: My 75+ year old house is having problems with it's main sewer
: line. In the past, this would happen every 7 years or so
: but it has happened 3 times over the last 1.5 years (water
: backs up out the basement floor drain).
I went through all of this within the last 5 years or so.
Ended up spending between 8 and 9 grand total and am pretty sure I could of
cut that in half if I knew what was going on.
First off, get a sewer guy or plumber that has a sewer cam. This will
probably run $200 to $300 for them to come out but is the most important
first step to take. You don't want them to do anything else except figure
out where and what the problem is exactly. You can stand above ground with a
thumb up you ass guessing all you want but until you get a video of the line
and an accurate measurement of where, you'll just spend money and not get
any nearer to fixing the problem.
Most of those camera rigs have a vhs recorder attached to them, make them
use it and get a copy of the tape. Although the cable the camera is attached
to is marked in feet, they should also do a tracer, the camera head has a
beacon on it and using a metal detector (like for coins) they should verify
and mark the spot.
You have one problem but two possible causes.
Likely you have a really bad case of roots. Less likely is a section of the
pipe cracked, caved in and you have a mud clog.
In either case trying to rod from the catch basin is futile, even though
most of them have 100' cables, clearing out the pipe at that distance just
doesn't seem effective, especially if it's mud. Plus in Chicago it seems
like a common distance from catch basin to street is more along the lines of
125', so it's not long enough to push it all the way into the main sewer.
They may be able to make it better by breaking up the clog, but it's
temporary. Take my word for it. It won't last, guaranteed.
Putting in a cleanout is the solution provided the sewer line is intact.
Ideally even if the line is collapsed, the cleanout may be able to be
installed where the break is, sort of killing two birds with one stone.
The cleanout will do nothing on it's own except make it easier to rod the
main sewer line. Understand that fact.
All you are doing by adding a cleanout is making an access point in the
sewer line around the half way point. This make rodding the sewer easier
because you are only going 50 or 60 feet in each direction (towards the
catch basin and towards the street) rather than trying to push 100' from one
Again though, get a video done. You'll probably end up putting in a cleanout
anyway, but you may luck out and be able to put it in where the current
problem is now.
If the sewer line collasped, you at least can shop around for estimates.
This is an expensive repair in any case. I can't see it being done for under
3 grand and more likely it'll be in the 5 or 6 thousand range, at least if
you are here in Chicago. If it's under the foundation of the structure,
figure 10k to 20k, easy.
One thing to get prepared for, they are only going to replace it with the
same type of 100 year old technology, the clay pipe. Forget about replacing
it with plastic or steel, you can't according to law. It's a union thing.
There will be an inspector from the city making sure of that before they
seal the hole. Seems to be one thing city hall stays on top of.
If it's just a really bad case of roots, although it seems like fixing the
area of the sewer line where the roots are coming in makes sense, it
probably won't help in the long run. The clay pipe the city forces you to
use are in small 2 or 4 foot sections. Every point a section is joined to
the next section is a possible entry point, even if they are cemented
together. All you need is one tiny leak near a source of roots and
eventually they'll find a path into the pipe.
It make take some convincing and a few phone calls but if it is just a bad
case of roots, you should be able to find someone to clear the line without
having to add in the cleanout. They aren't going to be happy about it and
all suggest putting in the cleanout, but someone will do it. Most have some
kind of guarantee, this is where calling in the camera crew again for the
second time will pay off.
Don't take their word for it that the line is open. If they don't have a
camera service, call back the guys that did it the first time. If it still
looks like a rats nest, get the rodder guys back and show them.
You are going to end up spending around a grand, 2-300 for the initial
camera, maybe $500 for "a good rodding" and another 2-300 for the second
camera inspection. It's worth it, really.
All of that fixes the problem, but only today. At least you'll know where
you stand but this isn't a final solution. Even if the camera/rodding/camera
play gets things flowing again, you'll have to start another course of
action for long term happiness.
You'll either have to start doing a annual or semi-annual rodding, even if
there is no obvious problem or resort to chemical warfare and stick with it.
Those roots just don't retreat and give up, it'll be a re-occuring problem,
like it or not.
If you can't budget the $125 to $250 annual rodding, there is a chemical
called copper sulfate pentahydrate which is sold by Home Depot and any other
big box store under the name "Root Kill" or "Root Be Gone". The problem is,
they charge like $5 to $7 for a two pound canister. If you look around the
net, ebay is one place and any online store that sells treatments for ponds
or other enclosed water areas, they sell the stuff in 25 or 50 pound bags
for less than $1 a pound.
What you are going to do with that stuff is throw a pound of it in the
toilet once a month like it was a new religion. What it does is basically
nothing excepts dissolve. If there are any roots, they absorb it and the
copper poisons it, thus killing the root.
Keep in mind it isn't a solution for today, kind of too late for that now
but is a really good solution "later" so the problem doesn't come back.
Hmm, long post.
Bottom line is, get the camera crew out there asap and know exactly what is
going on and not an educated guess, it'll save you thousands.