I got 3 bids for replacing my old broken clay 4" (?) drainage lateral, and I went with the first bid. They did the snake camera thing and didn't charge me and their bid was much lower than the other two ($4,200 vs. over $6000 for the other two).
Today, they arrived to do the work. They said they'd do the trenchless replacement tomorrow and dug the holes today (7 holes in all, I believe). They had to use a jackhammer in several places to remove concrete.
They roused me from inside the house several times for one reason or another, but one time it was to show me that the old galvanized water main pipe had a major leak (it was spraying water pretty fast). They said (I think!) that it was 1/2" pipe! They said I must have had elevated water bills and I said my water usage had actually been very small (less than $5/month before all the water treatment and sewage charges, etc. etc.). They then said it had been a slow leak but the disturbance they'd made had increased it. They told one of the guys to run and shut off the main.
I'd presumed that the guy who'd worked up my bid when he came around later in the day would discuss fixing this or replacing it, since it's a pretty major thing, but he didn't mention it. Still, I assumed he had some ideas concerning this, and I'd hear about it later. I had other fish to fry with him because I have an upstairs tub drain that's clogged (all my efforts and those of another guy have failed), and there's the matter of wetness under my downstairs bathroom. He said since I was doing a $4000 job with them, he'd send a guy out for free who would try to snake out the tub drain. If that didn't work, there would be charges to do whatever is necessary if I agreed to the work. That might (worst case) involve replacing the tub drain, which goes through the walls of the first and second story (rather involved!).
The wetness under the downstairs bathroom he said they'd know more about later in the day.
So, the bidder/foreman leaves and his workers put a temporary clamp on the pipe that slows the leak to the point where they can turn on the water main again. Then one guy takes me aside (a latino guy) and tells me he can replace the water main pipe in his spare time ("Saturday") and will charge me a good price - $3000. He says to sound out the foreman what he would charge and not tell him about our side thing and then decide if I want him to do it. A little later he rouses me and says he has a friend who will do it cheaper - $2000 or $1800 depending on the length of the pipe, evidently. They tell me it's around 80 to 90 feet. The house is almost 100 years old and the meter is at the sidewalk and the only shutoff is right at the meter. He has me talk right to his latino "friend" on his cell phone. They inform me afterward that this guy is one of their foremen and quite experienced. I was told by one of the women in their office that their crews (13 guys in all) have all been together at least 6 years.
This guy proposes to use either 3/4" or 1" copper pipe, probably 1" and he said he already has the pipe. They all encourage me to go ahead and see what the company would charge for replacing the water main pipe and then decide if I want this guy to do it instead of the company.
I'm unclear where they are with the wetness under the downstairs bathroom (their English is pretty fractured) -- they found bamboo roots thickly around where the galvanized drains meet the clay lateral pipes.
I'm wondering a number of things. Firstly, if this is going to be outside the law -- IOW, is a permit required to replace the water main pipe and if so, are they going to comply with the permit process. Indeed, my contract with the plumbing company to replace my sewer lateral ("approximately 90 feet") says that their bid doesn't include permit fees, and I have no information from anyone concerning permits, if they have pulled them and what the fees are going to be.
I called mid-afternoon and asked to talk to the foreman/bidder and was told he would call me back probably in a minute or two. He didn't call me. So, I have nothing to compare bids with... yet, and won't at least until the crew comes to complete the drainage repairs tomorrow.
I am thinking maybe I should get some more bids, not just this plumbing company and one of it's foremen working on his own (although they told me that 2 of the 3 on the crew today would help this guy). I figure I can say "give me a phone number and I'll call you if I decide to have you do it." However, I'm kind of worried about the present water leak. I already have a bunch of sink holes and a seriously depressed section of driveway out there from the bad drainage system, and possibly also due to that break in the water main (and maybe other breaks). So, I figure whatever I do, I should do it quick.
Truly, this is only the second time I have ever dealt with home repair contractors, and I'm less than confident. I'm almost in my mid-60's, but am in pretty good shape, so doing my own repair work isn't out of the question here. However, I don't know how long I can live without running water!! I guess maybe I should field a number of bids.
Is copper best or should I consider plastic? If copper, L or is K OK? 1"?
Thanks for sage and considered advice!