Video of dam­aged pip­ing may be nec­es­sary

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - ARI MARANTZ

QUES­TION: I live in an older home in West Kil­do­nan. About 10 years ago, af­ter a heavy rain­fall, my base­ment was badly flooded and I called Roto-Rooter. It has been hap­pen­ing ev­ery year since, when it is rain­ing heavy. I have had re­peated calls to Roto-Rooter.

Last sum­mer, af­ter heavy rains, the base­ment badly flooded. The ser­vice call to clean out the sewer was over $150. Tiles came off the con­crete floor and boards in my base­ment are rot­ting. I had a per­son from the city wa­ter­works come and he told me to put earth around my house. Later in the sum­mer, I was flooded and again called Ro­toRooter and the city. This time the gentle­men from Wa­ter­works came and checked and couldn’t find the source, but he told me that the prob­lem is not on the city prop­erty. Again, I have been plung­ing the base­ment on and off af­ter more rain.

I need ad­vice and help. Can you please ad­vise me as to what I can do about this re­cur­ring prob­lem?

Thank­ing you, Elsie An­der­son, Win­nipeg

AN­SWER: It is quite ob­vi­ous to me, and any other home­owner who has been through a sim­i­lar or­deal, that you have a prob­lem with the sewer ex­it­ing your house be­low ground. Be­cause of the fre­quency of oc­cur­rence in your home, the older pip­ing has prob­a­bly de­te­ri­o­rated to the point of near col­lapse or has ma­jor cracks. I will of­fer one main sug­ges­tion for eval­u­at­ing the sever­ity of the prob­lem be­fore you pro­ceed fur­ther with po­ten­tially costly re­pairs.

In older ar­eas, like the neigh­bour­hood where your home is, the in­fra­struc­ture is ag­ing and may be near­ing the end of its ser­vice­able life. This is es­pe­cially true of older cast-iron drains and sew­ers that may be af­fected by many ex­ter­nal fac­tors. These older pipes are very strong but are also quite brit­tle when they be­come older and cor­roded. They are de­signed with joints that al­low for some flex­i­bil­ity due to frost heav­ing or soil move­ment, but not ma­jor shift­ing.

Once these joints be­come de­te­ri­o­rated, or sig­nif­i­cantly mis­aligned, the pipes can fill with un­wanted ma­te­rial. The most prob­lem­atic of these may be roots from large trees on your prop­erty or the boule­vard in front of your home. If the roots en­ter these drain pipes through de­te­ri­o­rated joints or cracks, they can block the flow of sewage from your home to the main sewer be­low the street. If the block­age is se­vere enough, wa­ter and waste from your bath­rooms and sinks may back up and flood your base­ment though the floor drain catch basin or other low drains.

The rea­son that you are see­ing this oc­cur dur­ing heavy rains is that older ar­eas have a com­bined sewer. What that means is that all the waste from your home and your neigh­bours’ drains into the same pipes as rain­wa­ter from the street catch basins.

Dur­ing heavy rains, the wa­ter level in these com­bined sew­ers may be suf­fi­cient to pre­vent proper drain­ing of any waste and wa­ter from your home, due to the dam­aged con­di­tion. When this hap­pens, rain­wa­ter and waste will back up into your home, rather than drain­ing prop­erly through the main sewer. Also, our heavy clay soil can en­ter the drainage pipes though the dam­aged sec­tions, fur­ther block­ing them.

When there is mi­nor dam­age or block­age of the pipes un­der your home and front yard, a call to a rooter tech- nician will nor­mally take care of the is­sue. As the drains be­come more and more de­te­ri­o­rated, or shift to the point of not drain­ing prop­erly, the less likely it is that the rooter ma­chine will be able to cut through de­bris block­ing the exit of waste from your home. Once this hap­pens, re­place­ment of the old pipes is the only op­tion.

The dif­fi­cult thing to de­ter­mine is when the pipes be­come so dam­aged that proper drainage is pro­hib­ited and also where the worst dam­age has oc­curred. The so­lu­tion to this is to hire a rooter tech­ni­cian not only to clear the drain, but also to take a video of the in­side of the pipes to de­ter­mine the lo­ca­tion and ex­tent of the dam­age. While this sounds rather bizarre, this technology has been around for many years and most rooter com­pa­nies have at least one set of video equip­ment ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing this type of un­der­ground in­spec­tion. Due to the re­peated num­ber of times you have had prob­lems with wa­ter in your base­ment I’m sur­prised that this ser­vice has never been of­fered or done.

Once the video is taken of the dam­aged pip­ing, and the lo­ca­tion of the dam­aged ar­eas mea­sured us­ing the metering de­vice from the rooter “snake”, you can de­ter­mine how to pro­ceed. If it is de­ter­mined that the dam­age is on your prop­erty, you are re­spon­si­ble for re­pairs. These re­pairs can be quite costly due to the fact that large holes will have to be dug in your front yard to ex­pose sec­tions of the drain pipes that re­quire re­place­ment. Heavy equip­ment is re­quired and only sewer contractors ap­proved by the city are al­lowed to do these re­pairs.

If the video de­ter­mines that the dam­age to the sewer is on city prop­erty, ei­ther un­der the boule­vard or street, there may be sub­stan­tial fi­nan­cial re­lief avail­able from a city pro­gram. Un­less it has changed re­cently, the City of Win­nipeg pro­gram al­lows you to pay a small de­ductible and have the ma­jor­ity of the cost of re­place­ment of the dam­aged sewer cov­ered. This only ap­plies to the por­tion of the sewer not on your prop­erty, but even that can save you thou­sands of dol­lars.

I would ad­vise call­ing the 311 ser­vice line for fur­ther de­tails and re­quire­ments for the pro­gram, fol­lowed by a rooter tech­ni­cian who has the ca­pa­bil­ity of do­ing the video in­spec­tion of your sewer.

A sewer video sys­tem can pin­point the lo­ca­tion of prob­lems and keep the cost of re­pairs down.

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