Sewer Repair & Service

Archived Q&A and Reviews

March 2008

I have an old clay sewer line from my house to the city sewer main. I have had it snaked twice in the last 18 months (after it popped open the clean out from back- pressure) and inspected each time with a camera. It has some sags and there is evidence of some small root intrusion. I had been hoping to wait on replacing it until the old city sewer main is replaced, but am now thinking that this might be the time for replacing our line. I would appreciate any recommendations for a contractor. I am particularly interested in trenchless replacement. Thanks. liz

we used Nova Engineering (Richmond) now called terra nova engineering 524-1220. Speedy, good work, neat, reasonable. susan

March 2008

Anyone had this done recently and happy with the job? We have one bid for $6,000, but don't know how good the plumber is, and what the going rate is. As I understand it they thread a pipe inside the existing pipe, and it should last for 100 years.

Mr. Rooter Plumbing, 1516 University Ave. Berkeley 510-843-6378. Family owned and operated. Not all plumbers do sewers, they do. Great work. Julie

We used Carlos Reyes plumbing (510.215.2131). He was quick, efficient and the price was good. We highly recommend him. Meredith

Feb 2008

My sewer line appears to have collapse and will need a new lateral from my house to the main. I have had several quotes from 7000 to 13,000 to fix. Does anyone have any experience with the company Streamline plumbing? or any company they liked? thanks. Faun

I have not heard of Streamline. Our sewer line failed and we used Nova Engineers out of Richmond. Recommended by BPN. We were happy - they were reasonable - ours was around 4500 and it connected into the street. Your quotes seem high but I don't know the circumstances (how long, etc) good luck! no longer blocked

I can highly recommend Louis Ray, owner of a small sewer repair & plumbing company called The Plumbing Ministry. He was recommended to me by ''Michael Your Plumber'' who has done some plumbing work for us as well and is all over BPN with positive reviews (he mostly does non-sewer plumbing), so I really trust his judgement. Michael loves him, Louis is very sharp with a lot of sewer experience before he founded his own company. He has done two sewer related projects for us now, moving and replacing a bunch of old lines and moving the clean out valve. Lots of digging and pretty messy. Anyway, very sincere guy, easy to work with and very knowledgable. Tell him I sent you if you call him. His cell is (510) 812-2541 Alexandra

Call TERRA NOVA ENGINEERING in Richmond (510/524-1220; pipefixers [at] Our work was done in Sept 07. We had 120 feet of sewer replaced, original terracotta line had collapsed. The new line ran from house to Oakland city line, which was reattached. The city main was deeper and further back than had been surveyed, our parcel is pretty flat. The terracotta was replaced by cast iron, but we were told PVC would be fine too. PVC is cheaper, used for ''blow out'' jobs,. b'c our original had collapsed, it was retrenched and regraded. Cast iron is sturdier, but more rigid, PVC has better flex for earthquake country. We took bids ranging $16000 to $4000. TERRA NOVA estimated $6200, but with extra work it came out to just under $7000. The extra work was dig a tunnel under our fence to get the city main (10 to 15 feet from the original estimate) and four feet deeper too! We were very impressed with Terra Nova. They were fast q two days They cleaned up scrupulously. My mother was at our house with our two year old, she said naptime proceeded calmly and uneventfully. I have nothing but praise for Shelia and Mirka, the husband-wife owners. Shelia does the bookings and billings. She is knowledgeable and explains details very well. Mirka is an engineer, and does the onsite estimating, gets the crew going on their plan, and is on site for problems and inspections. The company obtains all permits and meets with inspectors, we did not have to be on site for that. The Crew leader was great as well. Please consider calling Shelia. sara

Please call Patrick Bailey at Emergency Plumbing and Drain, at 510-381-5000. Our old ceramic sewer pipes collapsed a couple of years ago, and I got a range of ridiculously expensive bids rather like yours. Patrick's bid was very reasonable (about $2500 at the time), and he was able to come out quickly and get the work done (trenchless sewer replacement). Since then I've recommended him to several of my neighbors, and he's ended up replacing their sewer pipes as well. He's licensed and a BBB member. Jennifer

2007 Recommendations

Oct 2007

Hi, About half a year ago, for the first time we had a sewer line backup and had roto-rooter clear it. Now I am thinking of having someone come out and inspect it and clear or repair/replace if necessary, because i don't want to suffer future back ups. Hopefully trenchless if anything.. Does anyone have any reviews/recommendations for roto rooter/pipespy/rhino rooter? Thanks! Dan

hi i would not use a ''rooting'' service for replacement of your sewer line. i have researched this and it's better to have an engineering company ''A'' license to this work as it involves excavation, sometimes quite deep. i've heard several negative things about a couple of the companies you mentioned (the ones with ''rooter'' in their name) pipe spy is decent but pricey. we used nova engineering (now called ''terra nova'') good work and reasonable prices. we live in berkeley and i remember the inspector told me she liked their work. ssc

We had our lines replaced (in Oakland) about a two years ago, and I couldn't be happier with the work done by Emergency Plumbing and Drain (510-381-5000). We had the initial assessment done by Pipe Spy, who came out and videoed the lines so we could see that the blockage was on our (and not the city's) property. They were great at this stage, but then when we asked for an estimate, they kind of vanished. I kept calling back until finally I got back a price quote that was way higher than I thought it should be. We also called Harry Clark, who acted quite disinterested and gave a very high quote. Emergency Plumbing did our neighbors trenchless replacement years ago, and they have been very happy with the work done, and so are we. I can't remember the owners name, but he was prompt, courteous, and the work was done with a minimum of disruption to us.

One thing to be aware of -- the city charges a fairly high flat fee for this type of work, which drives the cost up (since it will be included in bids you receive). When the work was done, I could see why, since they had to dig a fairly sizable hole in the street and fill it back in again. The city had to come out both times to check on progress.

After years of having our lines snaked annually, and worrying if guests are putting ANYTHING other than TP down the toilet, it's a relief to just flush and not have to worry. Merrilee

2005 Recommendations

November 2005

Our sewer line gets blocked with roots and we have to have it drained at least twice per year. It is evident that we need to replace it. We have been using Mr. Rooter, who gave estimate of around $6000 for the trench-less technology. Does this seem reasonable? Have others used Mr. Rooter and if not, which plumber did you use? Any advice is welcome! Thanks! Charlotte

In response to the subscriber who was shocked by the outrageous trenchless replacement price quote from Roto Rooter - join the club! I too had a very bad experience with Roto Rooter several years ago, but was then fortunate to find Pacific Drain and Rooter Service. They charge a VERY reasonable price for clearing the sewer line of roots, plus the other gunk that gets caught on the roots. I have them come about once a year, and they charge me about $100. I have not yet replaced my old sewer line (sleeved clay pipe, which is how the roots get in), but am in the proess of getting a quote from Pacific Drain and Rooter Service to do this. They are at 510-452-4606; 4855 Hilltop Drive, El Sobrante. I know that they travel at least as far as Oakland. Give them a call, the are great! Pallas

Should you find yourself in need of sewage work I wanted to offer an unsolicited review of Rhino Rooter (510-559-9592). As a builder, my husband subcontracts Rooter Companies quite frequently for sewage repair. On a recomendation from another contractor, he used Greg at Rhino and couldn't stop talking about how great the experience was. They came out promtply, did an extremely thorough job and above all were considerably less expensive than the service he had been using. Susannah

Feb 2005


We need to have our sewer line replaced from the house to the street. Has anyone used a company called PipeSpy? Have you had any good or bad Trenchless Sewer experiences with this company? Does anyone have any comments on using PVC pipes verses AB pipes or cast iron steel? Joy

hello -- in reply to the request for info about pipespy -- we used them for a trenchless sewer repair 2 years ago and they were great -- reasonably priced, polite, efficient, and they do great work -- we haven't had any problems with our sewer system since then (our pipes used to back up fairly often due to a tree on our sidewalk that sent its roots down into them)-- i would highly recommend pipespy. Marguerita

2002 Recommendations

Sept 2002

After a long search trying to determine why we've got water in our crawl space that was never there before, we've figured out that our neighbor's sewer line (grey water) is leaking, a significant amount. The City of Oakland verified this (using dye) and is in the process of ''citing'' the owner, though the owner wants the test re-done when he's there. The property is rental property, and the owner seems very reluctant to fix the problem or even acknowledge that it's his problem. We have no idea what he's going to do to stall even further. We're also not sure the City will actually enforce their citation. Plus, we're concerned about damage from the water (undermining our foundation, mold, who knows). Has anybody been in a similar situation? How much damage can be caused by moist ground over an extended period? What did you do, physically or legally? Do we need to hire someone to ''prove'' it's his water? Should we hire someone to evaluate damage to our property? If so, any suggestions? What do you even look for in the yellow pages? Will we have to sue the owner to get him to fix the problem with his pipes, especially if we want it done sooner rather than later? We've never dealt with anything remotely like this--we've only been homeowners for about 5 years--so any advice would be very welcome.

Regarding the damage that can be done by ''moist ground over an extended period''. I have owned and lived in 4 houses in the East Bay over the last 20 years, through wet spells and dry spells. All of the houses have had issues at one time or another with moisture underneath, 3 had sump pumps to keep the water level low. After you have had a muddy stream flowing under your foundation and through your finished basement during a storm when the power has gone out, and the sump pump isn't working, and then mushrooms growing in the basement carpet afterwards, you become somewhat sanguine about the effects of moist ground. The worst effects I've experienced due to moist ground are having to replace carpets and moldy wall board in finished basement areas, and the seasonal shifting of the house due to expansive soils. The leaking sewer pipe should be fixed and soon. It will cause problems. But in the short term the effects of moist ground in a crawl space should not be expected to be worse than what you have seen in a rainy year. - Anwyl

Leaking pipes from a neighbor's house: I have had this same problem. Water under a house from any source wreaks terrible damage by promoting mold, dry rot, and powder post beetles. You may need to install a French drain (look it up via Google) betweeen your house and the neighbor. Getting into a dispute with them may be more expensive in the long run that just protecting your house by draining off the water. A French drain will also help direct rainwater and groundwater away from your foundation. Many contractors will install them. Good luck! - Christine V.

This kind of leak can cause a lot of damage. You definitely don't want to let it drag on too much! The City's citation is good but you're right that enforcement could be a problem. If the neighboring owner doesn't respond promptly, then you need to collect some information and try to resolve it yourselves first and deal with the neighbor after. The basic process would be to hire a lawyer to write a letter to the neighbor demanding that he fix the problem (and analyze and explain to your your legal options); hire an engineer or appropriate expert to determine how to fix the problem from your side of the property line, if possible, and get an estimate of the cost; if the neighbor does not respond by a reasonable deadline, have the work done yourselves; and finally sue the neighbor for your costs. If you have to go this route it will be expensive and a great big headache, but it's better than allowing unsanitary water to undermine your foundation - which would be a lot more expensive and a much bigger headache in the long run. - Holly

Our next door neighbor's sewer pipe was leaking raw sewage. The good news? It's fixed. The bad news? It took over a year from the first complaint to get it repaired. You're already on the right track by contacting the city of Oakland, though I had one guy say that the only time he did anything about my complaint was when I called. When the inspectors come, it would be good for you to be there, too, and get a copy of the report. If the city determines that the repair needs to be made, they'll give the owner a set amount of time to repair it. If the owner doesn't repair it within that timeframe, then the city will have a hearing - you have to push to be notified as to when this is. If the city determines that the repair must be made but the owner won't fix it, the issue will be sent to the Oakland city council to approve funds for the city to make the repair and then put a lien on the owner's house for the cost. Aside from being persistent, my number one piece of advice is to contact your city council member and get her/him involved. - Jen

December 2002

Our sewer line needs to be replaced in San Pablo. Weeds have infiltrated the line at most joints. Any suggestions for companies that do sewer line replacement? Trenchless experience? Cost? Our experience is that the industry is spotty in integrity. Any suggestions on how to navigate here would be appreciated. Thanks - judith

I can't personally vouch for them, but they have done the sewer lines for my two immediate neighbors (each side of me) and they were both very happy with their work. Neat and FAST (two days, I think? maybe 3?). I'm almost positive the name of the business is NOVA - it is a family business and the owner is professional and seems to be really honest. He was working in our driveway for a couple days so we got to know him pretty well. - Kathy

A few months ago we replaced the main sewer line that runs from our house into the middle of the street. We too had old terra cotta pipes that cracked and allowed roots to enter the line. We got multiple quotes and went with a small company called Nova Engineering in Richmond. A neighbor recomended them to us after they had their line replaced. I too recomend them highly. They were very honest about what problem we really had, and various options for resolving it. (Unlike the various rooter services who I didn't trust at all.) By the way, cutting down your trees won't mend the cracks in the some point they'll have to be replaced regardless if a tree is there or not. - ARZ

2003 Recommendations

February 2003

We too had to have our sewers cleared every year due to roots and finally had them replaced last summer. We went with trenchless, which was no cheaper ($7,500 in our case) but much quicker and less disruption. As to whether roots can get in again, I can't answer that yet! The trenchless pipe comes in pieces, but they seal it together before installation so it's ''seamless'' which is supposed to make it much harder for roots to get in. We used Knight Sewer and Drain 510 305 5357/582-4619 and were very happy. (He mostly does Alameda County) - Deborah

I had a trenchless sewer installed about 5 years ago and so far so good. I did not have to dig up my garden to do it, which was my issue also. My old 1920ms sewer was clogged with roots. My homeowners insurance paid for the new sewer- check it out! - Cfl

I replaced my sewer line from the house to the street last year with a trenchless line. I used Harry Clark Plumbing in Oakland and thought they did an excellent job. Tthe fact that there was little disruption to the yard and landscaping was a big plus. The job cost $6,800. - s. bryson

Earlier reviews