Broken pipe under the ground - nightmare !! / ??

22 Replies

Hey - I am in need of some advice.. Thank you in advance

So I have a SFH that has been having frequent plugs in the kitchen in the last 1-2 years.. Finally, one plumber told me pipes might have cracked/broken under the ground, as his camera got stopped 50 feet in and came back with mud.....

He suggested to either open the floor and fix it thoroughly , or build a pipe on the outside wall and re-route kitchen to the main pipe directly...Both options sounds horrible to me....

Any advice please? Thank you.....

Once the pipe has broken (assuming that is the case) then these are really your only two options. IF...and it is a big if....somehow the pipe isn't broken and you can get it cleared, then you have other alternatives like pipe bursting or lining the existing. Maybe if he can go from a downstream clean out and look up to see if there is a possibility of clearing the blockage, then you can try to get it lined....but I'm guessing you're going to be back to your original options to address this.

Those are the ONLY 2 options .  I would go for the outside option , less mess in the house .  Dont expect this to be cheap 

Thank you gentlemen for your inputs...

If I go with the out-of-wall option, which I was told would be $4000 ish, would this be a problem when I want to sell the house later on? 

I'm a little unclear here. He got 50' into the pipe but the kitchen drain is the only one having issues? It seems like 50' would be the main sewer line and every drain in the property would be having issues...

Is it possible there's a grease trap somewhere on the property that has a busted lid or something like that?

@Diane G. I like the other poster do get this. I don’t know how a sink drain in a house can run 50ft and nothing else is affected. His camera should have shown you the blockage. I’m thinking your drain isn’t even hooked to a sewer line. 50 feet should be out side the house. He can locate his camera with a simple metal detector. If the drain is outside the house already ( a very old Grey water line common many years ago) then find your sewer line and hook it to that. RR

Originally posted by @Diane G. :

Thank you gentlemen for your inputs...

If I go with the out-of-wall option, which I was told would be $4000 ish, would this be a problem when I want to sell the house later on? 

I took that option when in a similar situation. I spent a lot more as there was a lot of trenching required. I had no issues when selling. Whatever you decide you really ought to get a second quote and opinion. All the best!


Seeking a second and third opinion may be best in this situation. 

I wouldn’t disclose to them any subjective opinions you were previously given, but rather wait to see what they conclude themselves — simply give them some prelim information on the problem you have. 

To your success!

Thank you everyone...

The whole house DID have issues...Several plumbers  had to be called several times to fix the kitchen, but it kept get clogged not long after each service...Then a toilet got clogged, I had to bring in the current plumber who built a clean-out and showed me the weeds that grew in the pipe,.... That was 2 months ago...

Now the kitchen got clogged once again, and I brought in the same plumber who fixed the toilet..My understand about the 50 feet is that it is 50 feet into the pipes underneath the house... 

Is this a common situation, or rare?

@Diane G.

Not super common but happens. I’m in cold climates so we don’t do the outside of the house drain lines. Underground only. That said it does happen and if the break is under a huge concrete porch or the footer it can get expensive quick. Have someone show you where the break is and get estimates. I personally like replacement over the plastic lining ballon trick that is popular these days but that a money decision up to you.

Good luck

@Diane G. What state/climate is your property in? If it's a colder climate needs to be indoors/underground if you run a new line. 

It isn't 50 feet deep its 50 feet towards the street. Before you run a new kitchen sewer line to your main, you need to scope your main to make sure it is in good condition and doesn't need replacement soon either so if it does you can do it all at once unless you plan to fix just this and sell

I'd get a second opinion on all this ...unless you have the camera footage. I went through a huge headache chasing down some drainage issue in my basement but finally got it all fixed. At one point was ready to just give up and dig a giant hole and re-do everything...but in the end it wasn't needed.

It doesn’t sound like it’s just an issue between the sink / toilet and the main sewer drain line. The sink /  toilet drain lines are considered secondary drains lines because they connect to the main sewer drain line. The secondary lines funnel into the main sewer drain line goes that leave the house and goes out to the street. If you regally have multiple secondary drain line blockages, that could be an indicator that you have an issue with main drain / sewer line.

If it’s just a clog 50’ into the main line it may be able to be cleared. If it’s broke they should be able to do a dig and repair that area or if it’s all really bad they may need to replace the main line from the house to the break or possibly all the way to the street. Either way a good plumber should bring you with them to where they put the camera in at and show you exactly what their seeing as their doing it, or at minimum they should have it recorded to show you your problem and explain exactly what’s going on, along with the options you have.

If they didn’t do that, I would find a different plumber. Most have specials for main drain lines such as... clear any drain line or it’s free, or clear main drain $93 or free or something like that. It’s only like because they want to flip it into a dig because it’s a bigger money job that usually requires an excavator and plumbing dig crew if it can’t be cleared. 

As far as how common it is, most plumbing companies have specialty camera techs / sewer salesman that come out. So its pretty common in the residential plumbing industry, but no where near as common as all the regular plumbing issues a home can have. For example if a plumbing company has 10-15 plumber, they may only have 1-2 main line sewer camera techs / salesman. 

Some pretty solid advice given so far. The 50 feet thing sounds like there may be a miscommunication. Depending on the size of your house and relationship of the kitchen to the main line it's possible that you have 50 feet of line before the block. If this plumber did work for you previously and did a good job, feel free to use them again. I would want a couple answers before providing any additional information. Pipe type, size, grey water sanitary runoff (y/n), other plumbing issues, frequency of issue, etc. 

Easiest thing for you to do would be get a quote and get it professionally fixed. Hurts the bank a bit, but in the long run cheap is expensive especially in these types of situations. As stated there are trench-less sleeve repair options which depending on the circumstances and location of leak may be the most cost effective method. Just something to consider.

Thank you everyone for sharing your knowledge, it really helped me out....I got a 1st quote at $3100 from this plumber that fixed the toilet a few months before.... His proposal is 

Kitchen line reroute
We will start by drilling a hole in the kitchen wall & by garage
door. We will install 1 1/2 ABS pipe from the kitchen across
the wall strapping the pipe every 5-10 feet. We will install a
clean out by the kitchen for future maintenance. We will cut
the sheetrock in the garage and cut out a 2 foot section to
install a 4 by 2 wye which will be used for the connection of
kitchen drain. We willl patch the sheetrock and seal the holes
5 year warranty

Waiting for a 2nd quote now...

Thank you again, everyone,.....

@Diane G. I would definitely get another quote and a set of eyes on this. I’m not sure where you are at but I would contact drain mob or Koko drains to see if they could be of service to you in Ca.

I would look at re doing the pipe under ground fixing the issue at hand the right way vs avoiding it and possibly having junk continue to seep into the main from the current broken pipe. Drain repair has come along way. There could be many options depending on the company you choose.

You could replace just the section of broken pipe, trench less, or other forms.

Best of luck.

@Diane G.

I’ve had this happen twice. Spend the money to fix it once and for all. Both times the break was under the floor of the house. $8,000. Out in the yard would be cheaper. Sometimes it’s a tree that roots break into the pipe.

@Diane G. PLEASE get another quote/opinion. A few comments having plumbing experience myself and having a few main lines redone.

1) whenever I get a line camera scoped, I always ask for the video file. It’s good for future referral, and I can show other plumbers the same thing. I would ask for it - you can be honest, it’s a big price tag and you need a second opinion.

2) $3100 sounds like a LOT of money for rerouting a pipe outside. Of course, I can’t see what he sees and maybe it’s more work than it sounds, but it seems like a half-day project at most.

3) as others have said, if there have been problems at this property before, and his camera did hit mud at 50’ (not 15’), that is definitely outside the house and not just the kitchen line. I’d hate to spend the money rerouting the kitchen line and end up still having clogs in the property.

He (or another plumber) should be able to tell and show you approximately where the pipe is and where the pipes go. Measure out 50’ and I can guarantee it’s not just the kitchen line. (Unless you’re in a mansion)

Anyway, good luck. Plumbers are hard... but ask around and you’ll find a good one who’s somewhat reasonably priced. (Though they are all expensive).

Kids out there - if you want to make money, become a plumber. ;)

@Diane G. This isn't making sense to me - if the problem is in the main then why touch the kitchen line? I've had plenty of plumbing issues and I've worked with many plumbers. It's surprising how varying the opinions can be sometimes. I've had problems that turn out to be different than I expect or different than the 1st opinion. When you're dealing with the main sewer line and a 2k+ job don't just get a second opinion. Get a 3-5.

A few more thoughts: Is your main line cast iron? From what year? Did the plumber build a clean out to the main or to the kitchen line? Sometimes installing the cleanout can create a set of problems if it connects to cast iron. 

Are these new tenants within the last 1-2 years? Did the old tenants leave on good terms? Have you ensured the new tenants are not using flushable wipes and using the proper toilet paper. If you have cast iron it's imperative the tenants use toilet paper like angel soft or Scott. I can personally attest to situations where a new tenant moves in and suddenly my line starts clogging. I have a great plumber who scopes when they clean the main and then "has a talking to" with the tenants about their paper and and flushable wipes. Usually after this plumber speaks to them it never happens again. Something about hearing it from a professional carries more weight than the landlord....

Hi - So I got a 2nd opinion, and this 2nd plumber believed there was NO broken pipe, but instead just clogged pipes....

He did a "hypo jet" cleaning for $400, and I am waiting to see if problem returns in the next 2-4 months... I guess that is really the only way to know what was truly the cause of the plugs in the first place, right? 

During the "hypo jet" cleaning, there were lots of finger nail size particles that looked like small stones, but turned out to be just grease.....disgusting... Lol

Thank you everyone....

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