4 Big Mistakes To Avoid When Sewer Repairs Are Needed

Sewer Service
March 24, 2014

by David Balkan

Sewer repairs for a private property’s drain system are needed infrequently, if ever. Typical house sewers last well over 50 years and can last much longer. One of the main keys to a long-lasting house sewer is that the line be installed correctly and to applicable plumbing code to begin with. However when sewer pipe repairs are needed, there are 4 major mistakes that a property owner can easily avoid.

What are the 4 big mistakes involving sewer repairs?

A property owner cannot possibly know all there is to know about sewer pipe repairs. Sewer repairs can get pretty complicated on a number of fronts. Only those with great expertise enter into this specialty business within the plumbing industry. However there are 4 mistakes that a property owner can easily avoid before making a hiring decision. Keeping the following 4 points in mind can save money, aggravation, and the chance of having to do sewer repairs all over again at a later date.

1. Not getting quotes for different scenarios upfront

One of the major pitfalls when sewer repairs are needed on a house drain system is not getting a quote for all contingencies of what might be required. Getting a low-cost quote to do a spot repair, only to pay an exorbitant price for additional work is no savings at all. Get a quote for all possible scope of work prior to any work commencing.

After an excavation is open in front of your property you are never in a good position to negotiate the cost of additional sewer repairs. Always have a quote in writing up-front for a full house sewer line replacement, and for partial replacements as well.

2. Attempting sewer repairs for problems that can’t be spot repaired

sewer repairs
Some pipes are beyond repair

Certain sewer problems do not lend themselves to be spot repaired. For instance replacing a short section of sewer pipe when a line is back-pitched will not have any positive outcome. Thousands of dollars may be spent for only temporary relief, or no relief at all.

Likewise spot sewer repairs when a house drain is completely root infested is a very bad idea. Tree root infiltration throughout a line means that the useful life of the drain system is over.Many thousands of dollars are routinely spent each day on partial sewer repairs that also include utilizing a sewer cleaning machine, and water jetting.

The end result of a partial repair where there is heavy root infiltration may a back-up in the near future due to new root growth. This can then result in re-excavating to then do a complete replacement.

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3. Sewer repairs on inferior or illegal sewer pipe

sewer repairs
Orangeburg pipe made from wood pulp

Some house drains once excavated are visibly worn and broken beyond repair. One of the most glaring examples is when Orangeburg pipe is found. Orangeburg pipe was made from bits of wood pulp that were bonded together. It was never meant to be used as a drainage pipe. Orangeburg pipe actually disintegrates over time as waste water comes into contact with it. In addition, it is quite a task to properly repair an Orangeburg drain line system.

In other cases vitrified clay pipe or even cast iron pipe may be crushed or worn. Trying to connect to pipe in very poor condition will only lead to problems in the future. This is another reason why it is wise to always have a price for a full replacement even if it isn’t your original intention.

4. Digging for sewer repairs without knowing the point of the defect

Maybe the most common mistake and client/contractor dispute is when an excavation is made in the wrong location for sewer repairs. This can happen in one of two scenarios. If specialty sewer tools such as a sewer sonde is not used, it is hard to be sure where the line runs. House sewer lines can veer off on an angle unexpectedly. Digging a deep excavation and not finding the pipe creates aggravation for all concerned parties. Spending the extra time and a little extra money to trace the line properly saves a lot in the long run.

The 2nd scenario that causes routine client/contractor problems is when excavations are made in a location that miss the point of the problem; or if the problem is more extensive then anticipated. Missing the point of the sewer line problem immediately raises everyone’s stress level. Before an attempt at a spot sewer pipe repair is  made a video camera should be inserted in the line. A sewer camera will both determine the point of the problem, and if a repair is a wise decision. A video can clearly show the overall integrity of the entire house sewer.

How much money You can waste by incorrect sewer repairs

Sewer repairs can typically range from $3,000.00 to $6,000.00, it all depends on the particular job and location. In some cases when inappropriate or incorrect sewer repairs are done the entire cost of the repair can be lost. For instance replacing 10′ of sewer run in the middle of a back-pitch problem is a complete waste of funds.

Always be an educated consumer and know your options. Just like in life if something seems to good to be true, it usually isn’t.

What does it cost to pin-point a sewer line problem?

sewer line locatorNowadays specialty sewer tools exist that can pinpoint a sewer problem and also the location of the underground line. Using a drain cleaning machine and then inserting a video camera will typically cost between $500.00 to $800.00 depending on the time spent and company used. In some cases a water jet may have to be used as well. It is always best to get a good idea of the charges for these services up-front.

Whenever spot sewer repairs are planned it is wise to utilize the above tools in order to avoid incorrect work orders. Obviously the cost of diagnosing the problem correctly is much less than an incorrect repair. Sometimes plumbers are like doctors – spending a little extra on diagnostic work typically leads to the correct procedure.

A closing note about sewer repairs

The repair or replacement of a house sewer in any of the Boroughs of NYC requires DEP permits and a field  inspection by the DEP. After the work passes inspection the DEP issues a sign-off. It is well within your rights as a consumer to ask to see the sewer sign-off as an assurance that all work was done as promised and to code.

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David Balkan

David Balkan is the CEO of Balkan Sewer And Water Main, the largest and most trusted service in New York City. David is extremely active in various NYC plumber organizations being the Chairman of the Subsurface Committee in the Master Plumbers Council, and Vice President of the Subsurface Plumbers Association. In addition David’s expertise is respected by officials of New York City agencies such as the NYC DEP, NYC DOB, and the NYC DOT. He frequently provides valuable input on a variety of industry related matters.

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