Asked on May 26, 2012

Help! I'm told that I need a trench dug through my house to fix a pipe problem in the slab. Is this the only way??

Plumber26Woodbridge Environmental Tiptophouse.comJeanette S


Water is leaking up through the grout of my kitchen floor when I stand in a certain place. My plumber tested and said it wasn't the water pipes, it is the drain pipes. A camera sent through the pipes showed massive corrosion and even holes (the house was built in 1964 and has cast-iron pipes in the slab). He said that he'd need to dig a trench from my garage (where washing machine and water heater live), through my kitchen, across my entryway, and into a closet that connects to the bathtub drain and replace all of the pipes with new (abandoning the original pipe line). This would cost over $7,000 and not include the cost of replacing the tile and any other repairs needed (except filling in the trench).
Someone else told me that it could be done with most of the digging outside the house to route the new pipes that way. And he could do it for around $4500. But this is a handyman (with plumbing experience) and a plumber who works at a local Home Depot. The first plumber belongs to a company that has done work for me in the past, and who I trust to do it right and well (anyone remember my mainline drain repair that set me back $8,000 not that long ago?).
I'm pretty maxed out financially: new roof three years ago, mold abatement two years ago, mainline repair last year (I'm beginning to wish I'd rented!). I'm tempted to go the cheaper route and hope for the best. Any ideas?
13 answers
  • Amanda M
    on May 26, 2012

    I asked my husband who is in plumbing sales. He says that you will need to have the trench done in order to get to the drainage pipe. Also, that may not be where the leak is but where it has found a weak spot in your slab. My advice would be to ask family and friends for a good recommendation, call references, and make sure they are licensed. If you were in our neck of the woods, we would gladly recommend good plumbers. Good luck!

  • Karen
    on May 26, 2012

    Thanks, Amanda. I did know that the trench was needed to get to the pipe, but I was wondering why it couldn't be dug outside the house. The old pipe is going to be disconnected, so it wouldn't be a problem anymore, and the new pipe would go along the outside of the house instead of through the inside. The plumbers that want to go through the house are a very reputable, licensed company. I am confident that anything they did would be very well done. But how well done do I need to have at this point. At the rate things are going, I won't be able to afford to live here much longer, anyway!

  • Karen, check your home owners policy. Quite often plumbing repairs from cracked pipes under the slab are covered. My neighbor had his entire living room ,kitchen and bathroom torn up resulting from a cracked drain line that collapsed. They covered everything, including new carpet and hardwood flooring that was destroyed as result of what they needed to fix. It does not cost anything to ask..

  • Karen
    on May 27, 2012

    It would be great to have it covered by insurance, but my agent said that the cause of the leak was "old" pipes that had corroded over time, and they didn't cover that. They "might" cover the repair to the flooring, but my deductible is high enough that I'd probably end up paying for it all, anyway. My main question in all this is: is it a viable solution to do most of the digging outside the house? Since the old pipe will be abandoned anyway, wouldn't it be easier to bury the new pipe in a trench along the outside of the house instead of digging inside the house? Instead of going from the garage, through the wall and across the floor of the kitchen, through another wall and across the entryway, and then through one more wall to connect with the pipe leading from the bathroom to the main drain line out of the house, couldn't we just dig from the garage to the front of the house and then across the front until it can connect with the main drain line? That would cause minimal damage to the house and be a much smaller job. (One of my neighbors even suggested that I could use material outside the house similar to a soaker hose and allow the drain water to water the plants, since it would contain no sewage, but I'm sure there's a code against that--what a shame to have to let perfectly usable water go "down the drain" when it could be used to water the plants.)

  • KMS Woodworks
    on May 27, 2012

    Part of the reason for digging the trench is to get rid of all of the soggy soil and back fill it properly. Leaving it as is could leak to "sink holes"

  • Karen
    on May 27, 2012

    Sink holes--Yikes! This is the kind of thing I was looking for--why it is better to dig through the house than outside. Thanks KMS! I was also thinking that it might be nice (not quite the word to use here) to see how much damage there might be--okay, is--under the floor. We don't want any more of that pesky mold, do we? (By the time I'm through fixing all that comes up with this house, I'll be bankrupt and the house will be more "under water" than it already is!) Sigh...

  • I would still look into the insurance option. Your paying for the pipes regardless of where they are going. which is normally not covered by any policy. But any damage that has resulted or will result as part of the repair is normally covered. The agency needs to review your policy and give you the real scoop, not might cover is not an answer. if you plan on digging outside of the home, you will find that you may not have enough pitch to make it all the way around to the connection point. Remember if you disconnect any plumbing under the slab it must be sealed to prevent any other plumbing from backing up into the old area. As far as using a pipe that will allow the water to drain out into the ground, This is then not allowed unless you have permits for a septic system connection on the property. I am not so sure that you would need to worry about sink holes. A kitchen sink is not going to provide enough water to create one. But the raised moisture on the bottom of the slab can cause issues to any floor systems such as wood, carpet or vinyl. Check with your agent again on this. He or she should be on your side and help you get this issue resolved. Even with a large deductible on the policy, you will end up paying that one way or another. And at least with the insurance company you will get some other repairs done that you may not been able to afford otherwise. If you still are having no luck, Contact an independent insurance adjuster. Called a Public Adjuster. They work for you, and they only get paid based upon the percent of the claim that they get from the insurance company beyond what they were willing to pay for the work. Normally this is well worth it as they know all the tricks that the insurance companies try to work around. The Adjuster that comes out for the insurance company is not your friend. While he or she may be nice to you, they are working for the insurance company who pays their paycheck, And they are not about to shoot them in the foot to make you happy.

  • Karen
    on May 28, 2012

    Thanks for all the advice, guys and gals! I obviously need to do some more work on this before my floor is torn up.

  • Kelly F
    on May 29, 2012

    Call your homeowners insurance. Water damage is often covered-

  • Jeanette S
    on May 30, 2012

    You can always find cheaper plumbing...but keep in mind that this is one area where you get what you pay for! It can turn on you so quickly that you do not know what happened. Make sure you get a company known for standing behind their work. That is why using a handly man is not always your best choice! You might even look into getting a performance bond if the work is going to be extremely expensive. Keep in mind that if your carpet is in good shape, you can actually have it rolled back and then relaid after the work is done. As for tile, no such luck there.

  • Plumber26
    on Jun 1, 2012

    My favorite advise to give "price shoppers" is "Cheaper price does not always mean equal installation". There are way too many fly-by-night plumbers out there to sacrifice quality work from a good company for the cheaper guy who's there for the quick buck. 9 out of 10 times, the shotty work will not show itself until long after the 'cheap guy' has packed up and moved elsewhere!

  • To add what Plumber 26 said. lots of lower prices end up costing more as once they start the job, all the extras start showing their ugly head. It amazes me when I bid on a job only to find out the person bidding against me is selling it for less then I purchase my materials for. But once they start ripping the house apart, and the owner has no other option then to complete the project they get stuck with all the surprises that the low ball bidder somehow forgot to tell them about.

  • Plumber26
    on Jun 9, 2012

    A true professional will leave you with no surprises because he already anticipates the worse case scenerio before the job begins! Let us know how your job goes! Good luck!

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