Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

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CaptainMarvel
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Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by CaptainMarvel » Tue Jan 14, 2020 5:01 pm

I had a plumbing test done last month which revealed a leak of some kind in our sewer lines. The water lines are fine. The plumbing company had to come back to do an "isolation test" to determine the exact location of the sewer line leak, which they did today. The president of the plumbing company himself did the testing today, with one plumbing assisting him. As it turns out, we have cast iron pipes which are quite old and the test done today indicated there are cracks in that line all over the place. The plumber showed me the videos that verify this - he used a camera as part of the testing today. Water leaks out of the pipes - it's worse in some areas vs. others. 77 feet of the sewer line, which runs diagonally across the house and Ts off for a few feet at a couple of points, needs to be replaced. Although there are no roots in the sewer line and we haven't experienced any back-ups or blockages, the plumber said it was quite common that cast iron pipes of this kind deteriorate through normal wear and tear. The house was built in 1984. It''s probably not an urgent project in that it can wait a while but I'd prefer to get it done in the next couple of months. The sewer line to be replaced is all on our own property underneath the house, which has a slab foundation. None of it goes into the street or into a neighbor's property.

The plumbing company's estimate today was $19,280 for the entire cost of the sewer line replacement. This would include the: tunneling costs of $250 per feet of digging (77 feet), two entry points for the tunneling at $400 each (one each at side of the house), new PCV piping, new clean-outs, engineering inspection, and city permit. They are estimating about 7 days for the tunneling and 1 - 1.5 days for the pipe/sewer line replacement itself. The plumbed said that jack-hammering into the flooring of the house instead of tunneling wouldn't reduce the cost or be more efficient here since so much of the line has to be replaced. (I don't think I'd want to drill through kitchen & living room floors anyway even if it was much less expensive). There would be a 2 year guaranteed warranty on the work.

I will be submitting a claim to USAA under my homeowner's insurance, although I doubt that this project is covered. I seem to recall the slab leak rider only covers the damages sustained by the sewer pipe leakages, not the costs of replacing or repairing the piping itself. I'll see what USAA says; I'm not sure.

I would like to use this plumbing company, since I've used them for several other smaller projects and they've done a great job and have always come in at a lower cost than other plumbing companies in the area. Nevertheless, I'll probably get some other quotes from other plumbing companies.

My questions for the Bogleheads:
- Is there anything in particular I should be concerned about for a big project like this?
- For example, is it worth it to pay an independent project manager to manage the project? I've heard of project managers being used for big jobs.
- Is it feasible to just wait and not bother with replacing the sewer line until we start having significant back-up/blockage problems? We do plan on staying in this house for many years, so in theory I could just wait until shortly before we plan to sell the house, which would be a long-way off. I'm not inclined to do that, however.
- Is it worth it to purchase sewer line insurance? I understand that there are separate insurance policies for sewer lines, although they may not cover something like this anyway.

NCSU1980
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by NCSU1980 » Tue Jan 14, 2020 5:49 pm

Have you considered lining the existing pipe using in-place rehabilitation techniques? Could be a less costly method if feasible for your application. From very quick limited research it sounds like the expected service life of cast iron pipes in residential usage is 75-100 years and your pipe is only half that age.

bogle520
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by bogle520 » Tue Jan 14, 2020 6:43 pm

+1

Look into Cured In Place Pipe (CIPP) products

jharkin
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by jharkin » Tue Jan 14, 2020 6:52 pm

+2

And I’d advise against making an insurance claim. They way you have described it this is normal wear. There is no storm damage/natural disaster/act of god here so there is no reason for them to cover it. The claim, even if denied may end up on you CLUE report for a long time....

Insurance policies are not warranties/ maintenance plans......

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FIREchief
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by FIREchief » Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:03 pm

NCSU1980 wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 5:49 pm
Have you considered lining the existing pipe using in-place rehabilitation techniques? Could be a less costly method if feasible for your application. From very quick limited research it sounds like the expected service life of cast iron pipes in residential usage is 75-100 years and your pipe is only half that age.
+3 on the remediation options. There are very reputable approaches, that municipalities have been using. I've seen blown in epoxy membranes that can make the pipes good as new. Speaking of which, why on earth did they use cast iron on a house built in 1984. That just sounds crazy. :confused If they're already leaking, I'm suspecting poor workmanship.
I am not a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor. Any advice or suggestions that I may provide shall be considered for entertainment purposes only.

Hug401k
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by Hug401k » Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:53 pm

1984? That seems odd unless quality has gone downhill. I would guess our cast iron pipes are almost 100.

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Bernard
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by Bernard » Tue Jan 14, 2020 9:48 pm

Here in California, this is a common issue. When a house is sold, a sewer line inspection is mandatory. If it has not been replaced at that very inspection, it can only be certified for 5 years. If it has been replaced, it can be certified for 10 years. Pretty much all of the cast iron pipes are cracking now, mainly due to tree roots finding their way in there.

While it's not cheap to do this, the price quoted seems outrageous. For starters, I would go trench-less, so only minimal digging. I can't give you a quote, but the cost for a full replacement on my house in 2017 was $9K.

brennok
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by brennok » Tue Jan 14, 2020 11:19 pm

Here one of the local attorneys constantly runs commercials for this very issue. No issues with mine currently, but not looking forward when it happens.

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unclescrooge
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by unclescrooge » Tue Jan 14, 2020 11:36 pm

FIREchief wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:03 pm
NCSU1980 wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 5:49 pm
Have you considered lining the existing pipe using in-place rehabilitation techniques? Could be a less costly method if feasible for your application. From very quick limited research it sounds like the expected service life of cast iron pipes in residential usage is 75-100 years and your pipe is only half that age.
+3 on the remediation options. There are very reputable approaches, that municipalities have been using. I've seen blown in epoxy membranes that can make the pipes good as new. Speaking of which, why on earth did they use cast iron on a house built in 1984. That just sounds crazy. :confused If they're already leaking, I'm suspecting poor workmanship.
+4
I got quotes between $12k and$20k (which is a ballpark estimate for ANYTHING to get done in my zip code).
I relined 27 feet of sewer pipes for $4,300.

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Salty
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by Salty » Wed Jan 15, 2020 12:44 am

I happen to work in the sewer field. May know a few companies that could help you. What city?


wilked
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by wilked » Wed Jan 15, 2020 6:03 am

You say you got a sewer line inspection, but never said why

Are you experiencing any symptoms?

If no symptoms I would do nothing

spectec
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by spectec » Wed Jan 15, 2020 6:43 am

About this time last year I had a similar issue, although not as extensive as yours. I have a leak in a sewer line under my slab, possibly due to a technician improperly using a sewer auger which kinked and knocked out a chunk of the PVC sewer line. But that was speculation and did nothing to address the real problem.

The plumbing company wanted to dig up a section of the slab inside my home to access the sewer line. The location was in a living room with hardwood floors so you can imagine what the mess would have been, plus all the associated expenses for THAT repair. He could not guarantee the integrity of the moisture barrier under the slab after his work was done, and of course he made it clear that repairing or replacing the hardwood flooring was outside the scope of his quote.

After doing a considerable amount of searching, I located a local company which does the CIPP repair - relining the pipe from outside the house with a durable liner which is stronger than the existing pipe. Cost was more than the price for digging up part of my living room floor, but less than the total cost would have been for the entire project.

We are only one year out, but I could not be more pleased with the result. And I will never again allow a mechanical sewer auger to be used under my slab unless it is a last resort. If I ever need to have a sewer line cleaned out again, it will only be with a high pressure water process, which is far superior to the mechanical sewer augers IMO. (Lesson learned).

You will likely not save any money if you decide to have CIPP done. You may even pay more. But you will probably wind up with a better quality job which will be less likely to give you any problems in the future.
Don't gamble; take all your savings and buy some good stock and hold it till it goes up, then sell it. If it don't go up, don't buy it. - Will Rogers

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F150HD
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by F150HD » Wed Jan 15, 2020 6:50 am

wilked wrote:
Wed Jan 15, 2020 6:03 am
You say you got a sewer line inspection, but never said why

Are you experiencing any symptoms?

If no symptoms I would do nothing
I had a plumbing test done last month which revealed a leak of some kind in our sewer lines.
The very first sentence of his post :greedy

OP- did you look into lining the pipe? (as mentioned above) would be curious to hear the cost on that.

aristotelian
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by aristotelian » Wed Jan 15, 2020 7:11 am

wilked wrote:
Wed Jan 15, 2020 6:03 am
You say you got a sewer line inspection, but never said why

Are you experiencing any symptoms?

If no symptoms I would do nothing
+1, I would certainly wait and see. When a guy tells you it isn't urgent, I would take that at face value. If you see gray water then you know what to do. In the meantime, get a second estimate.

carolinaman
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by carolinaman » Wed Jan 15, 2020 7:55 am

Since you have the time, I would research alternative approaches, especially lining the existing pipe and competitive proposals for the replacement. This should save you money and assure that you could a get a good solution. I do not recommend waiting until you have a problem to fix it. If you wait until you have a problem, you will most likely need a fix quickly and wind up paying top dollar as these companies base their prices on the pain the customer is having.

wilked
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by wilked » Wed Jan 15, 2020 9:15 am

F150HD wrote:
Wed Jan 15, 2020 6:50 am
wilked wrote:
Wed Jan 15, 2020 6:03 am
You say you got a sewer line inspection, but never said why

Are you experiencing any symptoms?

If no symptoms I would do nothing
I had a plumbing test done last month which revealed a leak of some kind in our sewer lines.
The very first sentence of his post :greedy

OP- did you look into lining the pipe? (as mentioned above) would be curious to hear the cost on that.
Still, no symptoms. What she says is she had a plumbing test done, but not why.

Curiosity? Received a gift card to a local plumbing company and wanted to spend it? Sewage smell? This is what I am asking

wilked
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by wilked » Wed Jan 15, 2020 9:20 am

Here’s what I am getting at

For those with fireplaces, those people often call a chimney company for a sweep. I would say more often than not those same people receive a recommendation to add a new stainless liner. The chimney person will show a video with a boroscope and point out a crack here and some loose mortar and an estimate for $5k for the job.

All of this would come with no symptoms

Let’s just say some small fraction of waste is contacting / leaking into ground. As long as the toilet flushes and the sink drains and I have no symptoms, I am not spending $20k to take action. I might have a boroscope done annually to monitor it, and I might put raise my emergency fund a bit, but I see no reason to take action without some symptoms

rterickson
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by rterickson » Wed Jan 15, 2020 9:42 am

Get a second (and perhaps third) opinion/estimate.

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F150HD
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by F150HD » Wed Jan 15, 2020 4:15 pm

wilked wrote:
Wed Jan 15, 2020 9:15 am
Still, no symptoms. What she says is she had a plumbing test done, but not why.

Curiosity? Received a gift card to a local plumbing company and wanted to spend it? Sewage smell? This is what I am asking
Yes would be useful to know why he had it inspected to begin with.

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F150HD
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by F150HD » Wed Jan 15, 2020 4:17 pm

CaptainMarvel wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 5:01 pm
I had a plumbing test done last month
Curious minds want to know- why did you have this test done to begin with?

Sorry if mentioned in a later post and I missed it...or if its buried in post #1

123
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by 123 » Wed Jan 15, 2020 4:58 pm

Is there an alternative route available for the replacement pipe? Perhaps an alternate route would exit the slab in a shorter distance and then mostly under open ground (if if total distance longer) to make it more accessible. It would all depend on your home's layout on the lot and where the connections are. We had relatives with an older home that had been converted from backyard septic to city sewer and the line went around the house to the street.
The closest helping hand is at the end of your own arm.

Topic Author
CaptainMarvel
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Re: Sewer Line Replacement - Expensive/Next Steps

Post by CaptainMarvel » Fri Jan 17, 2020 10:14 am

I did the plumbing test originally back in mid-December because I had just had piers installed to lift the foundation. Because of the long hot summer, there had been some foundation movement. A plumbing test is always required after foundation work/pier installation is completed.

I've spoken to one additional plumbing company since the original post and I have 3 more scheduled to come by next week. I'll be getting quotes from all of them. From the online research I've done, it does seem that the cost is not going to be less than that original quote.

Both plumbing companies I've met with so far have said that the "relining" approach is not an option here. There are too many T-offs in the sewer line, the line splits off several times.

The second plumbing company I met with yesterday suggested rerouting the sewer line from under the foundation to under the lawn on both sides of the house and having it connect to the main city-operated sewer line underneath the sidewalk from the lawn. I think that's a great idea since we'd never have to worry about a leak under the house again. Also, there is much less tunneling needed for this rerouting option - most of the digging would be outside on the lawn vs. under the house. This company provides a 10 year warranty. I haven't received their quote yet but I should get that today. I also haven't heard back from USAA yet.

Thanks.

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