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Detroit sewer lateral problem suggestion

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  • Detroit sewer lateral problem suggestion

    Greetings Folks

    I am Dr. Werner a real estate investor and jack of all trades in rehabing homes. I could use an opinion concerning the following problem from anyone that would be kind enough to answer.

    The problem started about a month ago in my Moms basement. The sewer lateral started backing up raw sewerage in Moms basement after much heavy rains here in Detroit, Michigan. The sewers are very old in the alley nearly 80+ years. I have a KV375 1/2" drain machine with a 3" cutter attachment on the end. (We also have cast iron drain pipe all the way to the alley main) I snaked the main line all 75' with no problem at all as it came back clean each time I did it. I snaked it 10 times just to be sure! LOL The line still holds water with no movement of the sewerage at all. I called the Detroit water and swerage board and they opened the manhole and ran a vactor down the alley sewer and claimed it was not their problem but mine. Now the interesting thing is that the manhole on the next alley from me runs literally like a stream! The movement behind my Moms house is really a small trickle compared to the other line as seen from the open manhold that I opened and looked down at.

    I then rented a 3/4" 100' snake just to be sure and it ran two times out fully (all 100 feet) and came back with nothing! In fact the rental place told me that 65' lots like we have is shorter than the snake length and to be careful not to enter the main sewer and hook the lite line that was in there for camera work.

    So at this point being an experienced repairer, I would like to gather some suggestions as to what could be wrong as nothing seems to be either's problem (the city or mine)! I was thinking since there are so many empty and abandoned homes on the street of my Moms home perhaps the sewer in the alley really needs to be jet cleaned more carefully.

    What is normal flow for the sewer as seen from the manhole? And can a sewer lateral line from the house to the alley be clear and yet hold water?

    You know the old saying "it's not the citys problem" most of the time!

    Appreciate your valuable time

    God Bless
    Dr. Werner

  • #2
    Hey cash,
    I have seen many sewer lines that hold water and still drain somewhat. Most of the time it's because there is a dip or belly in the line. The line will be going nice and straight and then take a little dive only to come out straight again somewhere down the line. I have seen 1/4 pipe holding all the way to full pipe holding. What's bad is that 99% of the time it's going to become an ongoing problem. When the toilet is flushed it pretty much just displaces what is in the pipe and everything just kind of sits in some part of the belly causing the line to become greased and sludged eventually leading to another backup. I have had customers that I have had to go run the main every 6 months because it was so bad. Not saying that is your problem or will happen to you but it does happen. Although I will say I can't recall ever seeing a cast iron line with a belly. I've seen tons of clay tile and plastic lines with this problem. Is your mom's line still backing up at the moment? A month is quite a long time and I can see you're doing everything you can think of. Which way is the city line running that just has a trickle in relation to your mom's house, upstream or downstream? It's possible because I have seen it before, at houses that were built before backflow preventers were code, that the city sewer department ran it from the wrong manhole or the wrong way and the city sewer is actually blocked and it's just filling up the basement of one of the abandoned homes. Sounds terrible and it is. You might consider calling a professional to snake it or camera it.

    Comment


    • #3
      Cashmeoutman,

      If you are a doctor, hire a plumber. He will be the expert, you should know that. You are obviously an expert in your field, yet you think that a simple answer is available to you over the internet.
      the dog

      Comment


      • #4
        Plumbers still make house calls
        ---------------
        Light is faster than sound. That's why some people seem really bright until you hear them speak.
        ---------------
        “If I had my life to live over again, I'd be a plumber.” - Albert Einstein
        ---------
        "Its a table saw.... Do you know where your fingers are?"
        ---------
        sigpic http://www.helmetstohardhats.com/

        Comment


        • #5
          I hesitate to comment because although I am a plumbing contractor I do very little sewer work. However, I ran into a problem just this week that if nothing else would be something to check for the process of elimination if nothing else. I received a call for a backed up sewer line and a sump pump serving a french drain that was cycling on and off continuously (it immediately sounded like two different problems to me but was presented to me by the HO as one problem). To shorten this up, the lady has a leaking water service (galvanized pipe) that is dumping water into her french drain and is also leaking into her sewer line (terracatta, sp?). The water is backing up her sewer line and flowing out of her clean out at the house and from there out of the pipe and into her french drain. By the way, her clean out is not a clean out but simply a hole knocked into the top of her cast iron sewer line just before it leaves her crawl space! Yikes!!!!!There is some unknown debris (feels like either gravel or broken pieces of pipe) in her sewer line at 45' to 55' (as I said, I only do drain work when I have to and all of my equipment is rented and therefore not very good. This is why I have not yet run a camera down the line. There is only one place in my city where you can rent a sewer camera and they only have one of them so I'm sure you can imagine how hard it is to get ahold of sometimes). The line has been cabled several times but still drains very slowly because the debris is damming up the lowest part of the pipe. When I turn off the water supply at the meter the sewer line will drain down to empty, at the house, after about 10 minutes. So this probably has nothing to do with your problem but you might check to see if the water service is leaking at all and if it is anywhere near the sewer line. If there is any significant amount of sludge in the line then a cable machine may not be the right tool because often times a cable will simply pass through sludge without significantly displacing it (you drain cleaning pros correct me if I'm wrong) you probably need to have the line jetted. If there is a significant amount of sludge it may create a slow flow rather than a no flow condition and if you have any water entering the sewer line from outside the sewer line (from a leaking water service or simply from ground water, I believe you mentioned this happened after heavy rains) it will magnify the problem. You may have a marginally functional sewer line, under normal circumstances, that just can't cope with additional loads from outside sources. My best guess is that over the years the integrity of the sewer line has weakened allowing access points for rain water to enter the system and it has just now reached the point where it overloads the system. Just my thoughts, they may not be worth anything.

          Comment


          • #6
            dog, my wife (ball and chain you guys named her) agrees with you. she always says "don't take medical advice from your plumber and don't take plumbing advice from your doctor" .

            cash, it sounds like the issue is in the city line, main. does the line back up into the basement when nobody in the house is running anything
            if it does back up, then it is definatly a city main issue. i assume that the basement is lower than the manhole opening.

            a seweroscopy ( a camera) of your line will give you lots of answers.

            rick and jojo.
            phoebe it is

            Comment


            • #7
              ecs, i should sell your city some of my extra cameras. i have 3 in the truck and 5 on the shelf. with all the flat rate $$$ why not buy some equipment?

              rick.
              phoebe it is

              Comment


              • #8
                Doctor pulls up to his house after a long day at the hospital and notices a plumbing truck in his driveway. The first thing that comes to his mine is:

                Oh my gosh I hope she is having an affair.

                Mark
                "Somewhere a Village is Missing Twelve Idiots!" - Casey Anthony

                I never lost a cent on the jobs I didn't get!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Rick,

                  It's funny you should mention that. I've seen in other posts you've made that you have multiple cameras and multiple sewer machines (even of the same type) and wondered why a one man shop would need that many? I am, as a matter of fact, somewhat reluctantly beginning to shop for both a sewer machine and camera system. I say reluctantly because it's far from my favorite type of work and seems to me to be, aside from a truck, requiring more equipment investment dollars, by a long shot, than any other plumbing tools. I also say reluctantly because I actually receive relatively few drain cleaning calls and to this point haven't been able to justify the expense. So if I purchase the equipment I feel like it will require of me the commitment to actually pursue that part of the business (and I will not play in anybody's doody for $89.00 like I here some guys around here are doing) On the other hand, I do rent the equipment and do the work when it is requested because it seems to me that if someone calls me about drain work and I tell them I don't do it then they probably won't call me later when they need some other plumbing work. Also, I'm not a complete idiot, I understand very well that nothing sells a sewer repair/replacement like a video tape of the HO's failed system and it only takes an handful of those to pay for that new camera.

                  So I guess what I'm saying is that if you're tired of looking at them sitting on the shelf and if they are in very good to excellant condition and if you feel like making me a nice offer, then I am certainly listening. You can PM me if you want to talk about it further.

                  ECS

                  P.S. Did you have any opinion about ground water in Detroit sewer lines?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    ECS, I'm sorry Rick cannot sell them to you. All the "extra" tools are my inheritance if something happens to him!

                    Mrs. Plumber Rick

                    regarding the ground water, you would have to have some really bad pipes. it's a long shot.

                    rick.
                    Last edited by PLUMBER RICK; 02-15-2006, 12:16 AM.
                    phoebe it is

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Rick,

                      Raise your t&m rates $20.00 and buy that woman some life insurance!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        never give a woman anymore incentive than you have too Rick. You might be in a hole one day while she is at the top wondering how fast that insurance check would clear.
                        Work hard, Play hard, Sleep easy.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thanks for all the great responses

                          I appreciate all the great responses and will take them all under advisement. God Bless you all and a much prosperous 2006 to all!

                          Carpe Diem
                          Dr. Werner

                          PS. Once I get it figured out I will post the results here for future reference!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by PLUMBER RICK
                            dog, my wife (ball and chain you guys named her) agrees with you. she always says "don't take medical advice from your plumber and don't take plumbing advice from your doctor" .

                            cash, it sounds like the issue is in the city line, main. does the line back up into the basement when nobody in the house is running anything
                            if it does back up, then it is definatly a city main issue. i assume that the basement is lower than the manhole opening.

                            a seweroscopy ( a camera) of your line will give you lots of answers.

                            rick and jojo.

                            Ball-n-Chain,

                            Based on the above, you seem to have more horse sense than Rick. Well, let's face it, that's not hard.

                            If you want to post, you should use your own handle. Create your own and sign on. Just beware that old time construction foreman like me are crusty. I will say what I think, and so will others. Live with it.

                            Hey, if you can live with Rick, you can survive anywhere.
                            the dog

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Update on the Sewer!

                              Greetings Folks

                              As promised here is the update on the problem that I wrote about 6 weeks ago. I dug out my basement floor where the cast iron trap was located and found that the trap had a small hole at the bottom of it allowing a lack of normal water flow through that trap. (I replaced this with PVC Wye Connector and clean out and rubber connectors for sewers) I also snaked out the main line with a rented Electric Eel Drain Machine with a 1" cable. This really cleared the main line as my friend and I went 120 feet right into the main sewer in the alley! This machine is the best drain machine I ever used and recently learned that the machine has been successfully used since about the 50's I believe! I also rented a backhoe and dug up about 30 feet of backyard distance and dug about 8' down to reach the cast iron drain pipe to replace a section of it with new 4" PVC sewer pipe with a clean out in the yard to facilitate easier snaking in the future!

                              It also turns out that we do have the old hub cast iron drain pipe all the way to the alley instead of clay "crock" as is common in these older neighborhoods. Seems that my Grandfather, who built the home new, installed a stronger cast iron drainpipe in the 20's when the home was built. The lead and oakum joints were intact and the pipe was clean with no signs of breakdown except for a fine orange dust encasing the outer circumference of the pipe when I exposed part of the run in the yard!

                              I also installed a water hose bib with shutoff valve to hose down the main line once a week to keep a good flow of water to wash out the sediment out of the line. Seems that the 80 year cast iron line is getting a bit rough inside the pipe and coupled with our new low 1.8 gallon water toilets, we simply do not always get enough water flow to properly flush the sediment down the line! I am also going to use a good main line chemical treatment to help keep the line flowing nicely.

                              As many of my colleagues know me in the medical and sciences field, I never back down from learning and doing any project no matter how hard and I encourage all do it yourselfers to persevere and never give up to solve a problem as it can be done! The same goes for caring for your health… preventative maintenance is always cheaper than solving a problem later on when you break down! Remember that they laughed at Noah when he was building the Ark on dry ground. Then the rains came!

                              God Bless You All
                              Dr. Werner

                              PS The Electric Eel Drain Machine is the best for major drain cleaning in my opinion and I would recommend it to anyone needed a strong root buster machine!

                              Comment

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