Friday, February 26, 2010

When to Hydro Jet or How to not get swindled on your sewer repair

We just finished a call for a local pair of clients. Two houses shared a common lateral sewer pipe run to the city mainline sewer in the city of Escondido, Ca. We were called to provide a bid on a sewer pipe liner to repair a seriously deteriorated pipe. The whole problem started with a back up as you would expect. The previous plumber had shot and provided a DVD to the homeowners of the problem pipe run. He told them that the pipe was seriously deteriorated and that the bottom was rotted out. I took a look at his video hoping to be able to use it to provide an accurate bid and save me the trouble of running my own camera. Well I was a bit surprised. I looked at the video and it showed that the pipe was full of heavy debris and that the pipe walls were heavily encrusted with scale and grease build up. It was no wonder that they were having backup issues. It was really ugly. The pipe was probably 50% to 60% blocked up with sludgy debris and large grease and pipe scale deposits. All a cable machine could ever hope to do would be to poke a temporary hole in a blockage. Not only that but because of the large amount of debris in the pipe, it was impossible to make any kind of an accurate determination of the condition of the pipe wall itself. It was a joke, the previous plumber is describing rotted out pipe to the customer and there was nothing on the video that backed that up. I can see how a customer doesn't understand that because he isn't used to looking at a pipe video, especially one that has a tremendous amount of debris in the pipe. I'm hoping to post the before and after videos on our website in future. http://www.superjetdrains.com/

I had a long talk with the two customers in front of the computer monitor as we watched the video and told them that my concerns were that the cost of a liner wasn't justified yet. A CCIP liner for the distance involved would be in the neighborhood of $4,000. I recommended a hydro jetting of the line to clean all the debris out and possibly remove a great deal of the pipe scale and blistering. It was an easy sell because the first step in installing a liner would be to hydro jett the line in preparation for the lining. I told them that after a careful cleaning, we would have a much better idea of what is actually going on. Based on what I saw on the video, there was a good chance that we would correct their problem with the jetting alone. It was $700 for the hydro jetting vs. $4,000 minimum for a sewer liner install. Well we hydro jetted carefully and thoroughly. We would hydro jet then camera then hydro jet and then camera again. We did this about 4 times before we were done. It was absolutely amazing the difference in the pipe. We completely cleaned out all the debris and were able to make the pipe walls round again removing the bulk of the heavy buildup of grease and pipe scale. The pipe went from about 40% to 95+%. The final video also revealed that there weren't any holes in the cast iron pipe at all and that there was a low spot or belly in the line which was clearly a repair that had been done in the street most likely by the city. This was all clearly visible on the video since the line had been hydro jetted.

If your plumber isn't able to clearly show you the actual physical problem on the video screen, be careful. It never hurts to get a second opinion and always be leery of anyone that says "you have to do this now!"

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