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Background

So I recently had a bad clog to which I had a plumbing company come out and clear out. A part of the process is looking at the finished job on their sewer camera. Our sewer line is made from clay pipes and our clog was due to many roots penetrating in. The clay pipes do have quite a bit of "stress cracks" and two spots that appear to actually be holes.

Question

So now it is all cleared out, I am trying to think of the best way to prevent anything from happening again like this. Best being qualified as least expensive, but lasting for the rest of my life. I plan on owning this house for the rest of my life so would like to do it the correct way. As far as I know, my options are:

  1. Pour a product like RootX down the drain once a year to kill all roots that come in the pipe
  2. Hire a company to replace the pipe with PVC.
  3. Install a pipe liner, where they make an "epoxy pipe" inside the existing one.

So obviously I would like to not spend as much money as I can help. Will pouring RootX down the drain once a year be a long term solution or will the clay pipes eventually have other issues?

I only recently heard about lining a pipe from the inside which seems ideal for clay pipes like mine. They are rated for 50 years so would I have to replace the pipes anyways after 50 years?

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    Options 1 and 3 lead to option 2... I had the same problem once and dug out and replaced the clay pipe with pvc sewer pipe...
    – Solar Mike
    Nov 26, 2019 at 21:17

2 Answers 2

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Pipe replacement is the most costly, but it's also the most permanent. There are (at least) two ways to replace the pipe, and you may not have considered the second method I'll mention.

The traditional method is an open trench stretching the full length from the house to the sewer main, probably somewhere in the middle of the street. This is both slow and high-impact to the surrounding landscape.

An alternative method, less commonly known to homeowners, is pipe bursting. This often requires access holes be dug only at the two ends of the pipe. A steel cable is fed through the pipe. A splitting wedge and replacement pipe, often semi-flexible HDPE tube, are attached to one end of the steel cable. A hydraulic machine pulls the other end of the cable. The splitting wedge breaks the original pipe into pieces, forcing them outward and reaming the space large enough for the new HDPE pipe to follow through. The replacement pipe can even have larger diameter than the original if needed.

Pipe bursting gets the job done with much less impact to the surroundings and often in less time. Cost compared to the other options will vary by market, but it's worth at least evaluating as one of your options.

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  • Thanks for the suggestion! I know you can't say exactly but ball park what would you estimate if my path is roughly 20 ft from my side to sewer? Is it called anything else? I googled "Pipe bursting near me" and only got frozen pipes bursting.
    – Eric F
    Dec 2, 2019 at 16:50
  • I'm just getting into horizontal boring and use some of the same equipment as pipe bursting, but I couldn't estimate a price. Try searching for "pipe bursting contractor near me." If you don't find anything try calling a manufacturer, get the name of their dealer covering your area, then ask the dealer for a reference to some of their customers. A few manufacturers include powrmole.com, trictools.com (very nice animation of the process, BTW), hammerheadtrenchless.com. 20 ft is a very short length..
    – Greg Hill
    Dec 2, 2019 at 17:13
  • I like the video they have on their site and am extremely interested but really struggling to find a contractor that will do it. I did reach out to all three companies to see if they list anyone near me. BTW I am in the metro Detroit area
    – Eric F
    Dec 2, 2019 at 17:39
  • Actually I did find one company by me so scheduled an appointment for a quote. I will report back with a $ / ft estimate to include so that future people looking at this answer get an idea.
    – Eric F
    Dec 2, 2019 at 17:51
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  1. Pour a product like RootX down the drain once a year to kill all roots that come in the pipe

This can be quite effective at maintaining the pipes. The concern is that if the pipes are actually cracking then they may break apart so that even without new roots you end up with sewage seeping out into the soil (not a good thing) or the pipe collapsing (also not a good thing). So it depends on how severe the problems are. But this is the ideal solution if it works because it costs basically nothing.

  1. Hire a company to replace the pipe with PVC.

Expensive because of the digging and the filling and the recovering, etc. But guaranteed effective and long-lasting.

  1. Install a pipe liner, where they make an "epoxy pipe" inside the existing one.

This should be a good in-between - nearly as effective as a new pipe but much cheaper. However, the old pipe with a liner will be narrower than the original (or a replacement) pipe. Even if the basic size (new smaller diameter) is "good enough" for your usage, it means that any problem - e.g., items flushed down the toilet + grease + lint - will have a higher chance of resulting in a clog that requires treatment (e.g., snake or chemical). On the other hand, if the liner material is too thin then it may not last very long against the inside (sewage) and the outside (roots).

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