Replacing cast iron waste pipes

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by JMichael, Jan 26, 2011.

  1. JMichael

    JMichael New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    Sacramento CA
    My house was built in 1960 and has the original cast iron waste pipes. The pipes were pushed around to accommodate the hard pipe for an HVAC system which we have since relocated to the attic. The result, however, is that the pipe dips in places and is no longer a gradual decline to the main pipe to the sewer which is located across the entire length of the house by the bathrooms. It's about a forty foot run from the kitchen/laundry area to the bathroom area.

    The pipe already rotted out in one of the low spots three years ago and we had the pipe repaired at that spot and had the mess abated. The repair has now failed right at the rubber coupler they used to replace the rotted piece of pipe.

    So, I want to replace the cast iron run with PVC or new cast iron done right. So I have some quick questions.

    I'd like to avoid trying this myself. 1) So what would be a very rough estimate for having somebody replace the pipe? The house has a crawlspace and I have an access point cut in the floor near the leak. 2) When replacing the cast iron pipes, how far do you typically go and, if you stop at the main line that leads to the sewer, how do you properly join it at that point?

    I'm waiting to get a call from the contractor who had his guys repair the pipe and clean up the mess. This was three years ago. He's on a week long job right now and will supposedly get back to me tonight. We like him and have him do inspections for us when we run into little things here or there... and the work he did cleaning up the mess under the house was excellent, so I'm trying to be a little tactful. But, 3) realistically, what is his liability in this? We noticed the leak because we began to pick up a smell in the house a few weeks ago. I just crawled under the house yesterday to take a look. I already have been feeling a little nauseas the past few days, so I don't want to live with this another week especially not with my daughters around.

    As always, thank you very much for your advice.
  2. rmelo99

    rmelo99 Network Engineer

    Messages:
    349
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Tough to throw out a price on the job, prob won't get any posts helping you there. That being said you can replace the run with PVC which will more likely be cheaper and easier. The joint to the existing cast will be made with a banded fernco. The "rubber coupler" you mentioned before but it has a metal band around the rubber.

    You need only replace as much as is bad and can replace as much as is feasible. The cost to replace 20ft will not be double the cost to replace 10ft. Just like the cost to replace 20ft of the whole 40ft run will not be half. If it needs replacing better to do it all at once since it will be MUCH cheaper to have done in one shot.

    Piping is usually in 10ft sections so the ease of getting materials in/out and working in the crawl space will most certainly factor into your bids. Getting cast iron into a crawl space with limited/difficult access will be cost prohibitive. Not knowing the layout it is difficult to know/recommend how much or little to replace. A main line is usually a 3" or 4" pipe, you didn't specify but we'll assume that's what you have. Don't just have one guy price it out for you, and make sure you have all contractors that bid specify the scope and materials of the work to be done. So you have an apples to apples comparison.
  3. mcconnellplumbing

    mcconnellplumbing Scotsman

    Messages:
    43
    Location:
    Wellston, OK
    After inspecting the sewer section under the house a number of answers will fill in. Limited crawlspace is a factor. The less space between dirt and joist slows things down. Distance between opening access and work is also a factor. If both are OK, where you could crawl with head up and farthest point is 40' away. Then you cut the old cast at both ends. We use small grinders to cut the cast iron. We have ratcheting cast iron cutters but on weak cast iron, it can crush instead of cut the iron. Using a banded Fernco coupling at both ends, strapping the pipe every 3' from the joists to maintain slope, and a ball park figure is 5 hours, two men with $150 in parts assuming no other wye fittings are required for branch lines eminating from the trunk. In OKC 5 hours of honest plumbers (journeyman and helper) will run about $125.00/hour times 5 hours = $625.00 + 150.00 parts = $750.00-$1000.00
  4. JMichael

    JMichael New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    Sacramento CA
    Thank you.

    The coupler has wire clamps on both ends, but it's still leaking. Am I correct, given the work was done three years ago, that either the warranty of the coupler or the wire clamps or his insurance should cover this?
  5. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,274
    Location:
    New England
    If the 'coupler' does not have a reinforcement band around it, it is NOT approved for above-ground use and should not have passed inspection. Those are only approved for use underground where the ends of the pipe can be properly supported to prevent them becoming unaligned.
  6. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,260
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    Unless you received a written warranty when the work was done, no one is obligated to fix something they did 3 years ago.

    One thing you should do is insist that the repair company pull a building/plumbing permit from the municipality for the work that is to be performed. This way the municipal inspector will have to inspect the completed work before it will be approved. This helps to protect you against another hack job.
  7. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,387
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    I would not have the previous contractor on my property if I were you. He obviously did not know what he was doing, did not pull a permit because if he had, the job would have had to be inspected and no inspector would have signed off on the hack job. Assuming the job is just a remove the old and replace properly, this should not be overly costly. Now, I'm not saying "cheap", but barring unknowns, this doesn't sound like too big of a problem.
  8. JMichael

    JMichael New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    Sacramento CA
    Is a reinforcement band different than the crimp rings on each side?
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2011
  9. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    Plain rubber coupling:





    Banded Couplings:
    http://www.fernco.com/files/installation-instructions/proflex_install.pdf


    At the time, did he offer to redo the whole thing, get out all the bad pipe and the dips, and you went on the cheap? The rubber coupling gave out on the already corroded out end of the cast iron? If he warranted that situation for 30 days. You would be pretty cheeky to suggest this is a warranty issue. Not being harsh...just real.

    If you still have any dips, now is the time to make it all right.
  10. JMichael

    JMichael New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    Sacramento CA
    Thanks for the link. No, the one he used just has the bands at the end.

    At the time I had far bigger concerns than the pipe itself as there was a huge cleanup from the leak including mold and fungus growth and soil that needed to be removed. The actual pipe repair itself was a very small part of the project. The quote did mention replacing 15ft of pipe which I thought would be enough to take the dip out of it. But instead only about 4ft got replaced and the dip remained. The issue at the time was that the old air ducts for the HVAC used to be down there and crossed the drain, which was the original cause of the dip. The house was retrofit with forced air before we bought it and when they did it, they seemed to just pushed down the drain where they needed to. I got the ducts out a year ago and we've been planning to replace the entire run of pipe soon.

    As far as a warranty. 30 days or even a year isn't enough time to detect a problem under the house. And we can't become experts in every field of construction just so we can assess the workmanship of the work done on our house before we hand over the final check. I did not go with the lowest bidder and this guy was an ace in every other aspect of this project and is one of the most renowned home inspectors and contractors in this area, so you can't pin this on me being cheap or lazy. It's baffling because it seems like the only protection a homeowner has. If a plumber isn't liable for his work actually working more than a year, then why are there codes and licenses required for them to do work? Aren't these things in place to make sure things are done correctly? I refuse to accept that this was mission accomplished because we made it 12 months without detecting a leak. If an electrician's work fails after 12 months, my house is in ashes. But for a plumber it's all good?
  11. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,260
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    Making sure the permit is pulled and the inspection is performed is actually the responsibility of the property owner. Just as in all trades, some abide by the rules while others do not. It is up to you to make your case and see what the outcome will be.
  12. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    Just to clear up....who among you would pull a permit to replace 6' of rusted out drain pipe???
  13. dlarrivee

    dlarrivee New Member

    Messages:
    1,172
    Location:
    Canada
    I'm confused, he cleaned up all the crappy soil, and only replaced 4 feet of pipe and didn't take the dip out... on top of that, he used the wrong couplings...

    I would find someone else personally.
  14. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,260
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    I have to admit you are right Jim; since it is a repair of an existing system no permit is likely to be required. My bad.
  15. JMichael

    JMichael New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    Sacramento CA
    He couldn't take the dip out. The air ducts were still down there. Again, this wasn't just a plumbing repair. There were air quality issues well beyond that scope. The plumber who did the work was one of his guys or a sub or something. I hired him to handle the entire project.

    This is going to be expensive. There is already water pooling and probably some mold growth....probably a couple months or more of this leak going on before we caught it, so if he does the right thing and assumes some responsibility and cost for this, that would be best case scenario. I expect him to, but I also don't expect him to make it a priority. He was supposed to call tonight but didn't. I called on Wednesday as soon as I found out. So I'm making plans to get a couple plumbers out on Monday to get quotes on getting it cleaned up and fixed.

    But you're all in agreement that three years is way too long for him to be liable for the quality of his repair? I'm a little surprised. They don't offer you any warranty when you buy a new house, but if you find problems caused by faulty materials or workmanship, the builder ends up having to repair it or pay for the repair. I don't see how adding or replacing something is radically different. Still, it's good to know. Thanks.
  16. asktom

    asktom Member

    Messages:
    588
    Location:
    Victor, MT
    How many inspectors are going to crawl under the house to check the repair job? Peek in the crawl hole, maybe, but slither in - I doubt it. A reliable plumber is the important part from my pont of view.
  17. rmelo99

    rmelo99 Network Engineer

    Messages:
    349
    Location:
    Connecticut
    If you watch any of the dozens of shows on TV you will see that many people get stuck with problems when they buy a house NEW or OLD. Some new homes come with a warranty of maybe 1 year, but that isn't a bumper to bumper. This isn't a car you know.

    A proper job should last for the life of the materials, baring any outside factors( house settling, pest infestation, temperature issues etc...)

    What you had was a repair job. Repairs are usually just that, a fix that is cheaper than replacing with new but will hold you over for some period of time. That period of time could be a few weeks, a few months, or a few years. It is too difficult to guage with a high degree of accuracy how long that will be. A professional will generally offer a written warranty/guarantee for his work for a period of time he thinks it will more likely last. Or no warranty at all.

    It sounds like you think the warranty should be long enough to cover your failure. If the pipe broke at 1 year you would be expecting at least a one year warranty. If it happened at five years you would expect to hold the plumber to his work until then.

    If you are hiring the same guy or a new guy to install new piping and incurring a larger expense than you paid for your repair, it is in your best interest to get in writing some warranty from them for the new work.

    The warranty is only as good as the guy/company behind it. A professional will not have any problem warranting work if it is done properly. If you are asking to cut costs or corners to a point where he think will compromise the integrity of the repair or scope of work he will be more reluctant to offer a warranty.

    Just my .02 as a fellow homeowner.
  18. JMichael

    JMichael New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    Sacramento CA
    That's exactly what I think. The life of the materials minus whatever environmental elements. Believe it or not, that's also what 98% of the homeowners out there also assume.

    I fail to see how this was merely a repair. He replaced a run of the pipe....he didn't duct tape it. It's his replacement that failed as the coupler he used is leaking. If I'd had the entire run replaced, he'd still have used the same coupler at the end.

    This is reason #1 why I do so many things around my house by myself and why I appreciate forums like this so much. I know I'm going to make sure it's done right. Cost savings is a distant #2. There was a health hazard down there last time, which was the only reason I deferred.

    Thanks again everybody. I'll update this thread as the resolution unfolds if anything interesting happens.
  19. JMichael

    JMichael New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    Sacramento CA
    I got two quotes from plumbers just to replace the 40 feet of cast iron. Both reputable companies that have done good work for me before. First quote was for $2400. Second quote was for $1300. The contractor finally got back to me today (he was legitimately busy) and came over. His impression was that the cast iron was still corroding and that's why the coupler was leaking. Which begged the question of why the coupler was attached to that particular piece of cast iron, but I didn't go there. He offered to replace the 40 feet of cast iron for $500. I thought that was more than reasonable. As far as the water, it doesn't require remediation like last time, so he's going to sprinkle lye over all the wet surfaces before they leave. Scheduled for Tuesday.

    Anyway, looks like it's going to end well. After that first quote, I was legitimately considering doing it myself.
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