Working Inside and Out

Contractor replaces pipe inside and outside customer’s home after learning sewer line was broken.
Working Inside and Out
Both the copper waterline and the HDPE sewer line enter the basement of the home as they are pulled back through the old pipe.

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A simple video inspection following a sewer line cleaning turned into much more than a contractor and homeowner expected. The problem required a full replacement of the sewer lines and waterlines from the city main to the house as well as piping in the house.

“We were doing a video inspection of the line and found that the clay tile sewer line was broke,” says Skooter Thompson, owner of Skooters Plumbing and Drain Cleaning. “We showed her the video live as we were doing it, and it showed she had some breaks in the clay tile where dirt and roots were coming in. We advised it would be a wise idea to replace her sewer before it collapsed completely.”

It’s not an uncommon problem in the company’s service area — a 50-mile radius around Fargo, North Dakota. The company does about three pipe bursting jobs a month in the spring, summer and fall. In the winter, it slows down a bit because of the frozen ground, but the company stays busy with general plumbing service repair work.

“Most of our work is residential drain cleaning, sewer replacements and waterline replacements,” Thompson says. “Most of the pipe we’re replacing is clay tile, which seems to be what people are having issues with right now.”

GETTING TO WORK

Thompson and his staff discovered the problem at the Fargo home in October when they were called because of a slow drain. The crew cleaned out the line but wanted to find the cause.

“Typically we get most of our jobs through drain cleanings,” Thompson says. “A customer needs their drain cleaned, and after we get it cleaned, we scope it with a camera to make sure all the roots and intrusions are out.”

After finding the breaks in the line, Thompson started to plan for the job ahead. Not only would the sewer pipe need to be replaced, but also a 1-inch waterline leading from the city service to the home.

“We called in our locates to find the nearby utilities and got our equipment staged,” Thompson says. “We try to start our jobs on Mondays so we have the whole week to do them if need be, but most jobs only take three days.”

On the first day of the job, crews got the street dug down 11 feet using CASE Construction Equipment backhoes and wrapped the basement for the interior work. The second day was the pipe bursting and installation of the new pipe.

The Skooters Plumbing and Drain Cleaning crew removed an old lead waterline and replaced it with a 1-inch copper line. Crews then replaced the old clay tile sewer line with a 4-inch HDPE fusible pipe. “We also installed a new clean-out and backwater valve inside the house, eliminating any possibility of the sewer backing up from the neighbors,” Thompson says.

The pipe bursting portion was about 95 feet long. Thompson says a PortaBurst PB30G2 (HammerHead Trenchless) was used on the job. Typically, the pipe bursting and installation takes one full day. The third day is then used as a cleanup and inspection day.

MORE WORK INSIDE

Not only was work needed on the outside of the home, but inside work was also required.

The home had galvanized waterlines throughout, so crews replaced both the hot and cold waterlines with PEX. “It’s a big time saver and money saver for the homeowner, using PEX,” Thompson says.

Some cast-iron pipes above-ground were also replaced because of leaking issues in the house.

FINDING A NICHE

Thompson founded his company in 2005, saying he was tired of working for somebody else. He knew early on that he wanted to have drain cleaning as a service option for customers.

“I was subbing a lot of it out to another company in town,” Thompson says. “There’s only one other company in town that has equipment to do trenchless sewer and water replacement. I decided I would purchase the equipment and do it myself.”

From May to December 2017, the company did about 1,100 feet of pipe bursting. Thompson has made his company a one-stop shop for customers. “We handle everything from start to finish: the street cutting, patching, the backfill, all the excavation, all the removal of concrete from inside the house,” he says. “There are no other subcontractors in the house, we’re the only ones there from start to finish.”

Thompson says his company works with other plumbers in the area who don’t offer drain cleaning services or sewer replacements.

“We have different equipment than most,” Thompson says. “Most plumbing companies use drum-style snakes, but we use a sectional machine because it has the ability to do a lot better job in cleaning. Another plumbing company might come in and open the drain, but we’ll come in and thoroughly clean it all out.”

The company has three K-1500 sectional machines (RIDGID). They also use General Wire jetters.

Skooters Plumbing and Drain Cleaning was called in to assist another plumbing company this past summer after a subcontractor for the city put in a light pad and drove the ground rods through the sewer. The other plumbing company had come out, but could not get the sewer cleaned enough to see what happened.

“We were able to come in, clean it out and that’s when we saw the ground rod through the sewer,” Thompson says. “We located it and had the subcontractor come over to verify it.”

Thompson takes pride in being able to do work that others may not be able to handle. “It is challenging work,” he says. “But it’s a good feeling when you finish up the job and the customers’ homes are back working again.”



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