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  1. #1
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    Default Plumber laid asphalt is collapsing - should I be freaking out?

    I'm sorry if this is in the wrong area - I wasn't sure where to put it, and since it resides in the driveway put it in this forum area. If it should go somewhere else, I can delete this and move it to the more appropriate location. Thank you!

    Almost a month ago, I hired a plumber to replace our old cast iron sewer pipes with new pipes. He did so, digging a trench in our driveway and under our home as part of the process.

    When he left, he repacked the trench with the earth that had come out of it and laid asphalt on top. I'd noticed that there was a slight gap at one section of asphalt and informed him, he came out a couple of days later and filled it at no cost.

    Since then, my wife and I (and anyone who comes over and steps on it) have noticed that it's squishy underfoot. I brought this to his attention via phone, and he let me know that was normal and it's harden up.

    Fast forward to this Monday, when there was a moderate rain here in LA. The next day I went outside and immediately noticed that almost all of the asphalt has sunk - by about a quarter of an inch - and the portion that goes up to the house and completely washed away. Additionally, two smaller holes have appeared where the asphalt touches the old hardened asphalt of the driveway.

    I called him right away, and again he stated that this was ok, it was because he hadn't used professional tools to pack the earth, and he'd come out and fix it this week.

    Can you guys tell me if this really IS normal and ok? I'm worried that this may have twisted or damaged the pipes (I relayed this to him and he said they were fine). Also, is there something I should do to make sure that this doesn't happen again? I don't want whatever he lays down when he comes to fix it to wash away again when the next rains come. It worries me more that there is water, earth, and asphalt routing under my home into my crawlspace. Do plumbers usually do something special to shore this up?

    Thank you.

    This is the hole leading under our house. I've no idea where the asphalt that used to be here went, I'm guessing it's somewhere under our house now.


    Another shot of the hole and how the asphalt and earth has washed away.


    A view looking toward the house. In the foreground to the left you can see where the new asphalt pulled away from the driveway and has formed a gap. You can also see how the entire length of the new asphalt has sunk down in the middle.
    Last edited by MBeach; 04-15-2010 at 03:27 PM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Plumber laid asphalt is collapsing - should I be freaking out?

    Your pipe should be OK, but it looks like the hole was filled with loose dirt, not properly tamped and no base was put in. It also looks to me like he used cold patch rather than hot mix asphalt. Without a proper base the asphalt will not holdup and cold mix is no where as durable as hot mix..

    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Plumber laid asphalt is collapsing - should I be freaking out?

    I agree with everything Jack just stated.

    Depending on the depth that the trenching was done, you can expect up to 12" of compaction as the dirt settles and repacks over time. If the driveway was not properly packed - in layers - as the trench was filled, you're going to have the problem you face now, particularly if you've been driving a vehicle across the area.

    The hole at the side of the house is likely more pronounced because no compaction was done under the structure, so even more settling will be experienced. Since the "fresh" dirt from the trench will move more freely than the undisturbed soil around it, it is no surprise that you've got a sink hole next to the house. Now, If a sink hole continues to form, even after repeated backfilling of a deep hole such as the image shows, then there is a problem with subterranean erosion, likely caused by the newly laid drain line.

    At this point, try to stay on good terms with your plumber. The fact that he's willing to come back and address this recurrent problem seems as though he is trying to keep you happy. If the settling or erosion problem persists, then it might be time to escalate.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Plumber laid asphalt is collapsing - should I be freaking out?

    Thanks to you both, this makes me feel a little bit better about this.

    I'm curious to see what he does to correct this, especially since it sounds like it could compact even more than what I've seen so far. Because we didn't like the way it felt (squishy), we purposely haven't been driving our car across it. I hope that he doesn't fix it by simply dumping more patch on the top where it sank in, and then bringing spare earth and just throwing it into the hole.

    Is there any direction I should give him when he does show up, or is it better that I just let him do his thing for now?

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Plumber laid asphalt is collapsing - should I be freaking out?

    As you suspect, he'll probably just add some asphalt patch to the driveway and toss more dirt into the hole.

    To be honest, without compaction, the dirt is going to continue to settle for a while. The integrity of the driveway will be compromised until the dirt has fully compacted, so you can look forward to that patch to keep sinking. Another problem with the driveway patch beyond the dirt not being mechanically compacted as the trench was filled, is that the asphalt patch is probably microscopically thin. Asphalt needs to be at least 2" thick to have any durability. As Jack mentioned, cold patch isn't as durable as hot laid, and hot laid can't be installed in temperatures less than 70* or it crumbles and has no durability either.

    Ultimately, what you're probably going to have to do is go ahead and drive over the patch, allow it to settle and back fill as necessary until the patch quits moving. Once it has stabilized, have the low areas filled, a fabric barrier installed, and a top coat applied to the driveway.

    Your next question is likely whether or not the plumber should be held accountable for the driveway. No, this sort of thing is to be expected, however, he should have been more forthcoming with what would happen and taken some additional steps to prevent problems with the driveway area. A good example is that you've probably seen is when utilities trench across a street to replace drains, water supplies, what have you. Even though these trenches are mechanically compacted and capped correctly, they invariably still settle out more as traffic drive over the spots, necessitating the street crew to come back out and add more patch. Your driveway is going to be a smaller version of this scenario.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Plumber laid asphalt is collapsing - should I be freaking out?

    Quote Originally Posted by A. Spruce View Post
    As you suspect, he'll probably just add some asphalt patch to the driveway and toss more dirt into the hole.

    To be honest, without compaction, the dirt is going to continue to settle for a while. The integrity of the driveway will be compromised until the dirt has fully compacted, so you can look forward to that patch to keep sinking. Another problem with the driveway patch beyond the dirt not being mechanically compacted as the trench was filled, is that the asphalt patch is probably microscopically thin. Asphalt needs to be at least 2" thick to have any durability. As Jack mentioned, cold patch isn't as durable as hot laid, and hot laid can't be installed in temperatures less than 70* or it crumbles and has no durability either.

    Ultimately, what you're probably going to have to do is go ahead and drive over the patch, allow it to settle and back fill as necessary until the patch quits moving. Once it has stabilized, have the low areas filled, a fabric barrier installed, and a top coat applied to the driveway.

    Your next question is likely whether or not the plumber should be held accountable for the driveway. No, this sort of thing is to be expected, however, he should have been more forthcoming with what would happen and taken some additional steps to prevent problems with the driveway area. A good example is that you've probably seen is when utilities trench across a street to replace drains, water supplies, what have you. Even though these trenches are mechanically compacted and capped correctly, they invariably still settle out more as traffic drive over the spots, necessitating the street crew to come back out and add more patch. Your driveway is going to be a smaller version of this scenario.
    Thanks again for the detailed feedback Spruce. Unfortunately you were correct, our plumber never mentioned anything about the asphalt compacting in any way, shape, or form. When I had originally asked him about how long it'd take to dry (since I noticed it was "squishy", and I could move it around easily with my toe), he just said it'd take a couple of weeks to harden.

    There are two things that most concern me about this. The first is how will this continued compaction effect the pipes? Should I be wary or worried that as things compact, the space below the pipes may also compact and possibly damage the pipes themselves?

    The second is the miniature sinkhole that leads under our house. As this continues to cave in over time after he "repairs" it, do I just keep dumping my own earth into it and doing my own cold-patching to maintain it? Do I need to install some sort of sealant or barrier so water doesn't stream under the home when it rains?

    Do I need to get someone else out in order to look under my crawlspace and make sure that the water going through isn't eroding the structural integrity of the home?

    The way our driveway is set up, we actually have no need to drive over the trench, and can avoid that for an indefinite amount of time. It sounds like the only way to eventually fully correct this would be to get a driveway contractor out and correct the damage, or simply have the entire driveway redone. We plan to do that in a year or so, perhaps we'll need to have that done sooner than later.

    I truthfully wouldn't mind if this trench had simply settled the 1/4 inch or so. It's the three holes that most concern me. In my minds eye I can see water pouring into those holes and undermining both the home and the driveway over time, causing damage I don't want to be happening.

    Sorry for all of the questions. This is my wife and I's first home, so we're full of questions and short on knowledge.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Plumber laid asphalt is collapsing - should I be freaking out?

    Quote Originally Posted by MBeach View Post
    Thanks again for the detailed feedback Spruce. Unfortunately you were correct, our plumber never mentioned anything about the asphalt compacting in any way, shape, or form. When I had originally asked him about how long it'd take to dry (since I noticed it was "squishy", and I could move it around easily with my toe), he just said it'd take a couple of weeks to harden.
    You're welcome.

    The fact that he said it would take the asphalt several weeks to harden is proof that cold patch was used. This is not a surprise because it's the easiest and cheapest product and it does work for many applications, including yours. The failure is in the lack of soil compaction while backfilling the trench.

    Quote Originally Posted by MBeach View Post
    There are two things that most concern me about this. The first is how will this continued compaction effect the pipes? Should I be wary or worried that as things compact, the space below the pipes may also compact and possibly damage the pipes themselves?
    Assuming that the trench and pipes were done properly, there should be little to no movement of them. Also, assuming you had permits and inspections of the work, the inspector should not have passed work not done properly.

    Quote Originally Posted by MBeach View Post
    The second is the miniature sinkhole that leads under our house. As this continues to cave in over time after he "repairs" it, do I just keep dumping my own earth into it and doing my own cold-patching to maintain it? Do I need to install some sort of sealant or barrier so water doesn't stream under the home when it rains?

    Do I need to get someone else out in order to look under my crawlspace and make sure that the water going through isn't eroding the structural integrity of the home?
    Because the footprint of the house is so large, there is little to no movement or pressure exerted by it on the ground around the pipe, neither will the small void cause any structural issues to the home, so your continuing to backfill as necessary will be the correct course of action. The only way this would become a problem is if a large sinkhole continues to repeatedly appear, this would indicate that there is a leak in the pipe that is washing the dirt from around the pipe into and down the drain.

    What I would recommend rather than to continue backfilling and cold patching, leave the cold patch out and just cover the area next to the house with a piece of plywood for the time being. Once the hole is filled and quits settling, then go ahead and add some cold patch to it. Similarly with the driveway, since the patch is already there, add more as necessary, but don't remove what is already there to try and add dirt underneath it. Once the ground has stabilized in 6 months to a year, then have the patch professionally repaired.

    Quote Originally Posted by MBeach View Post
    The way our driveway is set up, we actually have no need to drive over the trench, and can avoid that for an indefinite amount of time. It sounds like the only way to eventually fully correct this would be to get a driveway contractor out and correct the damage, or simply have the entire driveway redone. We plan to do that in a year or so, perhaps we'll need to have that done sooner than later.
    The most that's going to happen by driving your car across the patch is that you'll cause it to compact a little faster. There may be some minor peripheral damage to the existing asphalt on either side, but nothing that isn't easily fixed when the driveway is retopped.

    Quote Originally Posted by MBeach View Post
    I truthfully wouldn't mind if this trench had simply settled the 1/4 inch or so. It's the three holes that most concern me. In my minds eye I can see water pouring into those holes and undermining both the home and the driveway over time, causing damage I don't want to be happening.

    Sorry for all of the questions. This is my wife and I's first home, so we're full of questions and short on knowledge.
    Settling is inevitable whenever you dig a hole. The amount of settling will be directly related to the depth of the hole and the amount of compaction that was done as the hole is backfilled. Your new sewer line is probably somewhere around 2' to 4' deep, that depth and the noted lack of compaction is going to result in a fair amount of settling. overall I'm guessing probably somewhere between 3" and 8", again, depending on the depth of the trench. Generally, this is no cause for concern.

    As mentioned earlier, if the sink holes continue to appear to the same depth and size on a regular basis, then there is a problem with the pipe that will need to be addressed, what you've described and shown so far this is nothing out of the ordinary settling of the soil.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Plumber laid asphalt is collapsing - should I be freaking out?

    My sincerest thanks! I'm resting much easier now.

    If I could give you some form of forum kudos, I would!

    Kind regards.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Plumber laid asphalt is collapsing - should I be freaking out?

    I accept cash, checks, and all major credit cards ...

    You're welcome.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Plumber laid asphalt is collapsing - should I be freaking out?

    ohhh great there goes his head a few more sizes

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