Simple Plumbing Job – DIY?

It looks like I need to replace the lateral sewer line connecting my house to the city system. I qualify for the “up to 3K” reimbursement; but the job is estimated at “around 6K.”

In lamenting to my friends on this issue, multiple responses have been “Schultsy can run a ‘mini’ [excavator]; why don’t you have him dig out the old line? Putting in a new one is pretty straight forward – like roofin’ – you’re just paying for labor.”

Does anybody have any experience with this? Is it simply digging out the old line, removing the old house trap and connecting into the waste out from the house and then hooking up to where it feeds into the city system? What part of this would need a “licensed plumber”? I don’t have “replace sewer line” on my bucket list, and I’d rather take that 3K [which I don’t have] and recreate with it.


Rick F

about 13 years ago

You can dig it and you can run it, a plumber has to connect it to the city lines,  maybe have him connect both ends to be sure it is done correctly because he will have to sign off on it before the inspection. Just remember to get the needed permits and don't forget to call for an underground utility locate.


about 13 years ago

We had it done last spring - it's a huge job - the trench they dug was about 9 feet deep. I would check with the inspector and see what the requirements are to get it approved, and if you're up to the task. 
Ours was filled back in with sand, not the dirt, so they had to take the dirt away and bring in the sand, Then there's replacing sidewalks, street, etc. when it's done.

Rick is right, a licensed plumber has to hook it up at the street, and the city will make you replace everything to the street - you can't just replace part of it.

I dug up the sewer line inside our house years ago when remodeling, but the line out to the street was a much bigger job. I can't say it was worth the money, but I'm glad I didn't try to do it. You might consider having the water main replaced at the same time since at that point it's basically just the cost of the copper pipe.

Is the 3K from the I & I (inflow & infiltration) money?


about 13 years ago

There are a number of reasons this is not a DIY project.  

To dig up the street and sidewalk, you need a bonded excavation contractor.  The bond insures that the hole gets patched (for example, if the excavator goes bankrupt, the bond pays for a second contractor to come and finish the work so the city isn't left with a big hole in the street.)

Also, what if you damage the city's main while excavating?  Something tells me your homeowner's policy wouldn't cover you.  

You also have to consider safety.  People can die in trenches...that's why you see excavators using those big steel shoring boxes that allow workers to work without having to worry about getting killed in a collapse (OSHA requirement).  

I'm a jack of all trades and do almost everything myself, but that is one job I wouldn't touch with the proverbial 10 foot pole.


about 13 years ago

I had this project done two years ago and would not attempt to do it my self.  Brian is correct in that replacing your water supply at this point would be advisable since you will have all the yard dug up anyway.  Pay the money get the reimbursement (I did too) and save yourself a lot of stress.

Also ask the contractor about additional money for the main wast line leeching in rain water.  My guy brought out a city inspector and a camera.  I turned on a hose in the yard and they witnessed clear water entering the waste line.  The inspector signed off on some other paperwork and voila! new pipes!  (My job was cheaper because the city already had the road and sidewalk torn up.)

I also opted to hook up to the high-pressure water supply and replaced the lead pipe that was feeding the house. Now I can run all my faucets at the same time and not lose H20 pressure. Totally worth the investment, and in my case will add to the resale value of my home due to the eradication of the lead supply.

Good Luck.


about 13 years ago

One thing to note is that replacement of the water supply line will only realize a savings if it can be replaced in the same trench as the drain line. That isn't always the case. Probably the best check is to see if there is a drain cleanout or trap near the water meter in the basement.


about 13 years ago

Roofing ... you're just paying for labor? Try it, go for it, learn a lesson if ya need to.

It is, however, like paying a dentist to clean your teeth, you're just paying for labor.


about 12 years ago

Bishop, did you ever hire someone to do this?  I just got notified that I needed to do the same thing and I'm looking for recommendations on contractors.


about 12 years ago

UPDATE:  It looks like my problems may be on the City side of things.  Perry Webster, the city water and gas rep I have been working with, has been absolutely amazing in helping me understand the problem.  GREAT customer service.  However - I did go through the process of getting bids and everybody seems to come in about the same.  I was impressed with Carlson-Duluth Plumbing; but Superior Construction comes highly recommended.  My neighbor had it done a few years back and used Shelton Excavating - they were about 2K lower than others and did a nice job.  I priced out materials and equipment rental for a DIY approach [had a contractor that would work with me on doing just the part of the job that required a licensed plumber] and the closest trench box would need to come up from the cities.  There would be a substantial savings with the DIY approach, but my wife said that if she wanted to live without running water for a summer - she would have gone on a missions trip.  I'm going to defer to the advice I got on the city [which was call them the next time I have an issue and they will verify if it's on their side of the connection or mine]; but will probably hire one of the above listed contractors to do the job if needed.  If you move forward with it, let me know how it goes.  From what I heard, be sure to see to what level the job is "finished" in the bid.  Carlson's bid included everything down to fresh sod.  Other folks I talked did not include any landscaping.

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