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Snake Stuck in Sewer Main

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  • Snake Stuck in Sewer Main

    Sorry my first post is a plea for help, but I've got a snake stuck in my 4" cast iron sewer main. The background is I bought the house about three years ago (late 2011). The house has a 3" PVC soil stack feeding a 4" cast iron main line that runs about 60' to the street sewer. There is a large Ash tree (maybe 50'-60' tall) on the edge of the property which at its closest point is probably about 15' from the sewer line on my property. The sewer backed up about 2.5 years ago (only a couple weeks after I moved in) and I paid to have the line snaked and video inspected. At the time the plumber doing the snaking and video inspection said he thought the line was in very good condition and that the blockage could have been anything from the previous owners (my concern was obviously roots). I have viewed the video (I have the DVD) and I agree that the line looks good with no obvious degradation all the way to the street (I am involved with non-destructive examination professionally and have some knowledge of piping failure modes). Anyway for the past ~3 years I have been fat, dumb, and happy, in the perceived knowledge that my sewer is not going to give me any problems. Fast forward to last Thursday, the sewer backed up into my basement utility sink (thankfully it did not overflow) after a day of unusually heavy water usage (four loads of laundry, two showers, a load of dishes, five or so toilet flushes). Anyway, I called a local plumbing company ('Len the Plumber') who came out to the house Friday and got his snake stuck after feeling it hit an obstruction. He spent about 2 hours fighting with his snake before declaring it a lost cause and calling in the video camera. The video camera showed the snake caught in an obstruction in an area of the sewer that has two back to back elbows (the joints at the elbows are the only joints in the entire run of pipe that can be seen on the 2011 video - it occurred to me that these joints could allow root ingress). I think the elbows are both 45's - one seems to be 45 to the horizontal right and the next seems to be 45 down - increasing the fall of the sewer line. Anyway the new video didn't show anything conclusive, it almost looked to me like there was a rag down there but it could just be toilet paper caught on the front side of a root ball. Anyway, the plumbing company is basically giving up on clearing the line and retrieving the snake and wants to dig it up and replace 8'-10' of it at a cost of $8000-$10000. I'm not the type to cheap out or half-*** this type of repair but I only want to dig up the pipe as a last resort *if it's actually broken* and can't be lined (I have a strong preference for pipe lining). So I'm left trying to explore possibilities for clearing the line and retrieving the plumber's snake (roughly 30' of it) so I can have the entire thing lined (rather than only having a few feet of it replaced). The plumber who cleared the line 3 years ago used a large wheeled machine with a large snake (I'd guess it was 1.25" in diameter) and a bladed cutting tip, whereas this latest guy used a small hand carried machine with a snake diameter of 5/8" (I have measured and confirmed 5/8") and a funnel auger. Can you recommend a course of action? I have not yet paid the plumber for his work, should I withhold payment and ask the company to send another plumber (the guy who got the snake stuck was nice, but did seem to be a bit inexperienced)? Can another snake with a cutter head be placed in the line or will it tangle with the snake that's already in there? The line will continuously drain roughly the flow from one sink, is a hydro jetter a possibility? I appreciate any help you can give me.
    Last edited by djmjd; 08-03-2014, 04:00 PM.

  • #2
    Start making milkshakes and beg Plumber Rick to bring his gear to you. If he cant fix it it cant be fixed

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    • #3
      Are you able to post the current video to youtube and link it on the forum. If that's too difficult, then post some still shots taken from your monitor of the stuck snake and fittings. Also post a photot of the snake sticking out of the cleanout so we can tell what it is. Along with a reference to scale the size of the cable.

      im already covering for my buddies shop of 4 guys all on vacation this week, so a road trip is out. But some good photos and we can walk you through it to get it out.

      if you can, also link the 2011 original video so we can see the before and after condition.

      it should come out, but don't send anything down until we see what's in there.

      Rick.
      phoebe it is

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      • #4
        Posting the videos to youtube is great idea, I'll do that and report back when I get it done. Thanks!

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        • #5
          Anyone who rods a line with a funnel auger is just asking for trouble.

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          • #6
            Ummmm.First of all they are responsible for removing their broken cables from your sewer. It is illegal for them to "abandon" their broken cables in your sewer. Not that they are suppose to dig up the issue and repair for free, but they should have offered you more tahn a 10k solution of digging up and repairing 3' of fn' pipe . Gimme a break!!!!!! Use a 1500 machine with a retriever hook . DO SOMETHING!!!!!!Come on guys
            ''Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy" Benjamin Franklin

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            • #7
              Also if the issue is off of your propertythey should have called the city of rockville if you pay your water bill to them or WSSC if you pay your water bill to them. If the issue is on your property then .......
              ''Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy" Benjamin Franklin

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              • #8
                If your only resort is to replace your line I would recommend digging it up yourself. Just have the plumber cut and replace whatever he thinks needs done. It will save you a lot of money if you do the digging yourself.

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                • #9
                  Were I a private citizen, and not a Plumbing Contractor, I'd solicit services from the new wave of "foreign exchange students" now arriving in Maryland, to do the digging. I'm sure they are eager to learn about indoor plumbing, plus you can practice some Spanglish to help YOU assimilate to the new culture.

                  10' of ABS from your local HD, a couple of Fernco's, maybe a couple of hundred bucks in ojt and you're set.

                  Pulling into a local HD last week, I noticed that some of the "day laborers", had little placards that denoted their specialties. America what a country.



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                  • #10


                    in this case a picture is worth $10,000.00

                    Rick.
                    phoebe it is

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                    • #11
                      Why not call the original plumber?
                      Buy cheap, buy twice.

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                      • #12
                        Hi, I'm sorry it took me so long to post these videos, I've been at work all day. I have uploaded the videos to youtube. The first video was captured in 2011 about a week after the original snaking. Note that it is a video of the entire sewer line and that a section of the original cast iron pipe was replaced with PVC roughly 10-12 years ago (according to my neighbor). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brMVN0JfCQU

                        The video that was captured yesterday obviously shows only the portion of the pipe up to the obstruction. The soil stack was replaced with PVC in 2012 so you may notice that difference. I believe the length measurement on this video is inaccurate. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eV04oZ-IVIg

                        I sincerely wish I had called the original plumber. I was in an 'emergency' mindset and called several plumbing companies to see who could come out soonest. In 2011 the plumber I used was chosen/arranged by the home warranty company so I didn't immediately remember the name (the home warranty came with the purchase of the house and I did not renew after it lapsed). Now that I have had time to think it through, I realize I should have been more deliberative in choosing a plumber. I did look up the BBB rating (no complaints) and google reviews (positive) but obviously that wasn't enough.

                        Again, I really appreciate your help.

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                        • #13
                          Rodding a sewer with 5/8" sectional cable and a funnel auger, good grief... Sounds like something a handyman would do

                          Using caution, I would run some 1.25" sectional cable with a small 1" arrowhead bit down the line and bust it loose. Then beat him silly with it when you get it out
                          Last edited by AssTyme; 08-03-2014, 05:18 PM.

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                          • #14
                            Ten k is a lot for a small repair...the auger bit he used is the reason he got stuck..what u need to do is call another shop with a retrieving bit on there cable and retrieve the cable out that way.afterwords call the other guys back and tell them they can come pick up there cable..ive broken a cable off in a line before but it came out the ppe and got bored into the dirt...that small repair was less than 2k...2 plus 2 is not the only answer to 4..definetly get another opinion..

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                            • #15
                              Definitely user error. A 5/8" sectional cable is not a cable used for root cutting. Nor is it a cable I would use for 4" pipe. It's a simple job of cutting the roots to free the cable. I would have that free and draining in under a minute with my jetter and forward rotor. Problem is im 3000 miles away. But for 10k, I would make the drive.

                              do not go in there with another auger unless you want to get it stuck on the other cable. A jetter is the safest, but a spiral root saw will also get around without catching on the cable as long as you don't run it in reverse. Another safe choice is a 4 blade spear, but it's not a great root cutter.

                              whoever does the cutting will also need a sectional machine, k60 to possibly spin the old cable out. But the jetter will free it and it should just pull out by hand.

                              there are companies that come out to snake lines and not get through just to sell jobs. This looks like 1 of them. Wrong cable for the job and hugh estimate to fix a simple everyday problem I do in my sleep.

                              honestly if you were within 100 miles of me, i would have come out to fix it and be done faster than you could have posted your thread.


                              speak to the owner and discuss the problem with them. If he's an honest businessman, he'll get it out for free and count his losses as a blessing.


                              Rick.
                              phoebe it is

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