Today, we finally had our lateral sewer line replaced. For several years, we have had minor problems with groundwater backing up in our basement with heavy rain, and recently it had become much worse. Since the tree roots that were causing the problem were not going to magically go away, we finally decided to just replace the whole line.
Emily and I enjoyed watching the whole process. Emily spent a long time in the doorway or standing with me on the porch, saying things like "that a big truck!" or "they dig a mud". Indeed, the workers wasted no time in using their "big truck" to dig a large whole right next to our porch and sidewalk, down to the where the lateral sewer pipe connected to the cast iron pipe coming from the house. The 55-year-old clay pipe was disturbingly easy to break, which explained how roots got in so easily. After the pipe was opened up and the hole was cleaned up a bit, a nice young lady from the city of Grand Rapids drove in with another big truck.
The truck contained a large "root saw". The root saw is essentially the most powerful squirt gun I have ever seen. The orange hose is inserted into the sewer line, and the pointed nozzle head sprays huge volumes of water at extremely high pressure (thousands of PSI), enough to cut through tree roots.
I was eager to see the devilish snares of roots that had plagued my existence over the last few months, but I soon realized I was to be disappointed, since (a) the sewer gentlemen did not dig up the entire sewer line trench as I had expected, and (b) the root saw pretty much blasted all the roots down the pipe and into the main sewer line. On its way back out, the root saw did snag a darkish bunch of roots the size of a small football. The sewer gentlemen assured me that this was probably only a fraction of what had been in the pipe, and were impressed that we had any water flow at all through the pipe.
After the root saw did its work, the nice lady from the city of Grand Rapids took her leave, and the sewer gentlemen trimmed and cleaned up the old clay pipe. Then, they inserted ten foot sections of new PVC pipe into the old clay pipe and pushed it through, all the way out past our sidewalk and almost to the street.
This resulted in a complete replacement of the lateral sewer line for which we as homeowners are responsible. The last step was to install a vertical cleanout pipe, fill in the hole, and hide the cleanout opening under a shrub. Ah, the wonders of modern plumbing.
Finally, the pleasant surprise of the whole job was that none of the sidewalk or porch needed to be removed or replaced as we had originally expected. Bonus!