30 March 2016

Why My Sewer Repair Isn't A Cheap Trip To Home Depot

Sendarus in comments made a reasonable observation.  I replied thus:

That there is orangeburg pipe. The only material that's harder to patch is clay.

There's a couple of reasons to bring in a pro.

First is the assholes at code enforcement. There's a lavish, daily, fine for dumping sewage outside the sanitary sewer system. When I am fixing it, I am liable. If the plumber is fixing it, it's "under repair" and thus no fine.

Second is that material really calls for the specialty knowledge of someone who does this for a living. It needs to be rebedded correctly or you're getting a collapse cascading from the repair.

If I had found iron or PVC under there I'd have risked the fine and done it myself!

Third, it appears that my sewer was never actually vetted by the county when my house and the adjacent house to the south were added to the county system. The neighbors pulled a DIY. Since I purchased the house in good faith, I am not liable for the fines of an out of spec system, but if I attempt to fix it myself I'm liable for bringing up to code. Hiring a plumber retains my grandfathering.

Bringing it to code means replacing the whole run.  When the house was built in 1969, it was on a septic tank.  That tank is in the middle of the back yard.

When the conspiracy of neighbors was given the option to connect to the county sanitary sewer system some time in the '70's they opted to do it themselves.

My drain runs from the middle of the back of the house, to the middle of the back yard, two 45˚ bends to run south, two 45˚ bends to get it lined up to run between the houses and out to the sewer.

In theory, I could dig it all up myself and put in new.  In practice, I have to have a plumber come out and sign off on the work and an inspection costs about the same as just having them do the work while I sit on the porch and sip a mint-julep.  That's not quite right.  An inspection is cheaper, by itself.  Me buying materials and tools plus an inspection ends up being more.  Never mind that it would take me days to it instead of hours.


  1. You have to wonder who thought that making sewer pipe out of fiberboard was a swell idea.

    1. Saves on iron for the war effort! The war that had been over for 24 years before my house was built...

  2. It sounds like you need to move to somewhere where the code enforcement is not so idiotic.

    1. Compared to some places I live, this is paradise on codes. At least I _HAVE_ the option of doing myself and accepting the risks. Back in Ames you are forbidden to do your own sewer and fairly limited in what you're legally allowed with the water (often ignored of course).

      The reason our code enforcement is kinda over the top is when they get called out, they figure "as long I am here, might as well poke around some." Especially since the person whom they just fined will be narcing out on the neighbors.

  3. As I commented on the original post - if a plumbing bill buys immunity from bureaucrats, then have at it, and I hope you enjoy your mint juleps! :)


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