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Lancaster, OH
·Time Warner Cable

Sewer Drain Repair?

Guys, I have been living for a couple of days without plumbing, as a section of sewer drain that goes into my jet aeration septic system broke in one spot in the back yard. What a lousy weekend of cleaning rugs from overflowed water using a steam vac.

I had Roto-Rooter out to identify and confirm, and they cleaned the pipe out somewhat but they kept hitting mud about 15 feet from the house, so I know that my relief is very short lived.
Roto-Rooter wants $300 to do a camera inspection to locate the exact spot, and they are asking $155 per hour to do the work, which they estimate to be $1500.
Well, I have been over my head with expenses exceeding my modest retirement income for the last year, and I am considering trying to repair the pipe myself. I feel pretty sure I know the approximate spot, which is located at the point in the yard where there is an indentation in the lawn, and is pretty close to that 15 feet spot.
I also know the sewer pipe is ABS, as it was almost completely replaced about 15 years ago, and I remember the approximate depth was about 2 feet.
I guess my question is, should the average guy try to do this and if so how do you join the ABS pipe with something to withstand underground conditions? (Unless I dreamed it, I seem to recall the last guy using something flexible to join the pipe, together with something to tighten it down that looked like hose clamps.

Sure would appreciate any help or advice.


Are you sure it is only two feet deep. That sounds shallow to me. If so I would dig it up and at least check it myself. Though you do need a good place to start digging so the 15 feet is hopefully accurate.
Except for the digging and if it is truly that shallow everything else should be easy enough.
Usually they are deep enough o require a digging machine to get at.
So locating the spot to dig seems the hard part without the right equipment.


San Diego, CA
I would add that you could look down the clean out and see just how deep the pipe is.

Good Bye My Friend
reply to Rojo_P
DO NOT USE FERMCO CLAMPS! those felxible clams are crap under ground. dig it up, cut out the bad section. then go pick up enough ABS to fit the length needing replacement and 2 REPAIR COUPLINGS, not regular couplings. regular coupling have a ridge inthe middle to keep either pipe from slipping allthe way thru, repair couplings do not have this ridge so that you can slide it up the pipe, fit the new section in place, then slide it back down to glue and join them. fit the repair coupling on one pipe, but do not apply glue, just slide it up. when you are ready to glue it, apply the glue to both pipes and slide the coupling down so that it is center on each. it helps to mark the pipe the coupling is not on so that you know how far to slide it. if you mark the pipe you already slid the coupling on, the glue will wipe it clean before you can see it.

if the pipe takes a turn at the junction, pick up the correct fittings and don't use the rubber ones again.
Lack of Preparation on YOUR Part does NOT Constitute an Emergency on Mine!

Ocala, FL
reply to Rojo_P
I agree with the others, this is something you should be able to do and save yourself a lot of money.
"Don't steal. The government hates competition."

Aw Man
Annapolis, MD
·Verizon FiOS
reply to Rojo_P
I don't see why a 'camera inspection' should cost $300. I'd call around to various plumbers and see what better deal you can get. Pretty sure a local plumber here charged us just under $100 to scope our sewer pipe when it had a backup.

It may be worth getting a scope done just the Be Sure where the break is. Be a shame digging for no reason. As long as you can get to the break without digging through a heart attack, I agree, certainly worth trying to repair yourself over $1500.
Don't Lie - Be Kind - Realize your Potential


Auburn, MI
I used to do this kind of work for a living...many years ago. Believe me when I say you don't need a camera. They can get within a foot of the exact measurements just by the length of cable they needed to get to the bad spot.

Also, for your depth, you should be able to get a good feeling dependent at where it leaves the basement (assuming a basement). If not, do you know the depth of the tank? It'll be about a foot deeper.
"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was making the world believe that he didn't exist"

Milford, NH
·FirstLight Fiber
·Hollis Hosting
·G4 Communications
reply to Rojo_P
As others have said if you are handy it is not a big deal other then digging through frozen soil.

Here is NH Schedule 40 PVC is more common with glued joints.

davidg See Profile suggestion to use repair couplings is important if you are trying to replace a straight section of pipe.

If there is mud in the pipe it means pipe must have ruptured (unless your family is pouring mud down the drain). Mud in the pipe means digging in sewage saturated earth. How old was the first system when it failed and what failed?

Underground plumbing should last "forever." Need to understand why a new drainage system only 15 years old has failed.



reply to Rojo_P
for the most part I would have to agree with everyone however. I am a waste water video tech for a major city and we use FERMCO CLAMPS on almost all are pipe Just make shore the pipe is back filled proper under the pipe. If it is not the pipe will drop down. also underground plumbing will not last FOREVER everything has a life expectancy.some a little longer some a little shorter it also depends on how it was installed.


Lancaster, OH
·Time Warner Cable

2 recommendations

reply to Rojo_P
I wanted to update this thread with my drain repair decision.
I discussed my situation with the company who installed my aeration septic system because they have proven to be as honest as any company I have ever come across (many previous dealings with them). They gave me the name of a local contractor whom they respected very much, whose prices were quite reasonable and suggested that I at least get an estimate from him.
That contractor came out and gave me an estimate for $500 to replace the line from the clean out at the house out to where I thought the pipe had gone bad. He also offered to completely replace the whole line to the septic (about 90 feet) with PVC (with glued joints) for an additional $500. As I thought the situation over, I began having severe doubts about the person who did the repairs 15 years ago and the quality of his work (and some of you also questioned that work). I felt that a complete replacement was my best option, even though it would have me eating lots of baloney for the rest of the year.

The contractor did the work today and I saw that my decision was a correct one in that the whole line was not only extremely thin ABS which literately crumbled in my hand, but had holes at various places with sewage trapped there. At numerous fernco joint sections, one pipe was lower or higher than that to which it abutted, and most areas of the pipe were misshaped like an oval rather than a circle.
I now know that I made the right decision as it would have just been a matter of time before I would have had another house full of water and another major pipe repair expense.

Thanks for the replies and information everyone!


reply to Rojo_P
One company replaces the whole line for 1,000 while another want 1,800 to repair one part. Sure that estimate would have exploded once they saw the condition and type of pipe.
Price shopping and reliable references do help.