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  1. #1

    Default Soil stack woes. Need help and advice.

    Hi, all,

    My wife and I just bought our first house. It's a 95 year old Colonial twin that was a total rehab. We just learned yesterday that our soil stack is leaking from the second floor bathroom (the only bathroom in the house) into the basement. There's quite a bit of water after a shower or flushing the toilet.

    The pipe runs from the basement, behind some kitchen counters and wall, up to the second floor bath. We had a bunch of plumbers round today to give some estimates. Most were around $2,000. The lowest one - who happened to be the guys who spent the most time at the house and were the most pleasant to deal with, overall - brought their carpenter out to take a look. They seemed to think the best option is to open the outside wall. They want to remove some of the vinyl siding and what's underneath that to get to the pipe. Pipe replacement is $1,200 and the carpentry/siding work is $600. Does that seem reasonable?

    I was a tiny bit concerned about the outside wall option since one of the other plumbers made a big stink about I shouldn't let anyone do something like that and that it could really mess up my house.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Soil stack woes. Need help and advice.

    Quote Originally Posted by billy_pilgrim View Post
    Hi, all,

    My wife and I just bought our first house. It's a 95 year old Colonial twin that was a total rehab. We just learned yesterday that our soil stack is leaking from the second floor bathroom (the only bathroom in the house) into the basement. There's quite a bit of water after a shower or flushing the toilet.

    The pipe runs from the basement, behind some kitchen counters and wall, up to the second floor bath. We had a bunch of plumbers round today to give some estimates. Most were around $2,000. The lowest one - who happened to be the guys who spent the most time at the house and were the most pleasant to deal with, overall - brought their carpenter out to take a look. They seemed to think the best option is to open the outside wall. They want to remove some of the vinyl siding and what's underneath that to get to the pipe. Pipe replacement is $1,200 and the carpentry/siding work is $600. Does that seem reasonable?

    I was a tiny bit concerned about the outside wall option since one of the other plumbers made a big stink about I shouldn't let anyone do something like that and that it could really mess up my house.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks!
    Be more than a tiny bit concerned.

    Soil stack original? Cast Iron? they going to replace it with PVC or ABS? where will the transition be?

    Sounds like you have a wet vent - never a good idea to have on outside wall in the first place. Where does it terminate?

    I'd trust a plumber to do plumbing, possibly reboot a vent stack through the roof, but a roofer is a roofer, a plumber is a plumber. And a carpenter isn't a structural engineer.

    If the exterior "envelope" of your home doesn't need to be opened, then why do it? You have much more at stake if a hidden problem with their "repair" allows infiltration from outside moisture, pests, wind, etc. gets into the wall then you do if a plaster or drywall repair has an inperfection. Pass on the pleasant, soft selling low-bid and work with plumbers promoting legitimate approaches. I'd bet the "carpenter" is a sub - and they'll be "more issues and expenses" to deal with once the siding comes off/cut.

    Common sense approach is you do not open the exterior to do an interior system repair. When it comes to plumbers you ALWAYS SEEK to keep them AWAY from STRUCTURAL MEMBERS (they notoriously hack them). Exterior walls are always structural.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Soil stack woes. Need help and advice.

    I have to disagree with BRP. You said remove vinyl siding which can easily be done without any cosmetic damage. Cutting , patching and resealing sheeting is no big deal. It would cause the least amount of cosmetic damage, no structural damage, and prevent the inside of your house from being turned into a mess. Removing siding and opening sheeting is done all the time for a variety of repairs and upgrades. It would also be much less costly than demolishing the interior and putting it back to near original condition not to mention clean up.
    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Soil stack woes. Need help and advice.

    Setting overall costs aside, which contractor would you feel most comfortable hiring? Once you pick that, the question is whom you feel is giving you the best advice. Following that pecking order, reattach the prices given and judge from that whom you should hire. Never hire anyone based on cost analysis alone.

    As to the best route to access the repair, that would be the route that causes the least amount of damage, ultimately reducing the overall cost of repair. My vote is for access from the exterior because it will cause less damage to the home, less disruption to you and your family (including construction dust, debris, duration of work, and clean up ), and certainly, if not most important there will be little to no cosmetic damage to the interior which will be more costly to repair and more frustrating if it's not put back and made invisible, which is next to impossible, particularly with a 95 year old home that is likely lath and plaster.

    Vinyl siding is easy to remove and reinstall. Wood siding of any kind is extremely easy to access and reinstall, particularly when hidden by the vinyl siding. Stucco is a bit more difficult, though once again, since there is a vinyl siding, the patch doesn't have to be aesthetically pleasing, only water/moisture tight. What all this adds up to is a less intrusive and less expensive replacement of your soil stack that isn't going to affect the envelop of the home if replaced properly.

    For the record, vinyl siding is not water/moisture tight, so it's important that the integrity of the exterior envelop be maintained. This is not difficult, and any reputable contractor, whether they be a subcontractor or otherwise, will uphold the building codes and regulations in your area.

    Regardless of whether the work is done from the inside or the outside, this is something that will likely require a permit. Be there when the inspector arrives for the plumbing inspection and request that they return before the wall is closed up to verify that the envelop has been properly maintained. They should also return for a "final" inspection to sign the work off.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Soil stack woes. Need help and advice.

    I would be inclined to do some exploration to determine exactly where this leak is before committing to anything. The leak might be in just one very localized spot which could be easily repaired.

    This exploration might well require drilling a few small holes in the wall to slip a borescope in there or hiring a plumber with a sewer-cam to take a look by slipping that down the vent stack from the roof. You might find that the leak is accessible and repairable thru the bathroom floor.

    If the pipe does need total replacement, then I would sooner go at it from the exterior also........for the same reasons as Jack cited.

    This is the type of job we would handle ourselves without bringing in any sub-contractors. No rocket science involved.
    Last edited by goldhiller; 12-29-2008 at 09:13 PM.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Soil stack woes. Need help and advice.

    just to put in my 2 cents worth. first I would say that your plumbers that brought along their own carpenter are people who are trying to cover their bases.
    second I have over 25 years in the drywall and related fields. a patch is a patch is a patch as far as drywall. to a trained eye it will always be noticable. your siding on the other hand can be taken off and put back on and won't be seen as any different. you won't have messy clean up in the house. (cutting drywall, sanding, spraying always messy regardless of who does it or what claims they make) won't have to empty out all your cabinets, remove them and counter tops.

    so yea its a no brainer outside is better. and go with who your comfortable with. the ones who stayed there longest and investigated as well as brought along their carpenter are the ones who would have my vote

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Soil stack woes. Need help and advice.

    A 95-year old multi-story home that was just skinned with vinyl. To remove a multi-story soil-stack/vent. somewhere there would be horizontal plates and/or diagonal braces which would limit. May be platforms, don't know. Obviously this connects so plumbing/sewer down below. Getting it out past structural not just removed and replaced sheathing but the structural aspects many plumbers will just cut this OUT instead of using a chain cutter (tough to do if trying to preserve interior wall coverings) most likely. They'd be opening up a vertical opening ground to roof not a good idea.

    Several here will object and take an opposite view just because I posted otherwise first, not because it is wrong, just to be contrary.

    Most likely a home of this vintage the chase that contains the stack is accessible from the interior with far more room than the exterior. Sheathing on the old walls is also usually structural.

    I stand by my recommenation based on the what the original poster said. Apparently more than one on-site plumber quoting the project also was approaching from the interior, it was the odd man out that wanted to go from exterior.Now, maybe a one-story structure half the age of the posters in Florida or California (two of the other posters) not during the rain seasons - maybe; but if you're in a winter zone now, I'd say No on the exterior approach for SURE. When I hear pilgrim I think NE.

    However, I suspect the entire stack might not have to be replaced, in fact the most likely suspect area would be where the closet bend joins the stack and would explain water from either shower or toilet. Obviously with nasty gray and black waterfalls in the walls and basement waiting isn't an option.

    Who would want to maintain toilet waste contaminated inside wall surfaces anyway - it is going to need to be cleaned out, SANATIZED and likely some replacement anyway - preserving the interior wall board doesn't seem THAT IMPORTANT over health and cleanliness; especially behind unknown infiltration under and behind kitchen counters/cabinets and possibly the ceiling above.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Soil stack woes. Need help and advice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Blue RidgeParkway View Post
    A 95-year old multi-story home that was just skinned with vinyl. To remove a multi-story soil-stack/vent. somewhere there would be horizontal plates and/or diagonal braces which would limit. May be platforms, don't know. Obviously this connects so plumbing/sewer down below. Getting it out past structural not just removed and replaced sheathing but the structural aspects many plumbers will just cut this OUT instead of using a chain cutter (tough to do if trying to preserve interior wall coverings) most likely. They'd be opening up a vertical opening ground to roof not a good idea.

    Several here will object and take an opposite view just because I posted otherwise first, not because it is wrong, just to be contrary.

    Most likely a home of this vintage the chase that contains the stack is accessible from the interior with far more room than the exterior. Sheathing on the old walls is also usually structural.

    I stand by my recommenation based on the what the original poster said. Apparently more than one on-site plumber quoting the project also was approaching from the interior, it was the odd man out that wanted to go from exterior.Now, maybe a one-story structure half the age of the posters in Florida or California (two of the other posters) not during the rain seasons - maybe; but if you're in a winter zone now, I'd say No on the exterior approach for SURE. When I hear pilgrim I think NE.

    However, I suspect the entire stack might not have to be replaced, in fact the most likely suspect area would be where the closet bend joins the stack and would explain water from either shower or toilet. Obviously with nasty gray and black waterfalls in the walls and basement waiting isn't an option.

    Who would want to maintain toilet waste contaminated inside wall surfaces anyway - it is going to need to be cleaned out, SANATIZED and likely some replacement anyway - preserving the interior wall board doesn't seem THAT IMPORTANT over health and cleanliness; especially behind unknown infiltration under and behind kitchen counters/cabinets and possibly the ceiling above.

    First of all I don't care what your opinion is and my opinion is not based on or only contrary to your opinion. It's based on having done a similar job. You rate significance to high.

    Second, when you open a wall from the inside or the outside you have exactly the same size cavity to work in, in fact from the outside you have more maneuvering room. A toilet flange and drain can usually be removed this way without tearing into the ceiling below which is generally required if you work from the inside.

    Third washing down plaster and lath on the inside is as easy as cleaning the wast out of wood sheeting. And the wash-down is kept out of the house.

    Fourth, it is generally not necessary to cut from foundation to roof to replace a stack, and it may only need a section replaced. Diagonal bracings can easily be be left in place.

    Fifth, a licensed plummer knows he has to adhere to building codes also which restricts his demolishing the structural integrity of the house.
    Jack
    Last edited by JLMCDANIEL; 12-29-2008 at 11:32 PM.
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Soil stack woes. Need help and advice.

    Quote Originally Posted by billy_pilgrim View Post
    Hi, all,

    My wife and I just bought our first house. It's a 95 year old Colonial twin that was a total rehab. We just learned yesterday that our soil stack is leaking from the second floor bathroom (the only bathroom in the house) into the basement. There's quite a bit of water after a shower or flushing the toilet.

    The pipe runs from the basement, behind some kitchen counters and wall, up to the second floor bath. We had a bunch of plumbers round today to give some estimates. Most were around $2,000. The lowest one - who happened to be the guys who spent the most time at the house and were the most pleasant to deal with, overall - brought their carpenter out to take a look. They seemed to think the best option is to open the outside wall. They want to remove some of the vinyl siding and what's underneath that to get to the pipe. Pipe replacement is $1,200 and the carpentry/siding work is $600. Does that seem reasonable?

    I was a tiny bit concerned about the outside wall optionsince one of the other plumbers made a big stink about I shouldn't let anyone do something like that and that it could really mess up my house.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks!
    Besides the JLMCDANIEL temper tantrum, a closet bend has to connect to a stack below the floor. Most floors are supported by joists, timbers or beams. If these run to the wall in question and in the same direction of your closet bend or perpendicular doesn't matter, we can't guess.

    Total rehab whatever, don't recall the OP saying there was any wood lath or plaster or wallboard or any indication as to what the wall or ceiling surfaces are. The idea that one could "wash" the inside wall or ceiling side of vintage wood lath previously saturated by toilet waste or wall board and anyone thinking that what JLM just suggested could possibly be considered effective contamination remediation aside. Don't know what type of insulation you have or can replace with in this contaminated area, and it isn't an area you would want inperfect since you also want an air cavity around the stack and not create condensation issues either. We don't actually know what climate/region the original poster is in, I personally can't stand a drafty kitchen wall, a cold bathroom floor or a cold bathroom with convection drafts.

    A professional plumber who was on-site and reviewed the plumbing and the home has recommended against it: "one of the other plumbers made a big stink about I shouldn't let anyone do something like that and that it could really mess up my house."


    By the way, Billy_Pilgrim, off topic slightly, but I enjoyed your choice of words, plumber made a big stink about....it... heh heh!! Keeping your sense of humor about things is important, especially when dealing with situations such as you have described.
    Last edited by Blue RidgeParkway; 12-30-2008 at 12:15 AM.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Soil stack woes. Need help and advice.

    Chicken Little's squawking aside, I like the fact that the plumber who brought a carpenter along was thinking about the whole project. Repairing the exterior wall may be less expensive than repairing the interior -- especially if you have to remove base cabinets and countertop. Did your other plumbers include restoring the wall to original condition in their quotes?

    I don't see anything wrong with attacking the problem from the outside, in fact I have to agree with all the advantages others have cited. Just because one plumber said you shouldn't do that isn't a good reason to reject the idea; he's a plumber not a carpenter. Besides, he's trying to get your business. If he said "sure why not" then you might go with the other guy, and that's not what HE wants. (Any time someone says "I'd never do that" I take their advice with a helping of skepticism. Unless it's "I'd never stick my finger in a light socket with the power on while standing in a salty swimming pool." THAT's good advice.)

    Regardless of who you go with, be sure to check with past customers of that/those contractors, and make sure they aren't the plumber's second-cousin's brother-in-law.

    You've got an advantage doing this project now during a slow time in the building industry. Most tradesmen will be fairly competitive in their pricing to get the job.

    There's an old rule of thumb: the low bidder will cost twice as much and high bidder doesn't want the job.
    The "Senior Member" designation under my name doesn't mean I know a lot, it just means I talk a lot.I've been a DIYer since I was 12 (thanks, Dad!). I have read several books on various home improvement topics. I do not have any current code books I can refer to. I was an apprentice plumber for two years.

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