Sleeping in Sewage

I started coming down with a little cold Tuesday afternoon and ended up taking Wednesday as a sick day. I was taking a mid-morning nap only to be awakened by my wife whispering, “There’s water in the basement.”

Any homeowner knows water is the culprit to most of a home’s problems. I got out of bed, dressed, and sauntered down to inspect what was going on. Apparently the basement shower drain and the drain in our utility / furnace room backed up. Those drains are tied to the main sewer line that heads to the city’s line in the street.

Jen had already done a lot of the clean-up of the standing water, but the carpet, walls, baseboards, etc., were all wet.

We called a couple plumbers to come out and inspect the line. The first two I called said, “Oh, we’re busy until Friday. Can we come then?” “No,” was my reply, “we can’t use our water now!” Finally, we called a large national chain, Rescue Rooter, because they had an online deal of $88 for a sewer line clean-out.

They arrived within a few hours and began working. None of my clean-outs in the basement were big enough for his snake, so I pulled the toilet up so he could use the 4″ line there. He got about 35-40 feet down the line before hitting an obstruction. His snake fought through it and eventually went the full 110 feet he had in his line. As he retracted his snake, some roots came up with it. “Uh oh,” I thought. “We’ve got roots in our sewer line.” I’ve watched enough This Old House to know this is a common problem, but also not an insignificant problem. Roots in the line mean there’s a breach in the line, and cleaning them out is only a temporary problem. In addition, it means every time you use any drain in the house (sinks, washing machine, showers, toilets, dishwasher), water is leaking out of the line into my yard.

He called another guy in the company to bring a snake that had a camera on the end. This was a free service, undoubtedly in an attempt to have us use them for any future repair. His camera snake was great; it got about 35 feet down the drain and we saw the roots. He then ran outside with a wand and located where exactly the camera was underground. As we stood in our front yard, we marked the spot where, nine feet down, there was a break in our line.

The break is where the black ABS pipe leaving our house joins with PVC before taking the last 50 foot journey to the large cement city sewer line.

Rescue Rooter quoted me $4700 to fix the problem. So much for that tax return! I said, “Thanks for your service, but I’d like to shop around.”

I then went downstairs and proceeded to pull up the obvious wet carpet and pad. We’ve since found a few plumbers who will fix the line for half the quoted price and also called our homeowner’s insurance. While they won’t pay for the fix to the line (because it occurred outside the footprint of our foundation), they will cover the damage done inside due to the backup. So now, for the cost of our deductible ($1000), we get new carpet in our entire basement and we also had a restoration company come by with fans, air filters, dehumidifiers, and strong backs to do all the hard labor when the time comes to replace the rest of the carpet.

It’s now Friday and I’m still home on sick leave. I can’t imagine pulling up carpet and pad saturated from diluted sewage did any good for my cold. 🙂

One thought on “Sleeping in Sewage

  1. The same thing happened to one of our neighbors a few years back. I am just waiting for it to happen to us. We have a problem with the storm drain. My lawn is sinking, taking my driveway with it. Every year it gets just a little bit worse. I called the city a few years ago and they came out and “fixed” the problem. They have since sent a camera down the storm drain and confirmed that there is a hole in the storm drain that is eroding the soil. They still haven’t done anything about it. It’s going to take a big sink hole opening up to make something happen.
    Good luck with your sewer pipes.

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