Comparing estimate of sewer line repair via tunneling under house


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 another plumber came by but he thinks he will need to open up a hole 48"x48" under the cabinets. He will have to use a large wet saw to cut the hole under and probably will damage the cabinets, and with a lot of mess, and that will be $1800 as well, plus patching the concrete slab, plus redoing some cabinets, and new tile work. Plus if they work inside one of us has to take time off to be at home, a two day off will also end up costing us additional money.
Had two drain companies 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 idea which one is more "safe and sound"? 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?
I am interested to know: Which approach is better and safer?
MC
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Tough to answer, even though you offered a lot of information. I have a couple of problems with the story line. First, the broken "ell" or 1/4 bend that is supposed to be 5' in yet still under your kitchen cabinets. Even with a 5 1/2" brick ledge and a 5 1/2" exterior wall (usually 3 1/2") and a standard 24" deep cabinet, the farthest a "normal" cabinet could extend in from the outside wall line would be about 3'. Assuming the break is actually at 5' inside the structure my first choice would be to go through the floor. The "$900" fitting repair is just someone throwing a figure at you. If it's PVC the parts for the repair will be less than $20. The money is for what it's going to take to gain access to that fitting. I'm not sure why there would be a 1/4 bend at that location but there's no reason I can see why the cabinets cannot be protected. Actually, any reasonable prefessional would cover the entire area with plastic and also create a small plastic enclosure over the work area. The only finish repairs that you should need to address would be the flooring. OTOH, there would typically be a 1/4 bend at the point where the horizontal waste line turns vertical under the exterior wall. If this is the location of the break it is NOT 5' under the house. With a standard brick ledge it is 7 1/2" -8". This break I would handle from the outside of the structure.
And if nothing else for Christ's sake, call a _real_ plumber would ya'? Roto-Rooter?
Bob Wheatley
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Bob:
Thanks for answering.
The break is about 50" from the inside of the exterior wall horizontally. The exterior wall is 8" thick, so the total distance is about 58" so I said 5'.
My kitchen cabinets and counter is arranged in a Ushaped configuration. One edge of this "U" is along the exterior wall, the problem area is not below the exterior wall cabinets but below the other side of the cabinets, which actually butts up against an interior wall, on the other side of this wall is the garage.
You might wonder, why not open a hole on the garage floor and access the pipe from there? First, the garage floor hole will still be 36" to 48" from the problem area, and second, I looked at the plans for my house and it showed a footing under that wall. I don't know why. It showed a footing along all exterior wall and along the interior walls in the garage. May be the garage slab was poured separately, I don't know.
I did have three plumbers come by, including the national chain "rooter" companies. The "real" plumber cannot tell me where the problem is exactly. There is no way to know where to punch this big hole. With the tunneling method, location is not as critical. The local plumbers, one told me to try a resin liner (which I did some research and had someone come by and no go because the problem area is near an elbow), and the other one told me I need to get a concrete company by to first open up a hole in the kitchen to expose the PVC pipes, then he can get to work. They just did not seem equiped to deal with a nasty problem that I have.
MC
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I assume you had the line scoped (video) to know the location of the break. Yes? If so, the company that scoped it would have marked how far down the line from the cleanout. Knowing that information, and using an inexpensive cable locator, a plumber can run his sewer cable to the pre-determined distance and find the end of it. Voila! Exact spot found.
I have made similar repairs in the past and I have always tried to get "others" to handle the concrete demo. It keeps my guys happy because jackhammers are no fun. And it keeps the customers happy because paying plumbers to do laborers work is no fun.
Just remember that the objective is to obtain access to the leak. A trained professional will have to determine the most practical for your situation. I think $7500 for the situation you have described so far is excessive. A couple thousand should be closer to the final bill.
Bob Wheatley
Bob Wheatley
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Bob:
I am now exploring the option of cutting open the kitchen floor. So far the concrete companies I contacted told me it will be very dusty for a long time with a lot of water sort of like "starting a motor cycle in a mud puddle". So I wonder do you know of a way to cut the concrete floor (probably be rebar in there too) that will minimize dust and splash ( I am willing to pay more for that), furthermore, I was also told if I replace the PVC pipe and then pour concrete to patch the floor, the concrete when cured will settle to crack the pipe. Is there any truth to that?
Thanks in advance,
TIA
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I think someone is making a bigger deal out of cutting this hole than it really is. Yes, chipping the concrete will create dust. That's why the area should be encased in sheets of (thin) poly. Cover everything in the room with poly, sort of like you were painting. Then create a smaller, say 8'x8' work area that has poly from floor to ceiling. This will take all of 45 minutes. Or you can simply saw through the floor with a wet saw and a diamond blade but this requires water and will make a much bigger mess than just chipping out the floor. However, there are companies that specialize in concrete demo. For hole coring and large projects I use a local company called Holes Incorporated. I have seen them do some things with concrete I wouldn't have thought was possible. Perhaps the link below can steer you in the right direction for your own area. http://www.holesinc.com/about.htm
Once the hole is there and the repair is made all that is necessary is to either make sure that you replace the rebar that you cut out by either tieing into existing rebar or drill dowels into the demo'd area. That will be sufficient for ensuring that the new concrete doesn't settle.
A little context for slab on grade projects - The critical parts of this type of foundation are the footings (beams). Beams are placed under all the load bearing walls. This will include all the exterior walls and many of the interior. The beams are the portion of the slab you _don't_ want to mess with. This is why I'd rather avoid going in from the outside if possible. You will be under-mining the load bearing ability of that exterior beam. And you certainly do not want to cut it. You want to do everything possible to preserve the structural integrity of all the beams. The flat areas between the beams are simply "flooring". They are just a flat surface to put finishes on and to walk on. There is no structural significance to a flat area between footings.
Bob Wheatley
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Before you know it, you are done.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
A couple of things here.
There was one KEY WORD you mentioned that makes your decisions a no-brainer.
One guy tells you...we'll refill with the original dirt - it SHOULD BE OK.
The other guy tells you, "we're hiring an engineer". Immediately, you know that the guy hiring the engineer is the guy to hire. Even if his price is much more.
Frankly, SHOULD BE OK translates to WILL PROBABLY BE OK FOR AT LEAST A YEAR...THAT'S HOW LONG I HAVE TO WARRANT MY WORK. (wow...huge red flag, huh)
So how much is it going to cost you to when the soil shifts and that slab crack in two where it isn't supported properly with soil? If you hire the first guy, call a house moving company and find out how much it will cost to put your house on supports while an excavaton company comes in there and rips up the old slab so they can pour a new slab...and then reconnect everythign to the house. You shouldn't have to live in a hotel for more than a month. That's going to cost a lot of cash though. You'd probably be better off burning the house to the ground and building a new one.
Hire the guy who used the word "engineer". If it costs more, trust me, it's ONLY costing you more NOW to get the job done right..
On Sun, 24 Jul 2005 23:22:37 -0400, "miamicuse"

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
What's the frost line in FL ? 4' seems Ok. Anyway you look at this I agree with BB. Burn it.
I've hand dug 13' ft. to reach a sewer line, its not that hard depending on what shape you are in. 4 hrs work for me back when and that was clay. Hire a couple of bruisers from the local religious crack rehab center ( no shit, these guys are grateful for hard work) I've used them and have been told they would of done it free. They felt great they said just to sweat again.
I hated to give a price on digging. I never knew what I'd hit underground. Electrical at 30,000 volts to digging a 12" trench and finding a refrigerator under ground, dead bodies or bolder Colorado. You never know.
You must know how to back fill also. The code in your AO may call for screening and tamping.
Let us know what happens.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
He's head honcho of a bunch of trenchless related associations and NASSCO and VP at ultraliner. Grant is extremely knowledgable and is an expert in the area. I've corrosponded with him several times regarding various things in and around the trenchless industry. I'm sure he, or someone there can point you in the right direction about lining your damaged pipe and possibly to a contractor in your area.
Regards
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I have already contacted several trenchless repair companies. Most of them told me straight that it needs to be 3" minimum size for it to work.
The only one I was able to contact and was local was http://www.formadrain.com /. The inventor of that particular technology happens to be in town and came by with a video inspection, and told me after the investigation they cannot do it because of an elbow section that is curved. He showed me a section of the fiber glass composite pipe section that is very very strong. I think if it had worked, the quote he gave me was like $1500 to $2000. He told me he is absolutely sure in my case trenchless will not work. He is the one going around the country training people in using this technology.
MC
He's head honcho of a bunchof

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
*Most of them told me straight that it needs to be 3" minimum size for it to work*.
I thought for some reason we were talking about a 3 or 4" line. I was under the impression you were having a mainline problem. Sorry.
Well if it's as you say less than 3", then were talking about a 2" or maybe even 1-1/2" drain line. Big difference Personally, I've done my share of slab repairs, as I'm sure many of the other plumbers here have, and unless there's a probelm with the foundation getting in the way or some such thing, this job (should) be easy for a professional who knows what he's doing. However, a pro does run into unforseen things also.
You seem like the type of person that would already know this, but especially for this kind of thing DO hire a licensed, reputable company or individual.
Hydro-excavation vs. hand digging is a pricey thing. hydro-ex. is mainly a benefit to the workers (it's a back saver) and can typically reach areas that a backhoe can't and it's faster. As I see it, you wouldn't want to use a backhoe or some such large digging machine in your situation, but then again I'm not there on the property either.
Honestly, this SEEMS like a straight foward jack-hammer, hand dig, repair, back fill job. Unless of course the soil is contaminated and needs to be replaced with sand or some other suitable replacement. That's where there could be a problem. If all the soil that surrounds the pipe has been permeated by the waste leak isn't removed and replaced with fresh soil and then properly compacted, you run the risk of undesired settling and shifting of the pipe, the foundation, slab or all. You may want to get an estimate for the work to be manually done from the garage area and then have a different company backfill with slurrry (if that's allowable by the code) or whatever is recommended . By no means though, replace the original soil IF it is non-compactable.
As far as those cabinets go, unless there's some factor we're unaware of, no damage should be done. They should be easily removed. If you decide to go through the kitchen, and are unsure if the guy(s) doing the work will not damage the cabinets, you should consider removing them on your own.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
a:
Thanks for the suggestion. I am considering the approach to fix from above. There are pros and cons to both. Decisions decisions.
MC
<DIV>*Most of them<BR>told me straight that it needs to be 3" minimum size for it to work*.</DIV> <DIV>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>I thought for some reason we were talking about a 3 or 4" line.&nbsp; I was under the impression you were having a mainline problem.&nbsp; Sorry.&nbsp; </FONT></DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>Well if it's as you say less than 3",&nbsp; then were talking about a 2" or maybe even 1-1/2" drain line.&nbsp; Big difference&nbsp; Personally, I've done my share of slab repairs, as I'm sure many of the other plumbers here have, and unless there's a probelm with the foundation getting in the way or some such thing, this job&nbsp;(should)&nbsp;be easy for a professional who knows what he's doing.&nbsp; However, a pro does run into unforseen things also.&nbsp;</FONT></DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2></FONT><FONT face=Arial size=2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>You seem like the type of person that would already know this, but especially for this kind of thing DO hire a licensed, reputable company or individual.</FONT></DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>Hydro-excavation vs. hand digging is a pricey thing.&nbsp; hydro-ex. is mainly a benefit to the workers (it's a back saver) and can typically reach areas that a backhoe can't and it's faster.&nbsp; As I see it, you wouldn't want to use a backhoe or some such large digging machine in your situation, but then again&nbsp;I'm not there on the property either.</FONT></DIV> <DIV>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial><FONT size=2>Honestly, this&nbsp;SEEMS like a straight foward jack-hammer, hand dig, repair, back fill job.&nbsp; Unless&nbsp;of course the soil&nbsp;is contaminated and needs to be replaced with sand or some other suitable replacement.&nbsp; That's where there could be a problem.&nbsp; If all the soil that surrounds the pipe&nbsp;has been permeated by the waste leak isn't removed and replaced with fresh soil and then properly compacted,&nbsp;you run the risk of undesired settling and shifting of the pipe, the foundation, slab&nbsp;or all.</FONT></FONT></DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial><FONT size=2>You may want to get an estimate for the work to be manually done from the garage area and then have a different company backfill with slurrry (if that's allowable by the code) or whatever is recommended&nbsp;.&nbsp; By no means though, replace the original soil IF it is non-compactable.</FONT></FONT></DIV> <DIV>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>As far as those cabinets go, unless there's some factor we're unaware of, no damage should be done.&nbsp; They should be easily removed.&nbsp; If you decide to go through the kitchen, and are unsure&nbsp;if the guy(s) doing the work will not damage the cabinets, you should consider removing them on your own.&nbsp;</FONT></DIV></BLOCKQUOTE></BODY></HTML>
------=
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
last one i did i used a sledge hammer and my hammer drill (big one) I was lucky slab was only like 3 inches thick then i hit sand. once you hit sand it get EASY. Just dig out sand to undermine the stuff you want out then hammer with sledge from inside of hole out. It cracks with no support under it wicked easy.
<DIV>*Most of them<BR>told me straight that it needs to be 3" minimum size for it to work*.</DIV> <DIV>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>I thought for some reason we were talking about a 3 or 4" line.&nbsp; I was under the impression you were having a mainline problem.&nbsp; Sorry.&nbsp; </FONT></DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>Well if it's as you say less than 3",&nbsp; then were talking about a 2" or maybe even 1-1/2" drain line.&nbsp; Big difference&nbsp; Personally, I've done my share of slab repairs, as I'm sure many of the other plumbers here have, and unless there's a probelm with the foundation getting in the way or some such thing, this job&nbsp;(should)&nbsp;be easy for a professional who knows what he's doing.&nbsp; However, a pro does run into unforseen things also.&nbsp;</FONT></DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2></FONT><FONT face=Arial size=2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>You seem like the type of person that would already know this, but especially for this kind of thing DO hire a licensed, reputable company or individual.</FONT></DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>Hydro-excavation vs. hand digging is a pricey thing.&nbsp; hydro-ex. is mainly a benefit to the workers (it's a back saver) and can typically reach areas that a backhoe can't and it's faster.&nbsp; As I see it, you wouldn't want to use a backhoe or some such large digging machine in your situation, but then again&nbsp;I'm not there on the property either.</FONT></DIV> <DIV>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial><FONT size=2>Honestly, this&nbsp;SEEMS like a straight foward jack-hammer, hand dig, repair, back fill job.&nbsp; Unless&nbsp;of course the soil&nbsp;is contaminated and needs to be replaced with sand or some other suitable replacement.&nbsp; That's where there could be a problem.&nbsp; If all the soil that surrounds the pipe&nbsp;has been permeated by the waste leak isn't removed and replaced with fresh soil and then properly compacted,&nbsp;you run the risk of undesired settling and shifting of the pipe, the foundation, slab&nbsp;or all.</FONT></FONT></DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial><FONT size=2>You may want to get an estimate for the work to be manually done from the garage area and then have a different company backfill with slurrry (if that's allowable by the code) or whatever is recommended&nbsp;.&nbsp; By no means though, replace the original soil IF it is non-compactable.</FONT></FONT></DIV> <DIV>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>As far as those cabinets go, unless there's some factor we're unaware of, no damage should be done.&nbsp; They should be easily removed.&nbsp; If you decide to go through the kitchen, and are unsure&nbsp;if the guy(s) doing the work will not damage the cabinets, you should consider removing them on your own.&nbsp;</FONT></DIV></BLOCKQUOTE></BLOCKQUOTE></BODY></HTML>
------=
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.