Clogged Sewer Pipe

Discussion in 'Drain Cleaning' started by KWeeks, Dec 17, 2008.

  1. KWeeks

    KWeeks New Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    The neighborhood that we live in had Orangeburg Pipes installed by the original builder 55-60 years ago. Many of my neighbors have had to have their pipes replaced. This involves digging a very deep trench in their front yard and replacing the sewer pipe that runs from the house to the county sewer pipe under the street.

    We had been doing OK with the pipe with making sure we were very careful about what we put down the pipes and toilet, etc. We had a plumber do a very comprehensive job of snaking the pipe out some years ago and have had no problems since until just recently.

    The pipe backed up so badly that we had water coming back up the downstairs shower drain and the toilet!

    The plumber came out and snaked the pipe. He hit blockage about 1/2 way out the pipe. He is now recommending that we replace the pipe. He quoted us $4400 to do the job.

    However, I am not yet convinced that we need to replace the pipe. The plumber did offer to try to snake the pipe out with a larger tip bu that would require him to take the downstairs toilet off it's bolts. So, this would be even more expensive. We paid about $400 for the initial snaking. He would charge $650 to snake with a larger tip through the toilet pipe. I was dismayed that he did not just use the larger tip in the first place.

    So, should we have it snaked with the larger tip? Should we have them go down there with a video camera to determine just where the blockage is and just how deep, etc.

    If we must replace the pipe, then, what kind of pipe would be the best to use?

    I tend to think Copper would be the best choice. I shudder to think of PVC pipe being put into our yard. I generally prefer to avid plastics and vinyl in favor of natural materials.

    Thank you in advance for any suggestions! We do need help ASAP as we can only flush our toilets 2x day, are reduced to paper plates, etc!

    PS - I have never found a plumber in our area (N. VA, just south of DC) that I can trust. Every one that we have ever used has gauged us in one way or another. sigh.
  2. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Sep 2, 2004
    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
    New England
    PVC is inert and should outlive you. Some soils will eat copper up in the matter of a few years (might not where you really depends on the chemistry of your soil). Materials cost, pvc will be much less expensive in meterials and as to labor, it goes together faster than copper, especially when you're dealing with large diameter pipes. So, I'd probably go that route.
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  4. SewerRatz

    SewerRatz Illinois Licensed Plumber

    Nov 20, 2008
    Chicago Illinois Licensed Plumber
    Chicago, IL
    Ok first thing is to properly unclog a main sewer it is best to rod with a small cutter then increase to larger cutters, if the clean out point allows for the larger cutters. If the access he is using doesn't allow for it and he needs to rod from another point of the system it is reasonable to charge extra for the extra time it takes to pull and reset the water closet as well as power rod the line.

    A little note on the orangeburg sewer pipe, also nicknamed 20 year pipe in our area. A larger cutter can do more damage than good. The pipe after many years starts to loose its intgerty and starts to go oval, (out of round) then tends to get real soft, so soft that you can cut it with a shovel. It gets to the consistency of wet newspaper. The pipe is really called bituminous fiber pipe. The pipe is made of a combination of cellulose and asbestos fibers impregnated with a bituminous (coal tar) compound.

    Now as of replacing the pipe. If you choose copper which is allowed here in Illinois but only if you choose Type K copper. Which is very costly and depending on the Ph of the backfill it can rot very quickly. The other option is Cast Iron, which is much cheaper than copper in the material costs but labor is a bit more to install and again corrosion is a factor to worry about. Ductile Iron resists corrosion but is very costly again. If your code allows for it your best bet is plastic pipe. Here we are to use SDR 26 plastic pipe as long as the water is at least 10 foot away from the sewer line. If the water line is closer than that then the pipe must be of building drain material which is the cast iron, copper (but type K for underground), or Schedule 40 plastic pipe is to be used.

    Your best bet is now that your sewer line is open and draining you can opt to have the sewer televised to see what condition your pipe is in, and what type of pipe you have. If it is indeed orangeburg, and it looks oval or disintegrating then I would replace all of it. The $4400 he quoted you is that just for a repair, a repair and outside clean out, or replacing all of the orangeburg pipe? If it is to replace it all that is a very good price. We get $4200 to find the trouble spot and repair and install a outside clean out if the repair area allows for it (on your property). We get between $6800 to $15,000 to replace a line. Reason there is such a price difference is if we have to dig in the street and replace it. The lower end would all be digging in the lawn from the house to the parkway.

    Good luck with this project.

    PS a note about pricing, every plumber has a different rate to pay for their costs to do business. If they base their prices on what other contractors charge, they can be losing money. Best way to judge if you are getting what you pay for is make sure your plumber you hire is licensed, bonded with the city you live in and insured. Also most cites, villages and so on require a permit to do this type of repair/replacing of the sewer make sure they get this permit.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2008
  5. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Dec 15, 2007
    Service Plumber
    I for one will not cable an Orangeburg Pipe.

    Any Orangeburg Pipe still in service is beyond living on borrowed time and could instead be called long overdue for replacement.

    If I put a cutter on my cable and run it down an Orangeburg Pipe I will surely cause far more damage than already exists and run the risk of losing my cable in the line. I have to buy my own cables so cutting my cable and leaving it in the line is not a thought I relish.

    You are far better off jetting the line to get temporary relief with less chance of further damage and getting stuck in the line. There is also a much higher chance of getting temporary relief.

    Personally I would make arraingements to get the line replaced ASAP!
    Here we use a lot of SDR-35 for line replacement.
  6. SewerRatz

    SewerRatz Illinois Licensed Plumber

    Nov 20, 2008
    Chicago Illinois Licensed Plumber
    Chicago, IL
    The one city here Hoffman Estates, tell the home owners to call a plumber with a hand rod (flat tape) with a 3 inch ball on the end. If the hand road reaches the village sewer they will allow the Orangeburg to stay in service. Some jetters that have root cutting ability's with just water pressure IE. warthog nozzles and super high PSI units can tear up the Orangeburg as well. We used to use SDR 35 which is thinner than the SDR 26 then most villages insisted on using the SDR 26. Personally I always used SDR 26 this way I only needed to keep one type of pipe and fittings in stock.
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