Opinions/Help/BS Detector Needed - Clay Pipe Replacement vs. Maintenance

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by glathrop, Jul 12, 2013.

  1. glathrop

    glathrop New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    Hi all,

    I'm glad I found the forum so I can get some unbiased advice on my current dilemma.

    I was experiencing gurgling sounds from toilet and sink along with slow drain on the tub.

    After diagnostic, the issue is roots in the main drain pipe leading from the house. The pipe is clay and the roots are coming in at the joints, which from my understanding is fairly common. The plumber was able to rooter the pipe and establish flow/drainage.

    He then recommended trenchless pipe replacement to the tune of $95 per foot for the 75 foot run....$7125. After I politely told him he was insane, the price immediately dropped to $5k.

    Here's my dilemma... The pipes are not collapsed. Yes they have roots, but they can be cleaned out on maintenance schedule. From my understanding this would not be possible on an old Orangeburg pipe, but is on clay. In 25 minutes the plumber established flow and got me back online.

    I feel like I'm being set up. Obviously the roots are an issue, but do they seriously REQUIRE a full pipe replacement or can I simply maintain them? The immediate price drop of 2K/30% inspires no feelings of trust in the plumber's business intentions.

    The home was built in 1945. I have been in it for a little over a year. The trees next to the pipe are well established and I cannot see how this is the first time an owner encountered this. I am not opposed to spending to replace the pipe, but I would rather do it on a planned scheduled where I set aside for it rather than dip into my emergency fund to cover something that is currently operational.

    I need advice. Please help.

    Thank you in advance!
  2. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,309
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    YOu may have the same plumber that my home warranty company sent to change my water heater. After telling him that he was either a crook or a gouger, (because even though the company was paying him to replace the heater he wanted me to pay him an additional $235.00), I sent him on his way. My recommendation is that if a snaking every year or two cures it, DO NOT replace the sewer. When the roots get so agressive that it has to be done on a less than yearly basis, then consider a replacement, but unless excavating is not an option, that is the way I would do it.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2013
  3. glathrop

    glathrop New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    Thank you for the reply HJ. I feel at a minimum it is worth some time to see how quickly it would clog after clearing the roots this time and trying some root killer over the next year.

    Does any one else have any opinions in agreement or to the contrary ?
  4. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,841
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    How deep or accessible is the pipe if you end up needing to excavate? From what I know about tree roots, they have the power to crumble foundations as they grow. Unless root killer effectively discourages the root growth, I would think they would keep growing around the outside of the pipe as well since the sewage also leaks out of every joint. As long as the pipe has not yet collapsed, trenchless is still an option.
  5. glathrop

    glathrop New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    The pipe is very accessible on a side yard. I do not know about the depth.

    I am on a pier and beam foundation so root damage to the foundation is not a primary concern. A collapsed pipe however, would require replacement of at least the collapsed section.
  6. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    When my wife and I moved to our current home a little over three years ago, we came here knowing our sewer line identical to yours was clogged with roots and the toilet would not flush. For nearly 20 years, my father-in-law had been either hiring someone or renting equipment to clear it out annually...and now we had to consider all the various options you have mentioned.

    One of the folks at the home office for a trenchless liner such as you have mentioned told me they could do definitely do the job, but even he suggested the cost was prohibitive in this situation.

    A company with "roto" in its name said they could replace the line with PVC in a day for $2500.00 (as I recall), but they could/would not have done that without destroying the concrete curbing in that area around our flower bed.

    Over his own time here, my father-in-law had already spent more than the $1500.00 it cost me to do the replacement PVC myself. I rented a trencher and cut down to the top of the clay pipe, then removed it and cleared its impression at the bottom of the trench so I could lay PVC back in its place. A local plumber with a nice seat on his small excavator had told me that would not be possible, but he had no logical explanation other than to say he had once tried that and failed.

    To get rid of the clay pipe after the PVC had been installed, I filled the trench about halfway, then broke the clay into small pieces on top of that before completing the closure and getting the yard back in shape.

    If you intend to remain in that house for another 20 years, replace that clay line with PVC!
  7. glathrop

    glathrop New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    Lee,

    Thank you for replying. I am intending on staying in this house for at least 7-8 years. I intend to replace the pipe completely at some point as the roots will be a recurring issue. My question is... can I swing by with simple maintenance for a while or does this issue necessitate immediate action?
  8. cwhyu2

    cwhyu2 Consultant

    Messages:
    1,331
    Location:
    Cincinnati OH
    I would suggest have a camera run down the line, if it is not broken then yearly maintinance is okay untill you are ready to replace.
  9. glathrop

    glathrop New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    Thanks Cwhyu2.
  10. Stuff

    Stuff Member

    Messages:
    50
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Any possibility of getting rid of the trees? That was the cheapest for me after having roots removed from drain. Been over 10 years now.
  11. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,309
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    Several things.
    1. Even though roots CAN get into the pipe, that does NOT mean water is leaking out.
    2. Roots on the outside of the pipe do NOT crush or collapse it
    3. As time passes the roots will become a problem more frequently, but "more frequently" could mean eveyr 2 years instead of every 3 years. Until they become a several times a year problem, you do NOT have to replace the pipe unless you want to spend the money to do it.
    4. Tearing the trees down does NOT get rid of the problem. I have had situations where the trees were cut down 30 years previous and their roots are still causing problems.
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