Auger stuck in Storm drain

dreamgardenMarch 19, 2011

We bought a house and had a general as well as a sewer inspection. The sewer inspector ran a snake through our sanitary and storm drains. The sanitary was clean, the storm had tree roots. The SI (sewer inspector) said he wasn't get his camera all the way through the pipe and didn't want to risk getting it stuck.

These are the two options he offered us.

One, trench the yard from the house to the street and replace all the pipe ($1,500).

Two, auger out the storm drain ($250).

We have several large trees (maples) in the yard and have read that trenching near trees can sometimes cause damage that won't show up for years. We didn't want to risk having dead trees fall on our house years down the line so we decided to try the less invasive remedy first and have the drain augered.

The SI said his auger wasn't large enough to do the job and recommended we hire another company with a larger auger.

The other company came out and sure enough the guy's auger got stuck. Said it seemed to have gone through a tile and he couldn't get it out. He said the only thing he could do was return and trench a 3ft section in that area to retrieve his auger. He said he would replace that broken portion of the pipe with pvc but not the entire line. He said this additional cost would run between $600-$1,000.

We purposely chose augering over trenching because we don't want our trees damaged.

I've since read that companies can use different augers and that an arrow bit would have had less of a chance of getting stuck. The guy used a cutting bit and seemed to jam it quite vigorously through the pipe.

I paid them for the augering but am not sure I want to let them come back and replace that section. I feel that since they knew what they were getting into (I told them what the SI said), they should be willing to absorb at least some of the cost to correct their 'mistake'.

The difference in what they would charge to just fix part of the pipe (and get their auger back) is not much less than having the entire thing replaced.

Please tell me if what I am asking for is reasonable. They said something about coming back in two weeks to finish the job. In the meantime, my storm drain next to the sidewalk is open with this coil sticking out of it.

I don't want my trees affected when they come back for their auger so if anyone has any tips about preserving (protecting) them, it would be most welcome.

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If it was mine, digging the 3 foot area would be my choice. How deep is the pipe? If 2' or less, you could excavate by hand in a couple of hours and save tons of money. That size excavation will not damage the trees much. The quote seems very high.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 10:09AM
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The pipe is 4-5 ft deep. The distance from the house to the street is less than 100'. The trees are over 20 ft high.

You say the quote seems very high. How much do you think this job (fix) should cost? Should the company be bothering to charge me anymore than I've already paid to 'correct' their mistake? They said the auger poked through a tile and thats why they can't get it out.

I warned them about this when they first showed up. I said the sewer inspector said it was clogged with roots and that he was unable to get his camera through without it getting stuck (necessitating trenching). Knowing this, could they have used a different method/cutting bit?

Do you think I should go ahead and replace the entire line or let them (or someone else) just dig deep enough to retrieve the auger/replace the pipe in that section. I had a quote to do a trenchless pipe with fiberglass but they want $6,000 for that!

I'm concerned about this happening again. Are there better ways to clean out a drain without getting equipment stuck each time this is done?

The company used a cutting blade. He started with a small blade and graduated to a larger one. Lots of pulling and shoving was involved. I read something about using an arrowhead bit, but I'm not very familiar with how these things are done. They said that water is still going through the pipe in spite of the roots (and now auger).

Just looking for the best way to get the job done/finished without hurting my trees.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 2:33PM
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I don't think it's a "mistake", as you put it. Sometimes things go wrong, even when doing the work properly with root-cutting bits. The line could have already been broken from the invasive roots.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2011 at 1:56PM
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The plumber knows his business (or ought to) and the associated risks. To ask for a change order, after the plumber gets his auger stuck, where the customer absorbs 100% of the cost seems unreasonable, and unprofessional, to me.
Unless he advised the customer of the risks and having to bear any additional cost beforehand which I doubt based on the information provided above.

I don't think the Department of Consumer Affairs would side with the plumber in this case.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 3:46AM
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What all feeds into your storm drain? Is it the gutters, patios, sump pump or other? Also why is it so deep? Where does the pipe end up? Is it exposed on the other end or does it drain into a storm drain off your property? To hire an excavator and dig that deep and for that distance it would be expensive.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 2:35PM
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You only have to dig to ther line in the area the auger is stuck, and the plumber should have a good idea of that location sine augers are in specif length sections.

A hole down to the line is not likely to endanger any trees, but should be on his nickel.

He agreed to the work, and should have insurance to cover the costs.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 4:10PM
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This post is a year old. The outcome might be nice to have, but I doubt the auger is still stuck.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 12:03PM
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The plumber should know what the right thing to do. There must be a way in which they can get the auger without affecting your trees too much. Also, don't let that high quote for the job.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 4:08AM
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