Sewer Line Fix

I am so lucky. We had an expensive sewer malfunction last week, and it’s fixed at no cost to me.

A little background. When we bought this house, the sellers neglected to disclose a few things. One neglected disclosure were known problem with the sewer line. Five days after moving in, our house’s entire sewer system backed up. It did it again a few weeks later. I did a little investigation and found that the previous owners called local plumbing outfits several times to get the line cleared out. And the previous owners even admitted that they regularly put root kill down the drain. Hmmm, repeated cleanouts and root kill, but you think there is no disclosable problem?

Fast forward to two Wednesdays ago, around 18 months since the last sewer line cleanout. I ran the washing machine late at night. While it drained, sewer backed up into our master shower. (The master shower has the lowest drain in the house, so it’s the first to back up.) I went outside and checked our sewer line cleanout. When I pulled off the cap, the clean out erupted with several gallons of sewer water. Eww! Fortunately it was mostly gray water from the washing machine.

The bad thing is that the water level in the sewer cleanout took all night to go down, suggesting a large blockage somewhere in the line.

I got a plumber to my house by 10:00 AM the following morning. He was a referral of a plumber neighbor who is retiring. This guy only does cleanouts, so he has no vested interest in selling me unnecessary fixes (such as a new sewer line).

He spent about an hour with his power auger and used two different blades. When his auger line reached around 55 to 60 feet, it abruptly bound against something. When he retracted his auger line the second time, while using a smaller blade, he recovered mud. This only means one thing: the line has broken and he’s pulling against surrounding dirt.

My heart sunk. A broken line is major bucks to fix. It’s even more expensive at my house because the sewer line has to go really deep against a slight uphill, it’s in the back yard, it’s around 50 feet long, and it crosses a gas line.

But we had a glimmer of hope. The plumber took his line and stretched it along where he thinks the plumbing goes. This line easily stretches into the utility easement. This guy is from Richardson, which does not repair private sewer lines in the easement. The plumber recommended I call Dallas to check their policy.

Fortunately, Dallas does fix sewer lines in the easement! So as long as the problem is in the easement, I don’t pay a cent.

I called Dallas’s 311 service to report a sewage backup. The Dallas Water Utilities truck was at my house in 20 minutes. (It was 12:30 PM by this time.)

Using their own augers and a city drain cleanout truck, the DWU crew confirmed blockages both in my pipe and in the city main. By triangulating, the figured that the problem is well within the 15 foot city easement.

The crew traced my sewer line in a novel way. One guy stuck a large snake in the line, and another guy listened for the whooshing noises the snake made while passing through the line. These noises come clearly even through all those feet of soil. I marked out the line’s location with small marker flags I had sitting around.

The crew also tried other drain clearing techniques, including two different high pressure water jets. Nothing cleared it up. During a re-augering, their auger line snapped in two.

By around 5:30 PM, DWU had another crew at my place to dig out the line in the city’s easement. Unfortunately for my neighbor, that’s on their side of my back fence. (I have no alley.) To make matters worse, these neighbors had just bought this house. Their contract closed about a week before this incident. Fortunately, they were already planning on ripping out some overgrown flower beds that were in the way, so this wasn’t a loss for them. We told them about our “new resident” sewer incident and figured it just must be how people are welcomed to this neighborhood!

This second screw used a sonar device to re-trace the sewer line. It turns out that the prior method of mapping the line was not totally accurate. The sonar retrace had the line about 5 feet from where the previous crew though it was.

I had to leave the house in the afternoon and did not get back until that evening. When I returned, the DWU guys had already fixed everything. My sewer line makes a 90° bend and dumps into the top of the Dallas sewer line. This 90° bend is what broke. Apparently tree roots from an long-gone hackberry penetrated the line. Not only did the tree roots pulverize the bend, they also got into the Dallas sewer line. That explains why Dallas found blockages in both my line and the city line.

The DWU techs fixed everything with press-on PVC fittings.

I got a free sewer line camera inspection out of the deal. It turns out that my sewer line is clay, and it’s in good condition up to the city sewer line. So there go my fears of having to replace that line someday. And that camera inspection is normally at least $250.

It’s now a week and a half later, and the sewer is working fine. I dodged a costly bullet. What a relief!

The only gripe is that Dallas had to put a new lateral cleanout on the neighbor’s side of the fence. But I can’t blame them. It would have been a hassle for them to dig another 10 foot deep hole on my of the yard just for the cleanout. Fortunately, the cleanout is right by the fence.

One thought on “Sewer Line Fix”

  1. I see that this is an old post but we’re having similar issues & looking for a good plumber who can help with a reoccurring backup issue. Would you mind passing along your contact who does only cleanouts in the Dallas area?

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