repairing main drain pipe and installing a yard cleanout

medieval18February 24, 2012

on a tight budget so i'm doing as much as i can myself, i figure excavation is the most expensive part of repair a drain pipe.

Here is the story. Had a bubbling toilet when taking a shower and realized we had a clog in the drain pipes, the cleanout for the main drain is under the house in the crawl space in very confined area(home built in 1895 and has a stone foundation and additions with concrete block foundations). The backup was seeping out the cleanout forming a very unpleasant puddle of sewage in the crawl space. Called Roto Rooter to auger it out with the snake cable and the plumber was getting hung up in a spot about 20 feet from the house. Also the plumber couldn't get leverage behind his auger because he had to run it from outside the house up through the crawl space to the cleanout. He finally puched through the clog and thought there was a shift in the drain pipe in that spot, and when he remove the snake it had a bunch of wet wipes entangled upon it. Turned out my mother who is a paraplegic had been flushing them. It was a saturday so Roto Rooter got time and a half, the bill was $330.

Well decided to put a cleanout in the yard to avoid ever having to deal with sewage backup in the crawl space again and to repair the shift in the drain line. I am not experienced with plumbing, but my mother's friend's cousin is, so he is suppose to help me install the clean out and repair the drain line after I dig it all out. Well this is where it gets interesting.

I had marked out with stakes along the ground vibrations where the pipe was estimated to be when the plumber augered the line. I dug 3 ' down and 4 x 4 ' until I finally found a drain line, but it was old clay 1' sections of 4 " diameter pipe with no fittings connecting the sections, it was all the same size. I ran the bathwater and not a drop running throught the drain. So I figured it was the old drain line for a sceptic tank. So more digging a few feet to the left and another foot deeper and I found it, my drain line, it was a about 3.5 to 4 ft deep at the back of the house and makes a downhill run getting more shallow in depth before connecting to the sewer main. The pipe is glazed clay with male /female connections but no gravel around it like to other pipe, just burried in pure clay! I guess there was no plumbing codes or inspection back when the drain line was installed.

Here is where things took a turn for the worst. A few feet downhill in my trench I start hitting massive chuncks of concrete buried (pieces weighing a 100 lbs or more, as backfill I guess) and the pieces of concrete are literary stack the bottom 2 foot of trench only 1 " above the drain line. I remove a massive peice of concrete off the clay pipe and I see the pipe is cracked almost to peices, the top missing and under and around the pipe is sewage and wet wipes. Well I find pieces of the pipe in the sewage and realize this is going to a lot more work than just installing a yard clean out.

Whoever backfilled the trench with concrete or at a later time unknowing buried concrete debris on top of the drain line most liekly damaged the pipe and since Ive only dug up about 6' and still see more concrete buried right on top of the pipe i think this whole mound area is a debris pile with a foot of dirt on top of it. I see more concrete buried on the pipe in my trench so I figure i got 20' length of mound to excavate about 3' deep to the pipe with large pieces of concrete buried on top of it.

I have made progress digging but today hit a slab of concrete so big i had a 6' long by 6' wide and 6" thick piece exposed and dug up in the trench, but the other half is still buried outside my trenches boundry, so instead of digging up the whole piece I bought a 10lb sledge hammer and a concrete single point chisel to break this beast in half and get this the rest of this pipe dug up. I have dug halfway with a friend in 8 hours work so I figure we are making good progress.

With all the difficulties the plumber friend who was to aid me in installing the new pipe and cleanout backed out on us, guess he was to busy for pro bono work. So now its all up to me to repair the drain pipe. I talked to the city works Sanitation Supervisor who looked at it and ran dye down the line to make sure the drainage was reaching the sewer main. He said I would need 2 fernco couplings to connect 4" clay pipe to the new pvc piping, pvc piping to replace the broken section a wyre joint and plug for the cleanout, and said to pour a bit of cement around the coupling connections to make sure the pipe didn't shift. Said he would inspect the repairs when i was ready to backfill the trench.

I will need some guidance on this one when it comes to laying and connecting the pipe. I read plumbing code about having an 1/8 to 1/4 in slope per foot, tamping smooth gravel or sand in the bottom of the trench, around the sides after the pipe is layed, and tamping every 6" of backfill in the trench. I will definitly avoid any debris or incorrect backfill for this trench since that is what caused the problem.

I would like to get this right the first try and not make mistakes or buy something i don't need, any help would be appreciated greatly. After the whole trench is dug and all the concrete removed i will know how much pipe I'm replacing.

Will a hacksaw suffice to cut 4" pvc drain pipe?

What would be a cheap gravel for bedding? pea gravel?

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I have the concrete slabs broke with the sledgehammer and removed and the whole trench is now excavated. The pipe is in 4" sections and only the one section is broken so i needed a 4' length pvc for the drain line and 3' for the cleanout to reach ground level.
At the wholesale plumbing sotre bought a 10ft section of 4" diameter pvc drain line, 2 fernco couplings for clay to pvc, 4" wye joint , 4" adapter and cleanout plug, pvc primer and glue, and a bag of cement.

I think all i need now is some pea gravel for the bedding.

I am going to get started on measuring my cuts and assembling the pvc section of pipe and cleanout.

Any pointers on cutting and assembling pvc piping, or laying and connecting the drain line?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2012 at 3:33PM
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You are absolutely correct, Generally the excavation is the difficult & expensive part of your repair, but you seem to have that under control.

Now as we discuss the plumbing part of the job allow me to give you the correct trade nomenclature so you will be on the same page with your plumbing suppliers and inspector.

Technically speaking, what you are working on is not a drain line, it is the "House Sewer" line. Code requires a main cleanout within 3ft of the point where the house sewer enters the structure. In the case of slab construction it would be found outside and approximately 3' from the foundation. For houses with a basement the main cleanout is generally just inside the footer wall and for houses with a crawlspace it can be inside or outside the footer wall.

The line from the main cleanout to the septic tank or municipal main is defined as the house sewer while the main line inside the house is defined as the "House Main Drain". This is important to know because the codes allow different materials for each type of line.

The raw cut end of a pipe that has no threads or fittings is called a "Spigot end" or simply a "Spigot"

The formed female end of your pipe is called an "End Bell" and pipe which has an end bell on one end and a spigot end on the other end is called "Hub & Spigot" pipe so that glazed clay pipe that you have is "Vitrified clay hub & spigot pipe". It was generally made in 4' sections and when laid, the hub is always placed on the upstream end. While it can be done, as a general rule it is nearly impossible to cut that type of pipe without breaking it.

(I have made & attached an illustration to help you understand the text.)

To begin your project excavate until you find the end bell on a section of pipe downstream from where you want to install your cleanout. Fernco makes a rubber donute gasket that will fit inside the hub of that clay pipe, then your PVC will be inserted into the center of the Fernco. (make sure the Fernco you buy is listed as "Vitrified clay x PVC") If you can not find the correct Fernco some jurisdictions will allow you to pack the joint with "Oakum" which is a fiberous rope looking material that is impregnated with tar. To install the oakum you wrap it around the pipe and push it into the joint with a broad screwdriver, packing as tight as you can.

You can make your cleanout with a Wye & 1/8th bend (sanitary 45deg elbow) in the manner you describe, but what you are making is a running cleanout and in some jurisdictions they require a running cleanout to be installed to the line can be snaked in both directions. The preferred fitting is a "Rodding Tee" sometimes called a "Cleanout Tee". An ordinary sanitary tee has a radius towards the downstream direction of flow, but a Rodding Tee has a radius in both directions. In some jurisdictions if they require a bi-directional cleanout and if you use the Wye & 1/8th bend method you actually have to make two cleanouts, one in each direction. Also not that the one for snaking in the upstream direction must be installed on the downstream side of the downstream cleanout. That is to insure that you can snake the complete line. If they were reversed you could not snake the space between the two cleanouts.

You then continue your new PVC pipe to the Spigot end of the vitrified clay pipe on the upstream side of your repair and connect the PVC to the clay pipe with a Fernco coupling. (Careful here. Although both the clay pipe & the PVC are 4", that is the ID of the pipes, but because the clay pipe wall is much thicker than the PVC pipe a common 4" Fernco won't fit. Make sure you get a Fernco coupling that is listed as 4"PVC x 4" Vitrified Clay. (Although I have on occassion found them in Home Depot & Lowes as a rule you will probably have to go to a real Plumbing supply house to find the correct Fernco's)

Now to answer your next question, how to cut the PVC. You can easily cut PVC with a hacksaw, a PVC saw or what I prefer for cutting 3" and larger, a common hand wood saw.

Here is a tip when cutting pipe with a saw. After you start your cut, when you are about 1/4 of the way through the pipe, rotate the pipe a 1/4 turn, cut down another 1/4, then rotate the pipe again and finish your cut. Rotating the pipe in that manner will help keep a straight cut line on the end of your pipe.

Sand is the preferred material for bedding the pipe and continue covering with sand until you have a minimum of 4" on top of the pipe, then you may use "Clean fill dirt" that is free of rocks until you have 12" above the pipe. When you finish backfilling it is best to have the top about 3" or 4" above grade to allow for settling.

One a side note, the first clay pipe you found was 4" clay tile that was just laid end to end with no seals around the pipe, then it was covered with pea gravel. Back in the days before perforated poly or PVC they used that method to make leach fields or to install storm drains. The little gaps between the sections allowed the water in the pipe to leach into the soil the same way that modern perf pipe does.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2012 at 4:16PM
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I should have got his thread going sooner!

Wow, amazing respone Lazypup your post has been exceptionally helpful, you've taught me more in 1 post for this project then everyone else I have spoken with combined.

Thanks for taking the time to respond and teaching me the proper terms of the plumbing trade. The diagrams are very useful.

I exposed 4 sections of "verified clay hub & spigot pipe" under the mound of buried concrete debris. Fortunately only 1 section of pipe was broken in the center. The hub of one part of the broken pipe is still attached on the upstream side of the house sewer line and the spigot of the other end is still attached to the hub(end bell) downstream, the center shattered. It looks like some compound was use to glue the verified clay pipes together.

If i cannot get the broken hub(end bell)off the spigot upstream and the broken spigot out of the hub downstream, then i was planning on renting a snap cutter (chain or soil pipe cutter) at home depot to cut the broken sections out. But when you said that this pipe is nearly impossible to cut, I am worried i won't have square cuts that will line up tightly.

As for the clean out i got a wye and 1/8 bend, but now I wish I would have know about the "rodding tee"! I read about the bidirectional wye and 1/8 bend method, but it seemed it would increase my cost and further complicate things for a novice like me.

The city Sewer inspector told me to get a wye and 1/8 bend so i am sure they meet my jurisdictions code, but the rodding tee would be better. Too bad I already measured cut and glued the pvc repair section together. Doh!

Left a couple of extra inches to spare of pvc spigot at each end of my assembled pvc sewer line. This was incase i couldn't remove the broken pipe and have to cut it the hubs upstream & downstreeam off. When I cleaned, primed, and glued the new pvc house sewer line and cleanout together i put the wye and 1/8 bend in the middle of 2 pieces pvc with extra lenght of spigot at each end.

"(Careful here. Although both the clay pipe & the PVC are 4", that is the ID of the pipes, but because the clay pipe wall is much thicker than the PVC pipe a common 4" Fernco won't fit. Make sure you get a Fernco coupling that is listed as 4"PVC x 4" Vitrified Clay."

I lucked out today and made it to the plumbing wholesale supply house just before they closed for the weekend. The 10 ft pvc pipe i bought says 4" CRESLINE PVC TYPE PSM SDR 35 SEWER PIPE and the Fernco coupling i bought says MR02-44 CLAY TO 4" CL/PL, it fits tightly on the pvc spigot and is about an inch wider in diameter on the other side for the clay spigot.

I see now where I went wrong possibly, i got 2 of these Fernco couplings for 4"PVC x 4" Vitrified Clay. I don't have the Fernco rubber donute gasket that will fit inside the hub of that clay pipe,where the PVC will be inserted.

I will see tomorrow if i can remove the 2 parts of broken clay pipe, if not i hope i can cut them out. I will try to find a Fernco rubber dounte gasket listed as "Vitrified clay x PVC" at home depot or lowes, the plumbing supply house isnt open til monday. And at the bulk material supplier I will get sand instead of pea gravel for bedding and cover 4" of pipe.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 12:43AM
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Couldn't find a Fernco dounute gasket for 4" clay X 4" pvc at any store in my area, called everywhere.

Had to cut the bell end off the downstream 4' section of hub & spigot pipe with a grinder. Layed 2" of pea gravel bedding on the had clay trench floor. Attached the spigots up and downstream with the Fernco couplings to the 4' section of pvc already assembled with the wye joint, 1/8th bend, and cleanout. Poured concrete encircling the 2 coupling so the new section of pipe won't shift.

Monday the City Sewer Inspector will check it out and then I can cover the pipe with 6" of pea gravel above, then 2' of clean soil, then few inches of top soil and the old dug up sod last, with some reseeding.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 3:11PM
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