Faulty Brooklyn House Sewer Repair Breaks The City Sewer

Jobsite Reports, Sewer Repair
April 23, 2012

by David Balkan

Brooklyn house sewer

Recently Balkan was hired to repair a broken house sewer in Brooklyn. This was nothing too unusual, as subsurface plumbing repair work is needed on a routine basis in New York City. Many of  the underground utilities and service lines of New York are very old, and many are disrupted every year by associated underground excavation work. What made this particular drain repair unusual was that previous work by a sewer contractor had been done in a completely unprofessional and improper fashion.

Brooklyn house sewer
Defective work caused the city sewer to break

Upon excavating down to the city sewer it was determined that the previous repair had actually broke off and literally sunk right through the public sewer. It seems that when the sewer repair was originally done the plumber cut a hole into the top of the city sewer, shoved on some pipe, and connected back the house sewer line using improper fittings. Thinking it would make this crummy repair better, the plumber then encased the whole mess in concrete.

Unfortunately the previous plumber did not encase the city sewer in concrete. The concrete encasement would have supported all the added weight. This type of connection is referred to a ‘riser connection’, but this riser connection was not made properly, or to code.

house sewer repair
Balkan finding the house sewer

As the years past the added weight of the repair encased in concrete, and being placed directly over the clay public  sewer pipe, began to create stress and slowly settle. At some point the concrete encased connection settled right through the city sewer, and actually caused problems for other houses on the block as well. To correct the problem and perform a correct repair of this Brooklyn home sewer line, Balkan had to actually remove three sections of the city sewer.

A Brooklyn house sewer repair done correctly

Balkan had to install three brand news sections of clay pipe, one of which contained a new connection for the house that had the broken line. Finally the entire connection, and the new sections of the sewer, were encased with ready-mix concrete. This ensured that the sewer repair would be long-lasting and to code. The DEP was called to the site for a field inspection, and the job was signed-off. Something the previous plumbing contractor most certainly did not do.

public sewer
New house sewer connection

Something about trust and integrity

sewer inspection
Inspection completed – Job well done

For many homeowners and property owners hiring a sewer contractor to perform plumbing work that gets buried is a matter of trust. Sometimes that trust can get betrayed and result in even more costly plumbing repairs down the road. There are basic things to require of a contractor whenever work is required.

  • Certificates of insurance.
  • Plumbers License verification.
  • Copies of all required permits.
  • Certificates of inspection.
  • Copies of sign-offs.

In addition taking a few minutes to check online reviews, ask for references, and how long the company has been in business continually under the same name. These are all very good steps to take.

You may think this vetting process is tedious and unnecessary. But it sure beats the heck out of having to pay for fixing a collapsed city sewer caused by a plumbers shoddy work.

What is a riser connection?

Sewer Connection
NYC DEP riser diagram

A riser connection is a vertical connection built on top of a public sewer typically meant for a house connection. Depending on the size of the public sewer, different design standards are used in the construction of such a connection. It is usual for such a connection to be built when the depth of the public sewer is greater then 13′ or so, or if a groundwater condition exists.  In these two cases it is meant to alleviate the cost to  property owners of having to excavate to great depths, or through groundwater, in order to connect properly to the main public sewer line.

A riser is also required when the difference in elevation from the point where the house drain exits the building to the city sewer is greater than the pitch that is allowed to be used. As sewers work on the principal of gravity, pitching the pipe is used to so the waste water runs off properly. However, only a maximum of 1′ of pitch is permitted for every 4′ of run of pipe. Therefore a riser must be built at times when the difference in elevation is too great. Risers must always be one size greater than the size of the connection size from the building.  Therefore, in NYC where the minimum size of a sewer connection is 6″, the minimum size of a riser is 8″.

When a riser must be built, each part of the installation process must be carefully inspected by DEP field personnel. The riser must conform exactly to approved plans. All risers must be encased with an approved ready-mix concrete to ensure a long-lasting installation. After the connection is signed off by the DEP, the maintenance and ownership of it reverts back to the city. All such installations are built with a clean-out on the top as a means to clean out any possible future stoppages in the riser connection itself.

Most sewers in NYC are approximately 11′ or 12′ deep, and typical spur connections are used. However, there are sewers that are in excess of 25′ deep, and they usually have carefully constructed riser connections on top of them.

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David Balkan

David Balkan is the CEO of Balkan Sewer And Water Main, the largest and most trusted service in New York City. David is extremely active in various NYC plumber organizations being the Chairman of the Subsurface Committee in the Master Plumbers Council, and Vice President of the Subsurface Plumbers Association. In addition David’s expertise is respected by officials of New York City agencies such as the NYC DEP, NYC DOB, and the NYC DOT. He frequently provides valuable input on a variety of industry related matters.

Dave Balkan

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