5 min read

The Sewer Line Brings Me Joy

I jumped up and down and hugged the plumber.
The Sewer Line Brings Me Joy
The plumber marked up where the line was as he televised it.

That's not a headline I ever expected to write.

From the start of this adventure, 615's sewer line has been spooking me. Based on the line having needed regular clean-outs per my plumber plus it being over 100 years old, I was thinking we might need a whole new sewer line.

I even called two companies out for bid, both recommended by our plumber. The first bid came in around $9,000. (Gasp.) The second didn't result in a number because the pro asked that our plumber televise the line before we made any assumptions. But that guy – who seemed to be more clued in about the reality of replacing a line under a driveway – he floated a number north of $12,000. But, he said, ask the plumber to televise it.

The first time I heard the expression "televising the sewer lines," I was confused about what it meant. Back then, I was reporting on the City of East Lansing for the local news operation I founded. I soon learned that our city dates back well over a hundred years in various places, and in neighborhoods like ours, built in the 1920s, the sewers had been something of a mystery to the Department of Public Works. That's because people didn't always properly chart what they were doing with infrastructure 100 years ago, and records had also been lost along the way.

So, a few years ago, our city undertook the monumental task of "televising the sewers." No, they did not start a TV show about the sewers. They took cameras and sent them down the various channels to try to figure out where the heck the sewer lines are, where they run, and where they end up.

Well, these days my plumber has a televising kit that he can use to do the same in a house or for a house's private sewer line. So, having finished up the second floor plumbing yesterday (more on that below), he televised 615's line for me today. And what did he find?

Yeah, I know, I can't read that image either. It's like when you are shown a sonogram of your wonky ankle and the PA tells you all sorts of "obvious" things in the findings.

But here's what the plumber found: What we thought was "our" line is really mostly the city's property! This means problems with it are not our problems – they are the problems of the city! Phew!

As I may have mentioned before, 615 shares a driveway with the house to the south of it. (Our house is to the north of 615.) Because BWL power lines run down that shared driveway from the street behind other houses on Marshall Street, and because I saw the old plats (original subdivision plans) at some point, I knew that where the driveway is now was once meant to be an alleyway or a street.

Today, after doing his televising and realizing 615's sewer line did not go the way he expected, the plumber called the city's public works department and – lo and behold – he was able to confirm that 615's line juts out of the side of the house and soon hits a city-owned sewer pipe that runs under the driveway!

This means that, if the sewer line needs a major repair, the cost of it (including the driveway reconstruction) will fall on the city, not the private property owners!

It also means we don't have to even consider building a new sewer pipe. We just have to have the plumber clean out the old pipe from the house to the city's line – a few hundred dollars compared to what I was thinking might end up around $12,000 or even $14,000.

When the plumber told me this, I was so happy, I jumped up and down and hugged him. Of course he laughed at me. My joy must have been palpable because he didn't even charge me for the televising.

And hey, while I'm here, let me share more good plumbing news:

Yep, that's an inspector's approval stamp for our first stage of plumbing, the all-new plumbing to and from the second floor. The inspection happened this morning.

The kitchen ceiling now holds not only the new drains (white pipe) but the new hot (red) and cold (blue) water lines:

I can't tell you how happy this makes me. When we took down the drop-ceiling in the kitchen and first saw the old plumbing, I was thinking there was no way I could pass that creaky mess on to someone else without modernizing it.

When they saw what was up there, both the plumber and framer told me that, if we were going to leave the old plumbing, we needed to create a panel in the new ceiling so it could be accessed when it failed, which they predicted could be soon.

Now we can seal up that kitchen ceiling with fresh drywall without a panel – the same thing we did when we redid our own kitchen back in 2004. We can know that these pipes aren't going to fail and flood the kitchen. This plus the sewer line news plus the new electrical panel (plus new central air and almost-new furnace) leaves me feeling really good about passing on the house to the next owners. This house is going to be in great shape.

Before we close, we will get that sewer line cleaned and get the air ducts cleaned, too, so that everything is running clean. (While the duct-cleaning van is parked here, I'll also get my own house's ducts cleaned, since we haven't done that in many years.)

Here's the new plumbing for the second floor bathtub/shower:

Again, this may not look like that big a deal, but if you've owned a 1923 house for 25 years, as I have, you know it really is an important step forward.

Before I take a run – the sun is out! – a shout-out to my mom who was kind enough not to mention all the typos in the last post until I mentioned them to her. Hopefully this one has less typos.

JUST KIDDING, MOM! ("Fewer typos." Not "less.")

Coming soon, a post on the wonderful news about 615's kitchen ceiling.