Cast Iron Drain Evaluation

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Old 09-01-11, 10:16 PM
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Cast Iron Drain Evaluation

Hello

My house was built in 1915 and I have a cast iron drain stack that spans all three floors. I currently have the walls opened up on part of the top floor and the middle floor.

A family acquaintance suggested I replace the cast iron while I have the walls open. However this seems like an incredibly large project. Before I take such a major step, I'd like to understand more about what I'm dealing with.

1. What kind of life span do pipes like these typically have?
2. What kinds of things should I look for when examining the pipe?

There are no known issues with the pipe at this time, though the toilets, showers and sinks in this part of the house have not been used for about a year.

Thanks.
 
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Old 09-02-11, 08:51 AM
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Hi,

To remove the stack usually you start from the top and cut sections out, like 4' at a time. You can use a cast iron cutter or just use a sledge hammer.

Cast iron is supposed to be 30-40 yr life span.

If it were myself and all the walls were open as you decribe, now is the time to replace. Dont even waste your time inspecting.

Basically remove all the cast iron in the home and repipe with PVC.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 09-02-11, 04:38 PM
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30-40 years - meaning my pipe is extremely old.

I would be far more inclined to replace the pipe if ALL the walls were open, but as it is, just most of them are. I would have to take down a finished wall and part of a finished ceiling. That isn't the end of the world, but I do have a lot of other work planned and this would be quite a set back.

So, is there any way to tell if this thing is viable in the long term? Other than obvious failures, I suppose there is no way to eye ball the thing and determines its condition?

Last question: with so many homes built in the 40s, 50s and 60s, is this becoming a wide spread issue? Do these things fail often?

Thanks again.
 
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Old 09-02-11, 06:10 PM
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Cast iron often psplits at the seam.

What might be easy to do, and I dont know what you have open or not, but we would slip the new line in one long piece down from the roof.

The trick is getting the old piping out. There are often braces holding the pipe from sliding down. Sometimes the whole weight of the stack is supported in the basment.

I have seen many stacks just drop after cutting them. Then we would cut another section, then another, until the whole stack dropped. Then we would send the new pipe down through the roof, and make the new connections.

Now this all depends on how many baths you have and where the connection arems are.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 09-02-11, 11:21 PM
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I've seen 70-80 year old cast iron drains that were in fine condition BUT they also had steel branches that were completely occluded with rust and other corrosion. Even if you were to retain the cast iron the steel branches would need replacement and at that point is makes sense to replace it all with plastic. Either PVC or ABS plastic, whatever is more prevalent in your area.
 
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Old 09-03-11, 02:07 PM
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Thanks for the responses. As it happens, I took a good look at the pipe this morning and found a hub in the basement that was cracked in a "U" shape, starting at the top of the hub, traveling down three inches, across a couple of inches, then back to the top. The crack has rust, highlighting the "U" shaped crack perfectly.

This makes my decision much easier, correct? I can't imagine that removing a lower section of the stack would be wise, considering the weight from above.
 
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Old 09-03-11, 03:55 PM
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The crack would cinch it for me, remove it all. Start at the top and remove it all going down and then build back from the bottom up.
 
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Old 09-03-11, 04:14 PM
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I second what Furd says.........

Mike NJ
 
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Old 09-03-11, 08:27 PM
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I defer to the experts.

I'm a pretty handy person, and do most things myself. If I have questions (obviously) I come here. This is something a layman can handle on his own?

Could somebody point me towards a website or book or any other body of knowledge that I can study before I start this thing?

Really appreciate everything so far.
 
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Old 09-03-11, 08:30 PM
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Sometimes the most important tool a DIYer has is the checkbook. You would likely spend a week replacing this and have a good possibility of either (or both) doing something incorrectly or severely hurting yourself. A professional will be able to do it in a day.
 
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Old 09-03-11, 08:40 PM
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I'm very cautious about not exceeding my limitations. If I can't do it, I don't. But if I can do it right, and safely, I am comfortable spending a great deal of time on something so that I learn.

The labor is not an issue. Time is on my side. Other than that, what are the potential pitfalls in terms of safety?

I'm not inexperienced with DWV. So far I've replaced most of the DWV in the house, with the exception of this stack and some of its branches (it's a big, old house). With that said, what are some of the more complicated aspects of this type of job?

Again, just trying to gather as much information as I can. If it can't be done right and safely, I'll hire out.

Thanks.
 
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Old 09-03-11, 10:31 PM
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Start in the attic and buy or rent one of these. Make sure you get the right type. They make them for diffent pipe.

No. 206 Soil Pipe Cutter - RIDGID Professional Tools

Then have someone show you how to use it. There is a right way and there are wrong ways. I have seen them all.

You will need to open parts of walls in strategic locations. Possible both sides to get the snapper around.

A few sledge hammers for breaking the hubs if needed.

You need to just cut in sections and pull up out or down anyway you can.

Cut the hubs out or hammer them where you can to get past floors, joists or whatever...

Keep working from the top down and snap away.

Make sure they are managable size lengths. 4ft???. have a extra set of hand or two.

Its simple once you get the routine down.

Dont over estimate the weight of the pipe.

IMO why pay someone for all labor type work.

As far as putting it back together, plumbing code needs to be followed and permits taken out.

Also how is the water pipe???? Might as well replace that if its a mess. Pex would be the way to go. Very low labor. Fast install.

Wear saftey glasses if you opt to hammer fittings. For some reason cast iron just cracks when hit but there is always that little piece that flys right in your eye.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 09-04-11, 07:37 AM
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I think the hardest part of your plan is making sure you reinstall all the DWV branches correctly. I've replumbed two houses so far and I still find myself asking 100 questions to the folks here about tees and wyes and looking over the designs to make sure I have things straight.

It's likely that since the DWV pluming is quite old you may be missing some vents that you should have. Also, don't forget about convenient cleanouts.
 
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Old 09-04-11, 09:12 AM
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Wear saftey glasses if you opt to hammer fittings.
I might even opt for a full face shield, but that's probably overkill... and I'm vain... a nasty scar on my cheek wouldn't go over real well with me.

SHARP EDGES! Wear heavy gloves of course.

I've seen stacks that have supports clamped onto the pipe at floor level, you might run into that. In fact, as you are removing, it might not be a bad idea to add some temporary clamps to help support the pipe as you are removing it.
 
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Old 09-04-11, 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by lawrosa View Post
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Wear saftey glasses if you opt to hammer fittings. For some reason cast iron just cracks when hit but there is always that little piece that flys right in your eye.

Mike NJ
In my younger and dumber days (OK Iím still dumb) when I graduated from high school (a few years ago, 1962) I was working in a machine shop and some days I would be working on the drill press. I didnít wear glasses then and I guess safety rules arenít as good as they are today. Many times I wound up with a hot smoking metal chip in the corner of my eye next to my nose. I could see the smoke clearly passing in front of my eye and then I would quickly pull the hot chip out of the corner of my eye and throw it on the floor.

Well I guess I was a slow learner because I still didnít use safety glasses, and sure enough it would happen again. Lucky I still have my eyesight. So I agree with the guys who say think about your eyes when doing this work. Really great advice!!
 
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