Video of damaged piping may be necessary
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.