Sewer Camera Effectiveness??

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Old 07-15-19, 07:43 AM
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Sewer Camera Effectiveness??

I have a rental duplex built 1978. Sewer is cast iron from slab to street. I have had 2 total blockages in a 9 month span in the main line to the street. I use a sole proprietor drain cleaning company who has successfully cleared the line each time. The first time he thought maybe roots, but on the second could not detect hitting anything, but the clog went away. His camera broke and he has not decided whether to reinvest in a new one. Therefore, if I decide to get a camera examination, I am stuck with one of the big franchised outfits.

Do these camera inspections really provide useful info or are they hype? These backups are messy and expensive, so would like replicate my first 40 yrs with no problems. Any real life experiences would be welcome. Thanks.
 
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Old 07-15-19, 08:34 AM
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I had to hire one for my old line. They work well. The picture is well lit and easy to make out. If you have roots or other blockage, the camera will show it. They can even tell where in the line the problem is.
 
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Old 07-15-19, 09:29 AM
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Yes, camera inspections do work. They allow you to see the inside of the pipe so you can see cracks, breaks and tree roots. The gotcha is that while the camera can see the problems... it can't do anything to fix those problems. So, if you know that you have a broken line or tree roots go ahead and fix the problem since you don't need the camera to tell you what the problem is.
 
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Old 07-15-19, 10:11 AM
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I agree completely. When you're not sure what's causing the issues, or are just dealing with old lines, scoping with a camera is definitely worth the few hundred $$ that you'll spend on it. They will be able to point out exactly what's wrong, and locate it precisely as well.

Some camera heads are locatable with a specialized probe - all have a distance reading, so you can see that your root problem is at 52' and there's a crack at 78'. You can then decide what the best course of action is to ensure you don't continue having issues.
 
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Old 07-15-19, 05:24 PM
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Since the drain is clear now I wouldn't worry too much about a camera inspection, but since everything hangs up in cast iron, I think I'd start a regular preventive maintenance program with a good enzyme drain cleaner. On a side note, I don't think I have ever seen a cast iron sewer line connecting a home to a public sanitary sewer. In my part of the country, clay pipe was used 100 years ago and on into the 1970s and into the 1980s in some areas. PVC eventually became the new norm. Clay pipe, however, was highly susceptible to tree roots working their way into the joints.
 
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Old 07-15-19, 07:22 PM
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I don't think I have ever seen a cast iron sewer line connecting a home to a public sanitary sewer.
Cast iron sewer line is very common at least around around DC metro area. I have been working for a plumbing company for 5 years before I quiet and became self employed.
Clay pipe is rare around here, but Orangeburg pipe is common in houses built in 50s and 60s al though many of same age may also be cast iron.
When Orangeburg sewer line is used, it is done from outside of the foundation wall to the curb and under the slab and the street will be cast iron.

Orangeburg pipe is made with wood pulp and hot pitch. When it gets old, it will cave in and collapse.
Cast iron pipe itself usually don't fail, but the joints do and roots will penetrate the joint and causes blockage.

Run camera down the next time you have a blockage. Often, plumbers will do the camera inspection at lower price or even free when it is done at the same time as main sewer snake job.
We used to do the camera inspection at discounted price with sewer line snake. Then put it toward repair job if we find a problem and we get to repair job.


It is a rental property, so it is possible they are flushing something they shound't down the drain.
I have pulled out wet towel wipes (very common), plastic bag, floss, and even condoms during the snake job. Even those flushable wet towels are no no for cast iron. It tends to get hung up somewhere.

If you don't have a good slope or a sag in cast iron pipe, even toilet paper can cause blockage. Especially with 1.6 or 1.25 gpf toilets.
 
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Old 07-16-19, 07:53 AM
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Cast iron sewer line is very common at least around around DC metro area. I have been working for a plumbing company for 5 years before I quiet and became self employed.
Clay pipe is rare around here, but Orangeburg pipe is common in houses built in 50s and 60s al though many of same age may also be cast iron.
When Orangeburg sewer line is used, it is done from outside of the foundation wall to the curb and under the slab and the street will be cast iron.

Very interesting, thanks for that information. The few times I have seen orangeburg it was collapsed. My primary home was built in the '40s and I assume the sewer line is clay, but I have no way of knowing for sure unless it fails and has to be dug up. I do however have cast iron stacks and cast iron under the basement floor that was problematic when we first bought the house 30 years ago. Like I said, everything hangs up on cast iron. After having my basement cast iron cabled 3 times in the first year here I started a monthly regimen of enzyme drain cleaner as a preventive measure. I haven't had to cable the basement cast iron under the slab in the last 29 years so I am a huge believer.
 
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Old 07-24-19, 12:54 PM
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Thanks all!

Had the line scoped today and learned all kinds of things. First the color and resolution is orders of magnitude better than the last line I had done in 2003. The line is not all cast iron, but transitions to plastic outside the slab. Inexplicably, there are two sections of clay pipe interspersed with the plastic. One clay section has shifted and has a slight offset. Will excavate and replace. I have no idea why there are the 2 sections of clay. I built the building in 1977, so I have owned it since. I have never excavated sewer since built.
 
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Old 07-24-19, 02:58 PM
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I would assume your mixture of pipes is the result of decades of repairs. It probably was clay all the way at one time but as sections were damaged someone in the past only replaced those bad sections leaving the remaining good clay in place.
 
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Old 07-24-19, 03:22 PM
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I've owned it continuously since building it in 1977. This is the first sewer issue ever. It has not been excavated since construction. All I can guess is that the clay was slapdashed in at the last minute before backfilling. The plumber who did this job was the worst of all of our subs and nothing would surprise me. We had 3 of these duplexes going at the same time and he well could have slipped something like this past us and inspectors. Again the new cameras are very revealing and also can provide routing and depth across the yard to the street.
 
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Old 08-12-19, 08:33 AM
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Hole size question

I want to replace the section of clay pipe, however due to surrounding trees, etc. it will be difficult to get a large enough backhoe in to excavate 8 ft, which is the depth indicated by the camera and sensor. I am trying to avoid removing a magnificent 14" caliper honeylocust. I am wondering about going as deep as a smaller backhoe would go and then hand digging the remainder, Are there guidelines for how wide an 8 ft hole has to be for safety? I am trying to estimate the amount of dirt that has to be removed. I know it is a bunch.
 
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Old 08-12-19, 09:57 AM
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Have you looked into trenchless options? New pipe can be pulled through the old or your existing pipe could be re-lined. In my area everyone who does that type of work is an hour's drive away so they tend to be more expensive than simple digging.

As for the digging I would look at track hoes (excavators) instead of backhoes. Excavators have a much smaller footprint and can work in much tighter locations. The tracks also help minimize damage to your lawn and their lower ground pressure reduces the chance of the machine collapsing the trench.

As for how wide an 8' trench needs to be for safety I am glad that you asked because it shows you are aware of the danger. Because of all the variables and risk factor I don't know of a straightforward "how to" guide for trench safety. When I'm trenching more than waist deep I usually terrace the sides of the trench or slope them. If all I have to do is drop in pipe and nobody will be in the trench I will leave the walls straight but if it's an area where someone has to get down in there to work, especially if they will be head down working, I dig out a nice big area for safety and to have room to work.
 
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Old 08-12-19, 12:21 PM
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Thanks pilot

With trenchless don't I still need an access hole somewhere in the line? This section of clay to be replaced is only a few feet long, so replacing it would be a much bigger hole than trenchless might require. The rest of the plastic line looks good in the video.

Your suggestion of a trackhoe may be a good one. I'll explore.
 
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Old 08-12-19, 02:45 PM
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Trenchless will need access somewhere. Sometimes they can do it via a cleanout in the basement or crawlspace and manhole at the street. If they do need to dig for access it's usually a smallish hole at either end. If the rest of your line is good then trenchless might be expensive to do just a small section.
 
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Old 08-12-19, 03:34 PM
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I'll see if I can create some interest in someone doing this job. The company who snaked twice and ran the camera is sort of slow rolling me. Hiring anyone in the trades in Colorado is really tough. Business is that good. Thanks again for the advice.
 
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Old 08-13-19, 05:01 AM
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The current hate against immigrants has really put a squeeze on the local economy here. It's extremely difficult to find good people for big jobs and almost impossible for small, odd jobs. We've lost so many manual labor workers there just aren't enough people to do the work. It's really hit the farmers hard and the more manual construction jobs like roofing and sheet rock hanging.
 
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Old 08-13-19, 10:17 AM
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I am trying to avoid removing a magnificent 14" caliper honeylocust.
Have you considered a different route? Of course you don't want many bends in your sewer line, but possibly going around the trees might make more sense. You'll end up having to trench more and possibly abandon some good piping, but it may be worthwhile for an easier trench, especially if you're doing most of the work yourself.
 
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