Sewer Back-Up: Lateral Pipe or Vent Stack?

I had some back up into a shower stall and toilet in the basement. I had a plumber snake the sewer line and he told me it was full of roots, that I should hit it with the root eating chemicals which I did that day. Now 30 days later we ran the washing machine and two showers in the morning. Guess what? Back up rears its ugly head again. I called the plumber again and they have the previous service call on file and they state that it's going to need a lateral line replacement. While awaiting his arrival for an estimate on the dig I went to the roof to check the vents. Shine my light down the first tube and it looks good. But the second, WHOA!! OBSTRUCTION!, about five feet down the pipe. Looks like leaves. So I grab my manual snake and send it down, turning and pushing. I bore a hole through this mess and send the snake all the way down(50ft maybe). Pull it up and the end is all wet. Yet I was only able to penetrate the obstruction with the snake drilling action, so there really only is a inch hole in the vent. It seems to be decomposed leaves/dirt like substance. I thought when I went downstairs I would have drainage, but there was still standing water in the shower stall.
It drains very slowly, maybe a little under a gallon an hour.
Here's the question: Do you think it's the lateral connection (13ft supposedly) to the main clogged with roots or could it be that I need to give that vent stack a proper clean out?
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orange wrote:

Clogged vent will *not* cause the type of backup you are having.
While it may be true that the lateral needs complete replacement, I wouldn't just accept that as fact. Rod it again; there may be a clump of roots left in there, or they may have not used a large enough cutter. The final determinatiion should be based on a video cam inspection of the lateral.
Of course, you'd have to weigh all these things against what full replacement would cost where you are. That takes into account burial depth, length of line and labor rates.
Jim
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Can you pipe the washing machine to an outside location for draining. I did this, ten years ago, and now I never have any cesspool problems. If you want to be legal you can put in a drywell. Maybe your pool just need to be cleaned?

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I agree with Jim, Very rarely is a complete replacement need of te sewer lateral. In most cases it is because it caves in which the old clay pipe is noted for. I would go with the TV cam inspection and get a professional pipe cleaning company out to clear the roots if thats the problem. Most plumbers are not equiped to clear out tree roots. Usually when roots are a problem in old clay sewer it is because it is leaking and the roots are seeking the water. If this is the case then cutting the roots should be on a every 2 -3 year maintainance plan to avoid future troubles. Good Luck, Rick
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Jim- Thanks for seconding the vent stack not being at fault. That's just what the plumber who showed up yesterday to prepare a dig estimate said.
Rick- You mention the video inspection just as Jim did. I just wonder if my plumber is going to laugh at this. He seems totally convinced that the roots have destroyed my lateral and that there is no need for visual inspection.
I'm supposed to get the real estimate today. The soft estimate was in the neighborhood of $2800. I imagine a video siting would cost about $300 from what I've read on these boards. I just might have to have the video assurance, but I hate throwing money away if it's going to just get dug up anyhow.
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If you can find a contractor that does both diggin and TV work then he will give you a break on the TV work if you give him the excavation work. Most plumbers are not equipped to handle heavy root problems try a company that just does pipe cleaning like Router Rooter if you have them where you live. They have cams too.
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Still awaiting my estimate. Some more facts on the situation:
1)The pipe is original equipment on a 70 year old house. 2)I have a virtual forest (swamp maples)out where the lateral goes and roots are everywhere.
Do you really think a video camera is necessary?
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I am not an expert, but it seems very likely that roots are the problem. Since you said it's only a 13-foot run to the main, can you snake it out yourself and see if you find roots on the end of the snake? I had something like that in a house I used to own. I was fortunate because there was easy access to the drain line where it exited through the basement wall. I fashioned a makeshift device out of a 10-foot length of very stiff thick wire that was in my basement, and made a pointed hook on the end. Then I pushed the wire through the obstruction and pulled it back out. What I pulled out was a big glob of roots, so I knew what the problem was. In my case, there was only one holly tree near that drain line, and it was a tree I wanted to get rid of anyway. So, I got rid of the tree, after the next time I had a root blockage. Then I never had the problem again.
In your case, I think you'll be able to pull out a bunch of roots and you will be able to inexpensively convince yourself that you do need to have the line replaced.

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ATB gives good advice. Spend a 100.00 and let a company that specializes in drain cleaning have a shot at it. 2,800 is a lot of money.

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On 20 Oct 2003 11:43:00 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (orange) wrote:

He should have run a CUTTER thru it. Did he do that? Or did he just run a point thru it. You can't get rid of roots with just a point.
*HE* should be getting rid of the roots...not YOU with chemicals.

Bull! I'm not saying that he may not be correct...in the long run. But he didn't solve your IMMEDIATE problem...which may indeed be the roots. Get a plumber out there with a cutter...that fits against the sides of the pipe. That should take care of the roots...at least for as long as it takes for the roots to grow back.
You may indeed need the line replaced in the future. But get at LEAST 3 estimates before you let out the work.
Take all this with a grain of salt, however. Yer there...and its real easy for us to judge on this end. But at least find out what he used to clean the line...and what his warranty usually is for cleaning.

As Jim said, the vertical is not your problem.
And there's a way to run the new line thru your old. See if anyone in your area knows how to do it that way.
Don't spend the 3 grand until you've done a lot of investigating.
Good luck.
Have a nice week...
Trent
Certified breast self-exam subcontractor.
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