Sewer, part II

The whole new pipe

Today was insane. Neither Heather nor I slept all that well, and judging from Leta’s attitude this morning, she didn’t sleep so well either. Hard to wonder why. Our street would be turned into chaos and the realities started to hit the neighbors. It was a pretty big deal to have the street dug up and the look on everybody’s face was the look that Heather and I had last week when we were told to expect the worst.

Some of our neighbors have been in the hood for almost twenty years and they haven’t had any problems. Or have had their lines cabled/bladed and all was well. The guys said that it looked like 20-30 years of no maintenance on our line. The previous owner lived here 18 years and we’ve been here 3. That’s a long damn time for no maintenance.

We found out a couple of days ago that two houses up the street (in a different block) had to do the same thing we did. We live on a hill and I would imagine that the main and the lines move over time. Based on the clay that was in the hole, it’s wouldn’t be a stretch to have enough movement to cause major pain.

I took a bunch of photos, some of which I’ve posted on flickr and can be seen as a slideshow here. And they are in wacky order, which should be rectified by the time this is published.

The photos tell most of the story.
Time to Dig

They pulled the pipe through right as Leta went down for her nap, and the little engine they used to power the hydraulic piston that pulls the new pipe in was louder than [insert current loud band here]. Leta slept through it like a champ and woke in a mostly better mood.

They return tomorrow to patch the street and reassemble our driveway. Cost: too much. But now I can poop with impunity. And that goes a long way in this house, my friend. Plus, as many of you have suggested, it will be a selling point should we ever move.

I’ve come to the conclusion that we are extremely lucky that we didn’t have more damage in our house and that we caught it in time before it was a much bigger and costlier nightmare. Some of you have asked for specific recommendations and I can’t really do that in good conscience. I’d recommend you contact a reputable licensed plumber near you that will have specific steps you can take to properly maintain your line that are unique to your locale and age of your house.

Where’s the bourbon?

  • Karen Rani

    Oh Armstrongs, I’m so sorry. Click the [deleted per advertiser agreement. Sorry, but advertisers don’t like even the remotest suggestion. But thanks for the thought] people!

  • NixMom

    Oh Jon and Heather, my heart goes out to you guys. What a crappy thing to have to go through but thankfully you have great attitudes about it. Hope everything works out for the best.


  • KristieD

    Wow- you sound pretty upbeat considering all that has been happening around the house. What a pain in the ass. But at least you are able to see the bright side of things. You shouldnt have to worry much about plumbing issues for some time. Hope nothing else turns up that is costly and frustrating. 😉

  • la_florecita

    Those photos would make a great exhibit in a snooty art gallery. My favorite exhibits are always eye candy + humor. Seriously, you should title it “Every homeowner’s worst nightmare” and everything!

  • Pupsicle

    Wow. At least the whole ordeal is almost over. At least you’ve opened your readers’ eyes to potential problems. Nevertheless, it sounds like a horribly traumatic nightmare.

  • Observer

    A picture says more than a thousand words. Your photos tell a very horrible story, man.
    – My best wishes to you and your family!

    How does Chuck take all the digging?

  • Donny

    I think it has something to do with George Bush. I can’t quite make the connection yet, but it’s coming.

  • Wicked H

    A case of bourbon is on it’s way.

  • s gazzetti

    I agree that you sound pretty upbeat, considering. I wonder if you had the house surveyed before you bought it? I bought a serious fixer-upper and paid what I thought was a lot of money to be told what was wrong with the place. But it turned out to be well worth it in negotiating with the seller and the mortgage company. Among the “must-do’s” was exactly what you and Heather just did. Knowing this ahead of time, I was able to include the job in the mortgage and it ended up saving me money, not to mention the nasty surprise you are all too familiar with.

    My advice to anyone buying a house: pay for a survey first.

  • Karen Rani

    I’m sorry Jon. I didn’t know. *slinks away*

    Hope things get better very soon.

  • blurb

    No need to slink away.

  • minxlj

    I’m glad it’s (almost) sorted out for you. It’s a long-term investment in your house I guess, and hopefully you shouldn’t have anything else sewer-related to fork out for while you’re there. (And you got some very nice photos out of the whole event!)

  • Kestra

    Sounds horrendous. It hadn’t struck me exactly how much work had to be done until I came here yesterday and saw the pictures, at which point I thought, ‘Holy crap!’.
    But you are being admirably up-beat about the whole affair (Heather and Leta seem to be handling the situation well, too). Judging by what I’ve read here and at dooce you’re all doing better than I would if it happened to me!
    Here’s hoping the work ends soon. *cross fingers*

  • Joel Cheatwood

    Heard a story yesterday that made me think of you guys…couple in South Carolina (I believe)heard what they described as a “loud elephant burp” followed by explosions of sewage streaming into their first floor from every available orafice. Seems a city sewer crew was trying to unclog a city sewer line and used a water cannon of sorts to try and dislodge the blockage…such force was created it literally flooded these poor folks dream house – 4 inches of sh*t throughout their first floor. YUK!

  • Lane Meyer

    Attitude is 99% of the battle in getting thru life. You obviously have the right one in dealing with all of this.
    Your photographs paint such a telling story. My hope is that you are looking to get your work out there where it can make some (lots of) money for you and your family. You and Heather have such an amazing knack for taking just the right shots.
    Hang in there, Armstrong’s!

  • Karen Rani

    Thanks Jon. I wouldn’t want to get you lovely folks into trouble, that’s all.

  • MontanaJen

    I love the photos – but must wonder what several semi-stinky sewer repair dudes thought of the guy taking artistic license with the shit-pipe. I always just wonder about that when I take pics of scenes that aren’t always photographed, but should be.

    Makes me giggle a bit.

    This story is semi-freaking me out, though. We live in a Bungalow circa 1920, and to my knowledge have never had a ‘blade’ or the sort around the neighborhood. I hope its not needed as our growing season is about 59 days long, and roots don’t stand a chance in this climate.

    when do you find out if the city is responsible vs. y’all?

  • Luv2Ballrm

    Another bright spot….at least it’s not still snowing. :-)

    Glad that your ordeal will be over soon.

  • cmvnapa

    You really need to do one of those commercials:

    Toilet, shower, and basement clean-up: $150
    Repair and replacement of sewer system: $Gazillion
    Pooping with impunity: Priceless

  • Vika Zafrin

    Much luck with the fallout, Jon. Thank you for documenting this ñ if ever my love and I buy a house, and it happens to be old, we’ll be Armed with Information. That rocks.

    I hope you two do something totally relaxing once this is all over.

  • Creatrix

    As MontanaJen said, when do you find out how much the city is on the hook for? We’re rooting for you (ewwwww bad pun, sorry). Great pics — that’s a beautiful street, or will be once they’re finished.
    –Creatrix in BC, Canada

  • blurb

    We are responsible for everything. The city main wasn’t damaged but they don’t want third parties putting y-joints in, so they came yesterday and did that. Took about 20 minutes, plus 45 minutes to cure.

    Repeat: we are footing the entire bill. I’m in denial about what this means for us.

  • Galatae

    Just out of vague curiosity – what’s the heading in the phone book to call to do the said chop and camera of your old house line? And where do you buy this mysterious bacteria?

    On the upside, you don’t have a septic tank. We were told it would be $60,000 to have the family house connected to the city lines. And that was on a property only assessed at $90K. I can’t even begin to imagine what this is costing you guys. Good luck. Maybe someone is offering a grant to bloggers who need new plumbing, but I doubt even poopreport is the place to go on that one.

  • erisian

    well at least you got some kick ass pictures out of it.
    including the shot of the asphalt grave pit.. thats was pretty cool looking.

  • Indiana

    Been there done that… except went from old septic to city sewers. It was a long 10 days until I got hooked up. I’m working on a 90 foot long landscape project now!

  • Jezzie

    Comments are closed at Dooce, so here goes…I am sending a check for $20.00, hoping to start a trend. The address is on the “contact me” page of Heather’s site. We want to help!! Let us!!

  • Mike Drips

    I can relate to not wishing to awaken the baby. Our baby is 19 and only her mother is officially allowed to wake her up. I’ve pointed out that if she ever marries and goes on a honeymoon that her mother will have to got with her wake her up.
    Oddly they both think that is ok.
    I don’t know how we got here but returning to your pipe problem, we had the same issue but our pipes were destroyed by apple tree roots. Ever since then I have been reluctant to eat an apple.
    I know this has been an enormous financial burden for you and you’ve got my sympathy. I know it will be problematic when your neighbors are showing off their new BMW and your only response will be “So? I’ve got that much money just in my 4″ PVC sewer pipe!
    Want to check it out?”
    They did install PVC pipe didn’t they?

  • blurb

    Mike, the new pipe is better than PVC, it’s HDPE (High Density Polythylene). Read about HDPE here:

  • victoria

    Dude, acting on your advice, we called out a plumber to our house last week, because we read this and we were properly afeared of the fisting that awaited us if we didn’t blade the line. We asked plumber guy to blade our line & he REFUSED! Apparently they won’t do it until all your drains are backing up. (Isn’t that already too late?)

  • Dennis

    I had the same problem a couple of years ago (though my pictures are not as pretty).

    Anyway, my homeowner’s insurance is through MetLife, and they covered almost 95% of the costs associated with replacing the line. It was strange, but they said they’d cover the excavation and rehabilitation of the yard, but not the actual sewer line. So I ended up paying about $600 for the pipe and labor for installing the pipe, and they paid the rest of the nearly $10,000 tab. It was quite a production, with all the neighbors curious and milling around, several of whom were hoping this was a city problem and hoped they could also get their lines replaced.

  • Arabella

    I liked the cookie sandwich–quite a bit, in fact–but I think that a project like this calls for a dedicated cocktail. Perhaps one with Kahlua?

  • xath

    I’m wondering….did the sewer guys look at you weird as you took all these pics? They are very cool and artsy and make a yucky situation…..interesting.

  • John

    On the Ellen show right now on Oxygen, they have a plumber teaching you how to fix little household issues that would normally cost a crap load if you called a plumber.

    Too bad this didn’t air earlier, because now their digging a hold near the front row and are going to show you how to blade and de-root your sewer lines with a toothbrush and a small wrench.

    Damn the timing.