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May 10, 2019



Oh, for a house built all the way through by someone who really knew what they were doing and who really wanted to do it well. I hope you end up with an excellent driveway that lasts a good long time!


KC -Those houses are few and far between. We have bad cement, but excellent drywall. The initial inspector commented on how level everything was.


Our lovely little house does not appear to have anything *completely* right about it (although the orangeberg sewer pipe, now finally all gone after an amazing and partially criminal [not us] saga, was probably the Maximally Wrong thing about it), but it is still a lovely little house. One just needs to not look too closely at... oh, basically anything. But it is in general, *mostly* right, and it is snug, and it works well as long as you work within its electrical-system and other limitations, and I think we maybe even don't have any asbestos! So that is nice. :-)

(but it would be helpful for really Properly Built All The Way homes to be more frequent than they are, sigh.)


KC- a criminal sewer pipe? Where I live there was a celebrated murder where the victim was eventually found in a septic tank 16 years later. Or like mob-level criminality? Was anyone arrested?


Right, so the sewer pipe saga.

When we bought the house, we were told by the owners that the sewer pipe had been replaced a couple of years ago (maybe 1, maybe 3, I don't remember).

Within three months of buying the house: sewer pipe blockage. Rotorooter guy shows up, takes a look, says "oh, it's orangeberg." He demonstrates this with a poky thing - stands on the lawn, shoves poky thing into our sewer pipe. (!!!) (it used to be legal to make your sewer pipe out of orangeberg, which is basically just wrapped layers of tar paper. It lasts for a while, then fails in more or less spectacular fashion, as 1. it naturally degrades with time and use, 2. rotorootering it rips off a layer or so each time it's done, 3. tree roots have absolutely no problem getting into it, and 4. once it's weak enough, it crushes from the weight of the soil above it. It's almost all gone from the US, since it was only legal to install for a while, and most of it fails within less than the amount of time between then and now.)

Turns out that whoever was hired by the previous owners to replace the sewer line only replaced the first five feet of sewer line (up to the little vertical coming-out-of-the-ground pipe right behind the house that tells you whether the sewer is backed up or not - it maybe has other uses, but this is what we have mostly used it for), not the length of sewer line all the way through the back yard and out to the sewer main. We asked the previous owners about this, and tried to find the people on the receipt, but no dice - gone out of business or simply uninterested, and the previous owners were also, uh, uninterested in taking responsibility.

So! We looked around and tried to find a definite Full-Fledged Company that had been in business more than 5 years and that was more than one guy doing plumbing, so that if there *was* any problem within a few years, we'd have someone to complain to. We picked the most promising-looking established company, called them, and a guy came out and dug and whatnot - we weren't home at the time he did the work, but the yard was plowed up, the fences were trashed, and altogether it looked like they'd replaced the sewer line (also, it worked again). When my husband paid the guy, he had him make out the check to a name rather than a company, but this is a small town: not too surprising. The invoice was right, the uniform was right, the van was right, so, sure, we can make the check personal rather than to the company. (spoiler: we will not be doing that again)

Turns out that this guy, while working for the company, was doing "side jobs" with company resources that the company wasn't seeing a dime for. And doing them badly. And then, when the company owner caught him (he also stole physical stuff from the company, from the sounds of it?), he left and went to Connecticut.

Anyway: this guy had replaced *all but the last bit* of the sewer line; once he hit tree roots and harder digging near the sewer main, he quit and left that final section of orangeberg in place, presumably figuring he'd be gone by the time that last few feet finally failed.

It failed. The company we hired asserted that there was no orangeberg there. We disagreed (the rotorooter guy and also the city sewer line inspectors thought it looked, from the sewer cams both way, like orangeberg, so we felt reasonably confident about it). There was a lot of arguing back and forth, but since we'd hired The Company to do it and had the invoice from them and all that, The Company finally agreed to replace the section of remaining orangeberg *if* it was orangeberg (but would not reimburse us for the scope and cleanout that had been necessary due to, y'know, sewer failure) and otherwise, all repairs at our cost.

It was orangeberg. They replaced it (with half the team working on it having won their bet and reputedly being quite cheerful and half the team having lost it) at no cost to us. (they didn't fix the other shoddy element of the work, that the sewer pipe has a dip in the middle of it instead of being fully sloped from house to sewer main, but that's less likely to cause us major problems than, y'know, crushed orangeberg is).

If that guy now in Connecticut ever comes back to this town (or state) again within the statute of limitations, he's going to be slapped in jail pretty enthusiastically, I suspect. But as it is: state lines and a chunk of distance, they're not likely to get any money out of him, so The Company has decided it's not worth trying to get ahold of him and sue him. But that's how you get a mildly criminal saga out of a sewer pipe...


KC - the story makes all your aggravation worth it.


There are a couple of aggravation-y bits left out of the story:
1. when The Company was first contacted (before they figured out it was done by this guy), because it was slightly over a year since the sewer pipe install, they said no dice, no checkup, no repairs, because it's over a year and you can expect sewer pipes to have problems again. I totally grant that if we had, I don't know, flushed entire bags of clumping cat litter down the toilet, or used a backhoe in the yard and broke through the sewer line, then it would not be their fault if the sewer line went bad within a couple of years, but otherwise? That's pretty shoddy to not even offer to check whether the premature failure was their fault (like if they left a gap in a connection somewhere).
2. I *like* small businesses; I like for them to not get cheated; this rogue worker (not rouge worker) cheated them. But their response to it was pretty terrible all around (the final conclusion was that since the invoice we had said replaced sewer line from point X to point Y, then if the sewer line had *not* been replaced from point X to point Y [which was the case] ,they were responsible. But not for it being done badly.). But I haaate sticking the bill on a relatively small business, so that caused emotional dissonance even though the facts of the case were pretty clear and even though the small business in the case was being kind of a jerk from first inquiry to the end of the line.
3. This is reputed to be the best full-service plumbing company in town.

I'll grant that the story is worth a lot, but *maybe* not worth these remaining niggling itches? But yes, for all the aggravation that is over with: worth it. :-) (even the "not having a functioning toilet for however long it was"!)


KC - well, okay. I think having the company admit their responsibility without a fight would have been preferable. The people doing our driveway are on the better business bureau three times, and each time it’s because the owner promised something extra and didn’t deliver. In each case he eventually delivered.


Overpromise and underdeliver! Er... wait, that's not how that's supposed to go.

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