Estimate comparison for tunnel under house to repair sewer line

Location: Miami, Florida Property location: About two miles from Atlantic Ocean, soil is sandy. Property is single story, on monolithic concrete slab 8" thick. Via video inspection determine line is broken about 5 feet inside from an exterior wall probably directly under a cabinet in the kitchen, with no replacement tiles available. The line is broken near an elbow so using a resin liner solution is out. Had two drain company came out and both recommend tunnel under house.
Roto-Rooter estimated $1800 excavation + $900 pipe repair. The $1800 excavation cost is based on a $180 per foot basis. Since the location is around 5 feet in, they figured 4 feet deep, 5 feet in, and an extra foot for manuever will add to 10 feet. However, if there is a footing to cause them to dig deeper than originally thought (I am pretty sure there is), or they hit the water table (yes they probably will...) or the location is not pinned down and they have to dig further to find the break (and that may happen too...), it will be however long they dig times $180. So I figure conservative estimate will be to figure 20 feet, which will mean $3600 + $900 = $4500. I asked them how they will back fill and they told me they will put the original dirt back in and it should be OK. The digging will be done manually. They did not say whether there will be any permit fee or whether they will get a permit or not.
The AAA Rapid Rooter came by, and their estimate is totally different. They told me their charge is $7500 minimum. Minimum meaning they don't run into complications. I asked them what they included, and they told me it included using a "vaccon" truck to dig the tunnel (not manual digging), they add water and literally "suck" the sand out and form the tunnel, the actual pipe repair, permit fee, engineer to come out to see the soil sample is suitable for excavation of this nature, backfill with a truck shooting wet sand (may mix some cement in) into the tunnel. The total will be $7500. They will not provide an itemized breakdown since some clients used their estimate to get insurance money but never do the job.
So drastically different approach. Machine digging with water versus manual digging. Manual backfill with excavated dirt versus shooting compacted sand. One job is about twice as the other.
Any ides which one is more "safe"? I have the feeling manual digging is less damaging and involve less disturbance to the soil and can keep the tunnel size smallest, is this right? But backfilling with the original dirt concerns me. Not sure how you can backfill the void that is above the footing back without some sort of pressurized method. Both are reputable companies.
I am thinking one possibility would be to use Roto-Rooter to do the repair, and see if they will come down on the price if I ask them NOT to back fill. I will back fill myself and see if I can find a subcontractor that will do the wet sand shooting back fill. But will this work? They can't pull the permit if I am going to do part of the work myself?
Any advise?
MC
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Yikes for that kind of money I would be on the phone to at least 20 contractors before I spent that much. Have you called any plumbers?
I tend to stay away from chain service organizations. Franchises are all over the place when it comes to pricing in my experience.
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I did call a few plumbers and one suggested the resin liner approach, but then I paid them $500 for the video inspection turned out it is near an elbow so no luck.
I had three plumbers came by and they said they can open up a hole inside to do the work, but the location is "approximate" and not exact. So a hole minimum 36"x36" below the cabinets will not work. Because of the break the pipe section there is "pitched backwards" so it is always submerged with water, therefore it is very difficult to tell how the pipe run. Did it make a 90 degree angle there, or was it a 45 + 45, and that changes where the location is exactly. The plumber gave me an estimate of $2000 to fix it from the kitchen. I am then responsible to redo the concrete and tiles anyways.
So I am trying to find the best approach for the tunneling method.
MC

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Greetings,
This kind of crap pisses me off.
You are the home owner? If so you might be able to pull the permit yourself. Then send me an e-mail and I can come down and "help" you do it for $2500.00 (I have previously done work on my own lines). "We" can even fill it back in with sand-cement. How will you feel when a couple of guys work for not even a full day, two days tops, and you hand them the $7500?
Good luck, William
PS: I am sure some people will be infuriated by this e-mail. Believe it or not plumbing is within the grasp of the mere mortal.
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Do you have any suggestions as to the merit of either approach? They told me the reason for the $7500 is due to the expensive equipment and they have to factor in complications (like what if they run into a big coral rock when they are tunneling etc...yeah right so they probably added the cost of coral rock removal into the standard minimum contract LOL) regardless I need to determine an approach then see if I can get reasonable prices. Regular plumbers just don't have the equipment they have.
MC

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Greetings,
It looks like the cheapest method might be through the kitchen. Hire a big dude with a shovel to dig down to the break starting under the cabinets. You might get lucky or be able to hollow out the hole under the floor enough to access the broken pipe.
This is a 4'8" deep hole my guy dug for me with a spoon. I hold him in highest regard. Imagine what a plumber would have charged and how much more sidewalk he would have destroyed.
http://www.universityofsavanna.com/flat/alt.home.repair/050725%20%20Replacing%20Water%20Main/index.html
or
http://tinyurl.com/ccmtn
Once you can work on the pipe have plumbers over for the estimate. I bet the work is $1000 or less. Have the same man who dug the hole fill it in MAKEING SURE HE COMPACTS the dirt as he goes. Pour a few bags of concrete under the cabinets and you are done.
Hope this helps, William
PS: I was serious about my offer.
miamicuse wrote:

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