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 old terra cotta pipes
Author: Anonymous User

I'm a new homeowner and the house I bought was recently remodeled. The basement was not remodeled and still has 100-year-old terra cotta sewage pipes that run under the house. I had a sewage back up last week and again yesterday. I had a plumber snake the line and put a camera down the line. A part of the pipe is broken. Can anyone tell me if it is advisable to replace just that part of the pipe or should I have the whole thing done? This is going to be done by a professional.
Also, shouldn't the contractor have checked the sewage lines before building and adding new plumbing to them? The reason I'm asking is I have a home warranty and am trying to figure out what is covered.
And they also said some of the debris from the break would be pushed in the house trap. What should be done about that? Can it be pushed out by snaking the pipes in that area.
Thanks so much for any advice you can give.

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 Old terra cotta pipes
Author: Wheelchair (IL)

I can't tell if your home is 100 years old or just the sewer line. If so how can you tell its 100 years old?

Home warranties look great on paper but when you inspect the fine print, you are going to be suprised at what it actually covers.. and what is not covered.

When the sewer line was power jetted and video'd, did you receive a copy of the tape for your records. You mentioned trap in your sewer line. Where exactly is that trap located and can it be removed?

When there is a major cost involved in anything, getting a second opinion is always preferred, in writing.

Best Wishes

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: hj (AZ)

The builder, or plumber, might have checked for the pipe material, but if the owner, or city, did not require, or want it, changed, he would not have done it, after all he does not want to do work for free. If you have a "house trap" you might want to consider removing it anyway, unless it is very accessible for cleaning purposes. I would replace the entire pipe because even if it is okay now, it might not be okay next week.

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 Re: Old terra cotta pipes
Author: Anonymous User

the house was remodeled last year, but build in the 1900s. Nothing has been done to the basement and pipes under the house, so all the new plastic piping, new toilet, etc were put on top of these pipes. the seller tells me they are original to the house.

the trap is located at the front of the house. not sure how many feet below ground. should it be removed? is there a need for it?

thanks much!

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 Old terra cotta pipes
Author: Wheelchair (IL)

Maybe 100 years ago that trap was handy to have, but then, so were spats to those who wore them in the 1900s.

The trap could be the source of your problems. Also, were the pipe jet washer before the camera was sent in? Jet the lines is good for removeing the inside diameter build-up using water pressure.
This way, when the video camera is sent into the sewer line you can see a better picture.
Lastly, I hope the company that did the video, made a copy for your historical records.

Best Wishes

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: Masterplumb (NY)

I cant imagine why anyone would tell you to remove your house trap, but maybe things are done different elsewhere. Here, almost every house has a trap, I say keep it. Chris

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: packy (MA)

in the cambridge(mass)area, house traps were commonly installed in the 30's when alot of the sewer systems were being installed. what they subsiquently found out was sewer gases were building up in the streets and reportedly manhole covers were blowing off. by removing house traps, sewer gases passed thru the vent stacks and out everyone's roof vents.

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: Masterplumb (NY)

You would think if there was enough pressure to blow a manhole cover, the seal on the house trap would "blow" before the manhole cover. Sounds like an old wives tale to me. Maybe its a job for the Myth Busters (great show).

Most houses here, new and old have main traps. When there is a sewer stoppage here about 75% of the time it is caught in the house trap. Remove the house side plug of the trap and put a toilet auger in and voila, everything flows free. The house trap catches the blockage. I would see no reason to remove it.

Chris



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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: hj (AZ)

There are only a handful here and we take them out when we find them.

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: Masterplumb (NY)

Why?

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: hj (AZ)

If that is the source of the blockage, I cannot think of a better reason for removing it. The exploding sewers is probably apochryphal. Sort of like the guy, back when we used kerosene flares to delineater ditches in the road, who ran away while I was filling them. He said the stuff was explosive. It asked him how it could be explosive when you almost needed a blow torch to light them in cold weather. He said when he came to the U.S.A. he drove a truck that had the gas tank behind the seat and the filler was on top of the tank. One night he thought he was out of gas, so he held his kerosene lantern above the filler opening to see how much fuel he had, and "the lantern blew up on him".

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: hj (AZ)

The "cause" stoppages, and cannot be snaked through them.

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: Masterplumb (NY)

Obviously you have never come across a house trap or you wouldnt say that. A house trap is never the cause of the problem. Its just a place to catch the problem (like paper towels or other "foreign" objects). Its better the get the blockage at the trap where its easier to access then to have to rod the drain with a machine.

Chris

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: Masterplumb (NY)

Yeah, I guess your right. Why would you have to or ever need to snake through the trap? Id love to hear this one!

Chris



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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: Masterplumb (NY)

apocryphal not apochryphal.

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: hj (AZ)

When the main sewer is plugged and the cleanout is inside the house, you have to go past the point of the trap. But by definition, it is not going to happen unless your "snake" is inadequate to do a proper cleaning job. That is how we find them. When the snake/cable only goes so far and there is no other reason for it to happen, we dig down and remove the trap.

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: hj (AZ)

If it were not for the trap the objects would not create a problem. And you are assuming there is provision for accessing the trap. That is not the case here. They are installed in the pipe at the exterior of the house, then they are buried.

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: hj (AZ)

As long as you understand it, what the "H" does it matter?

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: Masterplumb (NY)

Traps here must be within 2' of exterior wall of the building and must be exposed or in a pit or in an accessable "manhole". There must also be a fresh air intake located with 4' on the house side of the trap(just look for this on the outside of the structure and you can see theres a trap). There must also be 2 plugs, one on each side of the house trap to allow rodding upstream or downstream of the trap. There can also be a cleanout downstream of the trap before exiting the building. Why would you ever need to snake through the trap?????

Chris



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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: Masterplumb (NY)

I just figured that if you are going to sound intellimagent it should at least be spelled correct.

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: hj (AZ)

It was a test to see if you were observant.

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: hj (AZ)

You are not paying attention. If the only way to get from the cleanout to the obstruction is by "tryingg to go through" the trap, that is when you would do it, and also when you would remove the trap.

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: Masterplumb (NY)

Yeah, Im sure hj. LOL

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: Masterplumb (NY)

NO my friend you are the one not paying attention. Traps here (99.99% of the time) are located inside the building not outside. You are ASSuming that all traps are outside the building, and they are the "cause" of the blockages.



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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: steve_g (CA)

The plumbers that did the remodel may have been aware of the terra-cotta, mentioned it, and the owner didn't want to spring for replacing it. If it ain't broke, and maybe it wasn't at the time, why fix it? As you may find out, it isn't cheap to replace.

House traps are installed in the building drains in large cities, or in dense population areas. All those vents poking thru the close-together roofs could really cause a stink (at least that's what I thought the point of a house trap was).

I've got a 4" rubber disk on the end of a ½" galvanized pipe that I can poke down the sidewalk vent of a house trap & clear it every time. It's very easy. I made one for my wife so she could clear her building's house trap.

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: hj (AZ)

The only differecnce between a sag in the pipe, which will cause a stoppage, and a trap in the line, is that the trap was put there intentionally. In this area the traps were installed outside the house, if for no other reason than that we have very few basements. You are also projecting your typical installation to "all" installations.

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: e-plumber (NY)

Having the trap outside unless it is fully accessible is mind boggling. Snaking the line, trying to jump the trap from an inside clean-out is practically impossible, digging it up to locate it, (you can't blame them for removing it, it serves no purpose if it's buried).

Who in their right mind would bury a house trap outside and what kind of an inspector would approve it?, even 50-75 years ago. Maybe they thought, hey we'll never need access to it...

e-plumber

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: Masterplumb (NY)

Youre right hj! I guess house traps cause stoppages. How was I so blind not to see this?

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: jjbex (IL)

I agree with hj, if stuff gets caught in the house trap, get rid of it. I know from my experience that toilets rarely clog downstream, it's almost always the trap. I bet housetraps are great moneymaker though for the draincleaners and plumbers where they are mandated.

Cheers, Jeff.

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: Masterplumb (NY)

Things that are supposed to get flushed down the toilet do not get caught in the house trap, things that arent supposed to go down the drains do. If there wasnt a trap and these "foreign" things went down the drain you would need to rod the drain to free it up. What costs the homeowner more money, using a closet auger on a house trap or rodding the main line? Our house traps are accessible and inside the building. I couldnt imagine why anyone would want to remove it under these circumstances.

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: hj (AZ)

I take it that this is an attempt at "sarcasm".

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: hj (AZ)

These are not 50-70 years ago, they are 70's and 80's and possibly later, in a subdivision.

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: jjbex (IL)

That's what I said, housetraps sound like a great little moneymaker. In my experience, I have had to rod one 4" drain for an obstruction besides roots. It was at a bar/ restaurant that had been "replumbed" by an unlicensed plumber. There was a 4" cast iron hub right above the dirt in the crawl space. Instead of doing a little digging and snapping it or cutting it, he must have broke the hub, getting the old joint out. Then made a sort of open sight drain by terminating the new pvc with the hub of a 3" 90 into the broken hub. So there was a physical seperation, and the crawl space flooded frquently, causing all kinds of foreign objects and debris to float into and clog up the main. Other than that, it's been all roots.

Cheers, Jeff.

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: chip (OH)

Here there called (Cincinnati running traps).

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: hj (AZ)

We use a lot stronger language to describe them when we come across one.

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: hj (AZ)

We use a lot stronger language to describe them, and the plumber who installed it, when we come across one.

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 Re: old terra cotta pipes
Author: Anonymous User

Thanks to all of you for your replies. I am a total novice when it comes to all of this. I know you're not supposed to talk money on this forum, so does anyone know where I can get an idea of the cost of digging up a section of my basement concrete (about 4x6 section), replacing that section of pipe and concrete, and snaking the rest of the pipe to the trap? I am sometimes weary of just believing the estimate given, especially when I'm in a time crunch to get it fixed. My house is not liveable at the moment because of this break in the pipe. If someone could just let me know the general vicinity of what the cost could be, that would be great. Thanks again.

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