain, and they got those working again, but they were totally overwhelmed with my driveway drain.

    Driveway drain is a like 2'x3' grate over a like-sized brick cistern that goes down about 10 feet. A couple of feet from the top is a clay pipe (1920's house) about 4" in diameter that the extra water volume is supposed to flow into; that pipe is connected to what must have been a pretty-fancy stormwater drainage system that still kinda works (it slurps up the gutter water and water from other stormwater drains without complaint, even in big storms). However, about 10 feet down that pipe is some sort of clog, so in anything other than the lightest rain, our driveway floods. A friend/contractor jetted out the dirt and gravel that had accumulated in there with a fire-hose attachment, but he believes that at that spot about 10 feet down the pipe, and probably every 30' or so thereafter, there is likely a ball of roots.

    The $49.99 guys came with their two-man, NOT $49.99 snake and worked it for about 15 minutes before deciding that it was beyond their capability. They said it might be a cave-in, or might be roots or might be many things, but what it wasn't was something they wanted to work on. Fair enough. My buddy will dig the whole thing up and replace it, but he wants a pretty penny to do that, and I thought it would be worth a try by a supremely-competent snaker first, followed by a camera inspection if that didn't work and someone trustworthy thought it would be worthwhile. $500 or so to get a snaking job done right seems totally fair.

    Anyone you would recommend? Or anyone on here? (I haven't seen any Long Island pros on this forum yet...)
  7. MACPLUMB 777

    MACPLUMB 777 TROJAN WORLDWIDE SALES RP

    Messages:
    679
    Location:
    Houston, Texas, United States
    Contact Ranger Sewer @ 631-368-0901
    Dan Kleinpeter
    he can take care of your problem and or give you a price to correct problem
  8. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,855
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Thank you SO MUCH!
  9. DRS

    DRS New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    Suffolk County NY
    That would be me!

    Let me know how I can help!

    DRS
  10. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,855
    Location:
    New York, NY
    So, Danny at Ranger Sewer did a great job today! Unraveled the mystery of where the driveway drain drained to. Got the clog out and now it drains perfectly. So much for those who said we would have to dig up the driveway! Just goes to show how a competent person with experience can make miracles happen. And the price was fair!

    Of course, no good deed goes unpunished. The problem is that the driveway drain drains into a cistern outside the kitchen door, which itself has an overflow pipe that goes off into the hinterlands. Because that cistern is five feet below the driveway grade, if we get a big storm, now my flood is outside the kitchen door instead of in the driveway. Danny got about 30 feet down that overflow pipe, but didn't want to risk getting stuck without a better idea where that goes or what it does. So I am crossing my fingers for no rain until I can take the next steps on my new drain problem.

    Thanks, Jerrymac, for the great reference. We're at least halfway there!

    PS Looked at the kitchen patio cistern tonight. Water is now below the outflow pipe, but muck has covered over where Danny dug out to expose the inlet from the driveway drain. That suggests that muck flowed back out of the overflow into the cistern, and is a chocolate-pudding-type muck. Maybe we just have to go further with the jet, but I understand that we'll want to camera it or at least wire it first. Curious, because without the input from the driveway drain, that cistern never overflowed as long as I can remember.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2012
  11. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

    Messages:
    4,177
    Location:
    North Vancouver, BC
    Roto Rooter Vancouver - not the best option out there

    I have hired Roto Rooter a couple of times here in Vancouver and after the last time - Never again.

    [​IMG]

    Here is a picture of what my drain line looks like right now. This picture was taken under my driveway under the row of Cedar Trees. You can see the roots taking hold of this sewer pipe.

    I have a 4" cleaned out at my garage and a 6" clean out at the edge of the city property line.

    You can call the city and wait for there trucks or snake your own line.

    I know the rooter rooter guys charge to snake and then also charge to look. We hired the "Plumber" who must have been 22 or 23 years old and he used an arrow head attachment and then just punched a hole through the roots. Then he looked with his camera and billed us $600 some odd dollars. No cutting no other work.

    The sewer line backed up a few months later and then I rented a snake with a root cutter. My home has been fine for a couple of years now but you can see this should be done every other year at least.


    [video=youtube;8-Zbstji7oo]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-Zbstji7oo&feature=share&list=UUrBepa5JmQ_AzljnwYivHFw[/video]

    Some water flow action. The camera I shoved under the street to take a look. We will need to call the city to clean their portion of this drain line.


    JW
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2012
  12. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

    Messages:
    4,177
    Location:
    North Vancouver, BC
    Camera Inspections - A look at a West Vancouver homes rain water leaders

    [video=youtube;nuWJy8eoORc]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuWJy8eoORc&feature=share&list=UUrBepa5JmQ_AzljnwYivHFw[/video]

    With a camera snake you can get a good look at the work that was done on your home. Hang out with the crew and make sure what you pay for gets done!

    These cameras also come with a tracking device. The device can tell you a lot. For one they tell you where they are but better than that is how deep they are.

    If you hold the camera at the same elevation off the homes foundation (ie first course of siding) you can determine if the proper grade is in effect. We found that this home had a large belly down under the home's heat pumps. It is most likely that the concrete slab settled and cracked these rain water leaders. So for years the roof water is going right against the homes walls and not down the rain water leader to the home's sump.

    We measured and mapped out this for our clients here in West Vancouver. New home construction requires a site plan for these drain pipes to be on file. If your lucky check with city hall and find out.

    If you just built a new home a few years ago I would suggest you re-inspect or inspect the work to make sure nothing changed when the home settled.

    My own home suffered a crack in the rain water leader and I found out that my guy installed a Y fitting backwards! I'm glad I found this now instead of years later after thousand and thousands of gallons of water was shot down straight to my foundation.

    JW

    [​IMG]
  13. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,653
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    I have a three blade spring loaded head which goes in through a 3 1/2" or 4" opening and then opens up to the size of the pipe, whether it is 4", 5", or 6". ALL codes specify, that the maximum cleanout opening "required" for most pipes is 4", (which is the o.d. of a 3 1/2" plug which is why that is adequate). And, Yes, 110 feet is too long because of torsion "windup" which is proportional to the length of the pipe. At that length, when the cutter hits a "tough" section, the cable will "wind up", rather than cut through it.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2012
  14. bsa_bob

    bsa_bob DIY Member

    Messages:
    56
    Location:
    britton mich
    This fella sounds like he has been around the block on cleaning sewers. As i have!!i helped my dad many many years as did my brother in"best way sewer" a business built by my father. He has since died the business sold my older brother and i retired. These crooks that charge $500.00 to look in sewer with a "camera"for you are.." CROOKS"'' of the worst kind/ Look at it this way.They can tell you anything they want, you are at their mercy, you can't see whats going on in their anyway.............. just but their word! on whats happening in your sewer system.people aren't as honest as they were years ago.

    The sewer can be cabled out with a 2" blade........then if it goes thru good. You jump to a 4" blade.run the cable all the way out again or as far as humanly possible. From there the "sewerman will share with you; THIS : your sewer is plugged with roots ,if its real bad, you dig it up and replace where its broke or filled tight with roots section.,my dad could calculate by steppin off the distance of a sewer,and tell a customer right where to dig,within 5 '. THEN you call the township. they always paid for the cleaning if the "plug" was on their end.

    Grant you its still cheaper!............... less that............... $100.00 in lower michigan.You don't need a camera at all!!! thats a money grab in my book. $600.00 to tell you what the cable....is saying................ your sewer is plugged. Tell-em to stick their camera where the sun don't shine. ha ha

    He saved more than one residents pocketbook.
    The part about the cable winding up is true,but a good man at this ,can get it free of the plug with a little bit of patience and skill. hth any questions i am here. once "proffesional sewer cleane"r now a licensed journeyman plumber bob /retired
    my price info maybe abit out of line on this .

    i just saw $280.00 above that sounds high to me Watchout my friend some of these guys prices are ubsurd!! for what they are doing.And you don't need a licensed plumber to do this kind of work.in all honesty licensed plumbers here lower mich don't want to do this menial work .Experience is what you need not hi way robbers
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2012
  15. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,653
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    I do NOT use a camera in a sewer line unless there is some factor that makes it desirable or necessary, then I hire a company which has about $40,000.00 worth of equipment to do it, and anything else that becomes necessary to determine the problem. I ALWAYS use the largest cutter that will fit into the pipe so I normally only have to do it once. IF there is a problem and that one cannot cut through it, then I begin to downsize to find the largest one which WILL do the job. To me it is NOT "menial" work, it is work that I am the best at doing. I do NOT do this for $100.00, however.
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