Adventures in Plumbing, Day Three

[Part Three in the multi-part series, “Adventures in Plumbing”. Part One may be read here, and Part Two here.]


Good News, Bad News

It was snowing quite heavily as “Day Two” came to an end. The weather forecast suggested the snow would wind down during the overnight hours, it didn’t seem that way when we turned in for the night. When we awoke the next morning (Friday, Feb 27), we were glad the overnight snowfall was no more than a couple more inches.

Like the day before, Dan and his crew were delayed by snow-packed and icy roads. Once they arrived, the crew quickly went to work and Dan came inside to brief us on his plan for the day. Though assurances could not be given, the hope was for no additional surprises. That was the best we could hope for. His goal was the same, to restore full sewer service by the end of the day. Dan asked if he could access the utility crawl space one more time to make an exact measurement of the sewer line location. After he made his measurements, he checked to make sure there were no leaks in the water service line connection at the meter. It was all dry. A piece of good news.

With no impediments in the yard, Quinn maneuvered the backhoe into position and began removing dirt. Though we had given permission to remove the Rose of Sharon shrub or knock down the juniper tree when making the trench, Quinn didn’t think it would be necessary. He believed he had enough space to make the trench without disturbing either.

With the trench taking shape, Dakota would enter the trench, every 15 minutes, to measure depth and width, and to make sure they were staying in line. After two hours of digging, a trench was completed. It roughly measured three feet wide, four feet deep and 30 feet in length. The tree and the shrub, undisturbed.

In the trench, Dakota began cutting away an initial section of the Orangeburg sewer piping. Once removed, the Orangeburg connected to the cast iron sewer pipe coming from under the house could be cut away. The initial pieces of Orangeburg, Dakota removed, were in terrible shape.


There were obvious signs the pipe had an oval shape or had begun to split open. Another section of Orangeburg was showing a long, length-wise break.

This section and another two were removed from the ground. Dan and Quinn had both said it would have been a matter of time before the Orangeburg would suffer a catastrophic failure. It’s the kind of failure that would spill raw sewage into the ground, and compound laying in a replacement sewer line.


The replacement PVC sewer piping Dan uses is Schedule 40 pipe. It is a thicker-walled pipe, and is much less susceptible to failure. Though more expensive, it is his pipe of choice for existing homes and neighborhoods. Since existing homes and neighborhoods are likely to have trees, shrubs and home structure additions, it is better to use the best materials to avoid another costly sewer line replacement.

Quinn also added the SDR piping, which is often used in many line replacements and new home construction, is a difficult to work with material. The thin-walled SDR piping breaks more easily when cutting. It also more likely to fracture in the ground when a root presses up against it.

With the replacement line in place, the next step Dan and his crew did was to camera the last section of Orangeburg piping, from inside our fence line to its connection on the sewer main. The camera showed this portion to be in good shape.

The new line, temporarily connected, it was time to test the drain system. Knowing a blockage was somewhere in the line near the “double bend”, Dan begun to roto-rooter out the blockage. Whatever the blockage was, it was proving to be difficult to dislodge. He decided to power stream in water to loosen the blockage. The power streaming is essentially inserting a water hose into the sewer pipe and run water at full force from the outdoor faucet. The procedure worked as two large toilet paper clogs came flowing out along with some foul-smelling whatever. He flowed water until it ran clear. With the blockage removed, it was time to test the drains from the inside. Flush the toilet three times, run the dishwasher or the washing machine. All was running well.

As the crew was backfilling the trench, Dan came inside to discuss the last part of the repair. He asked which we would like to hear first, the good news or the bad news. I preferred to hear the good news first. It makes hearing the bad news easier to take. Dan said, “Let me start with the bad news. It is cold outside!” The bad news wasn’t so bad after all. “The good news, you’re back in service. Take a long hot shower, use your washing machine, use your dishwasher.” He said he would be back on Monday (March 2) to complete the street portion of the job.

A long week finally came to end, and on a very good note.


Preview – Adventures in Plumbing, Day Four

Something was going on. Dakota had become plenty upset. What happened?


6 thoughts on “Adventures in Plumbing, Day Three

    • When this was happening, it was like you wanted someone else to make the decisions. That’s the best I can describe it. Very, very different from an home improvement project.

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