Really old houses here have their sump pumps pumping into the sanitary
sewer. They're grandfathered in.
That's not allowed in newer construction or after any modification to
the house waste system. So most have a sump drain that runs,
eventually, into the storm sewer.
The sanitary sewer was really overloaded for a week or so after the
I think you may have a number of different possible options depending on
exactly what your setup is now.
One thing to consider is sewer line insurance. I have a number of
properties and I don't have sewer line insurance on any of them except one.
The one where I have insurance has a setup that is similar to yours --
meaning that the sewer line runs out to the center of the street, but right
at the curb and right above the sewer line, is a HUGE oak tree. If I ever
have to replace the sewer line, I expect the tree to be a big deal and make
the cost very high. So, I signed up for sewer line insurance that is
offered through (I think) my local water company (maybe American Water). It
isn't the greatest insurance in terms of what it covers, including that
there is a cap of something like $5,000 for sewer line replacement if that
is needed. But, it also only costs maybe $10-$12 per month for the
The rest of the options depend on how/where your sewer line runs, how far
underground it is, how far it is from your house to the curb, whether there
is a curb vent for your sewer line, where in the line the video saw the most
damage, whether your sewer line is visible and accessible from within your
basement and if so how high up off the floor it is, and whether there are
any floor drains, sinks, toilets, etc. in your basement now.
If you post back some of that information, and maybe what State you are in,
I may be able to offer some specific suggestions. I recently had to figure
some of the same stuff on a couple of different properties.
The insurance offered by the water company for sewer lines is much as
you described. I saw a job they did on another house, and it was
pretty ugly. They don't pay enough to cover the job, and you HAVE to
use their contractor.
39' from house to curb and an additional 15' inside the house. All of
this is past any drains or fixtures. Accessing the pipe will require
jackhammering in two places in the basement. Replaceing the pipe would
require much more busting up of concrete (fifteen feet).
You may want to consider the sewer line insurance plan. You could also be
sure your homeowners insurance covers a sewer backup and all of the cleanout
and restoration in case you do have a backup.
If you have a laundry sink in the basement, but no other plumbing such as a
toilet etc., then any backup should tend to come up into the laundry sink
first before that overflows into your basement.
If that is your setup, you could consider putting in a backflow preventer in
the laundry sink drain line so sewage won't back up into the laundry sink
and overflow. But, of course, if you do that the next level where the sewer
backup may overflow would be in a tub or toilet on the floor above the
basement. But there may be a way to prevent that -- by installing a curb
vent or other vent outside so that if there is a backup it will overflow
outside instead of inside. Do you already have any curb vent or other vent
outside? The idea is to have an overflow escape point that is outside but
is below any overflow or escape point that is inside your house.
Digging up and replacing the sewer line on the outside is fairly easy,
depending on how deep it is in the ground. I have done that a few times. I
am not so sure that I would be too concerned about the sewer line that is
under the basement floor right now as long as you have the laundry sink
backflow preventer in place and a vent on the outside. Or, if the basement
layout and home layout permits it, you could consider running a new PVC
sewer line from the stack inside the home -- above the basement floor
line -- and then out through the wall above where the existing sewer line is
located, and continue that new line on the outside by digging a trench
etc. -- and include cleanouts and vents where needed and appropriate. It
all really depends on the details of your existing setup. With more
details, it may be possible to come up with a specific plan that will do
what you want and will cost a lot less money.
On the inside, I think he said he cannot get access to the main because it
is buried under his basement floor. But, maybe he could break the floor and
put one in etc.
If you meant putting a backflow preventer on the outside, that may be an
option, but it means digging down to the main to do it and providing an
access to the backflow preventer. In that scenario, it may be possible for
him to put a vent in on the outside instead and let any overflow back up out
onto the ground instead of dealing with a backflow preventer that could get
But, with both of these responses I am just guessing because we don't know
the details of what fixtures are where, what levels they are in relation to
the outside ground level, etc.
I didn't explain it very well, but I meant replacing most of the line out
just up to the tree and street, but not past it. And maybe put in a curb or
"near-curb" vent at the same time if no curb vent is there now. And, if he
gets the line replaced as far out as the tree, maybe then consider cleaning
out the line from there to the main, or maybe even inserting a 3-inch PVC
inside the old cleaned out 4-inch from there out to the main if that is
Again, these are just ideas without actually seeing what is there.
I believe he said he had a laundry sink and/or other drains
in the basement. A vent at ground level isn't going to prevent
a sewage flood into his basement like what happened next door
because basement drains are going to be lower than the
vent. That' why folks were recommending a backflow
Interesting idea, but I wonder what the plumbing inspector
would say.... Some how I think he's going to have a problem
where you try to avoid doing the correct repair by putting
a 3" pipe inside a failed 4" one and rely on that leaking system
for connection to the municipal sewer. The 3" probably isn't
allowed just from a code standpoint even if it were properly
connected and secure.
If he only has a laundry sink in the basement and no other drains, he could
just install a backflow prevent in the laundry sink drain line. They do
make backflow preventers for smaller drain lines such as the laundry sink.
I wrote about that idea earlier. The problem then becomes that, with the
laundry sink drain prevented from backing up into the basement, the backup
would go up and come out of a drain on the floor above the basement. And,
it was for that reason that I suggested installing a ground level vent
outdoors -- assuming, of course, that the ground level vent is lower than
the first floor drains.
True. But it all would depend, in part, on exactly what is there now -- as
well as what an inspector might say. The 3-inch PVC is allowed in most
places depending on how many toilets, sinks, etc. get discharged into the
line. Doing the connection from a 4-inch PVC, then to a 3-inch PVC that
goes into the existing 4-inch line, and also adapting the existing 4-inch
line back to the 3-inch PVC to prevent any backflow of sewage around the
3-inch PVC would take a little creativity. Whether it meets the code or
not, I don't really know.
Another option, which others have mentioned, would be to do the replacement
of most of the main sewer line out to somewhere near the tree/street, and
then do the relining process the OP talked about for the remainder of the
I still like the idea of putting in a whole new PVC line to the street
and just bypassing all the old line. I bet it would be less costly
than trying to dig up the old line till you get to the tree and then
having to reline that portion of the pipe.from the tree to the street.
Less skilled labor involved in putting in a whole new line than
digging around the old line and then a different crew of folks to do
the relining of the remaining pipe.
That's what I was thinking too. I'll bet once you have
the relining boys onsite, whether they do 20 ft or the
whole thing it's still going to be expensive.
Another option would be to dig the trench portion by
the tree by hand. Hire some local day laborers that
can dig carefully and perhaps go around the biggest
roots. Then a regular plumbing crew can complete
the large portion quickly and cost effectively. Assuming
of course that there aren't other obstacles in the way.
-I still like the idea of putting in a whole new PVC line to the
-and just bypassing all the old line. I bet it would be less costly
-than trying to dig up the old line till you get to the tree and then
-having to reline that portion of the pipe.from the tree to the
-Less skilled labor involved in putting in a whole new line than
-digging around the old line and then a different crew of folks to do
-the relining of the remaining pipe.
That depends on having frontage outside the root area and the cost and
difficulty of digging up, tapping and repaving the line in the street.
Both could be quoted and compared.
Scheduling two crews was a problem in my sewer installation. The truck
finally came to pump out the septic tank at 7PM, and I wasn't his last
job of the day.
The existing pipe goes directly under the tree which is at the
curbline. Any sort of digging operation would involve either cutting
down the city-owned (and there's no way I'm cutting down this
perfectly healthy tree just for my convenience) tree or opening the
street. Either of those will certainly cost more than the relining. I
suppose that one could tunnel under the sidewalk and tree, but that
would require much more than a trench - you'd have to put in some
structure to keep the whole mess from collapsing. I can't imagin that
would be cheap.
It will be another day or so before my work schedule opens up so that
I can get competitive quotes and stop by a couple of plumbing supply
[not in response to this post, but relevant nonetheless] I mentioned
to my wife that I was getting good responses from this group, and that
someone had suggested that it would be a bigger PITA to have the pipe
fail on December 23 with a foot of snow on top of it, and she reminded
me that about ten years ago, our water heater had a catastrophic
(spectacular!) failure on Jan 31, with a nor'easter predicted for that
night. It did cost a few extra bucks, but we did get it taken care of
before the storm.
I saw, painted on a septic tank pump truck, "It smells like money to
I'm in Bergen county, 07410, and I considered the 3K I paid Dutra money
well spent. They dug a trench for the new sewer line (nothing done inside
the house), and got the town to pay for clearing the linein the street.
Last summer I paid less than $1500 to have the septic tank pumped out,
crushed, and replaced with about 50' of pipe to the town sewer stub at
my street property line.
Could you excavate the easy part outside and have them line only the
inaccessible pipe, which might be an easier (cheaper) straight shot
from the open trench?
On Mon, 23 Apr 2012 10:20:01 -0700 (PDT), rangerssuck
At least you have time on your side. At 90 years old, there is a
I'd take a couple of approaches. Call another outfit that does that
type of work and get an estimate from them. At least you will know if
it is a realistic price.
Call a plumber that does sewer work and get an idea from him too. It
may be cheaper and better to excavate the portion readily accessible,
then line the portion under the tree to the main line. It may be easy
to do once the outside is open.
I had two experiences with sewer lines. One where the power company
drilled through my sewer line when they installed a new pole. (So much
for using Dig Safe) Repair was $3000 for digging up and replacing that
portion of the line. Backhoe, three guys for a day. I paid the
bill, but the power company paid my claim.
Another was at work. We were having some other work done so a backhoe
was on-site. About 100 feet of line was replaced for a couple
thousand $. Two men, just over a day.
At least you will have peace of mind as long as you live there, even
if your wallet is much thinner.
It might be worthwhile to do a search for "trenchless repair" and
"pipe bursting". For a pipe in soil it's not a big deal to drag a new
pipe in via a leader cable threaded through the old pipe. So long as
the old pipe is in soil and not built material the scheme is fairly
simple and works.
Lining pipes costs diameter and is used when they're too big or in
rigid structures, like old masonry.
I had a pipe under a patio and a big tree replaced, about $100 per foot
but that was better than digging, which would have destroyed both the
tree and the patio.
Hope this helps,
The problem with pipe bursting is that it requires access that I don't
have on both ends of the pipe. The lining only requires less than a
foot-long straight shot into the pipe on one end, and nothing at all
on the other (street) end. $100/foot would come to $5500 in my case.
I just saw that system demonstrated on "Ask This Old House". I thought it
was a really slick option, but at $7700, no thanks...
$7700 would buy a lot of teenagers with shovels. :)
Unless your pipe runs directly under the trunk of the tree, I don't see why
you couldn't work around it. You may not be able to get in there with a
backhoe, but you could dig around the roots with a shovel to take the old
pipe out and route a new one in the same location. I did that last year
when I needed to run a landscape drain line, near a large fir tree (50+
feet tall). I just dug around the roots and fished the pipe underneath the
I would dig out as close to the street connection as I could without
incurring the $10K permits and traffic cops. :) Then I would replace the
pipe up to that point.
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