• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com pie forums private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • Leigh Tate
  • Pearl Sutton
  • r ranson
stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • paul wheaton
  • Mike Haasl
master gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • John F Dean
  • Jay Angler
  • Beau Davidson
gardeners:
  • Jordan Holland
  • thomas rubino
  • Nancy Reading

Cast Iron water main

 
Steven Willis
Posts: 24
4
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've decided to move into a 150-year-old house. I knew there would be issues to progressively tackle, and I am cool with that. Until I am not.

Maybe everyone noticed the major freeze the U.S. had a little while ago? I certainly did and my wood stove was on top of it. Buuuuut, the main water line, where it comes into the stone cellar is just next to the steps coming down from the cellar doors. Ice wind swept into the cellar and froze the connection of the cast iron pipe (coming out of the stone wall) and a hose (???) to the rest of the plumbing system.

Still, not a big deal. A space heater and curtain to block the inside entrance of the cellar from the wind and the water flowed again. Buuuut... the seal was damaged, and water has been leaking from, not actually the connection, but the edge of the cast iron pipe just BEFORE the connection to the hose. Okay, it's an old house and this was bound to happen. I was already dealing with a blocked cast iron sewage pipe for the kitchen sink. The plumber I brought in, long before the freeze, estimated to clear the block and replace the cast iron and marry it to PVC would be over $700. He had replaced the pipes under the sink (which was not what I had asked him to do, but my fault for not micromanaging) and charged me $400 for that! (I called him to clear the block. No, it still isn't clear.)

I know, I veered off there. Since this new leak could be very costly, I called the plumber. No response, no voicemail. Called another. No response, no voice mail. Called another. This one told me to procreate with myself because I was 45 minutes away from his location. (I live in a very rural area.) Another said I could go on a waiting list but she didn't think they would ever come out my way. The final option I had was a national company, that would schedule me, then cancel hours later. (I argued with the lady the last time it happened, and she basically told me I was a waste of time and money because I was too far.)

So now I have a leaking water main. Well, I duct taped the heck out of it so now it slowly drips, but that still counts as a leak. And I have a sewage pipe that is blocked. Both are cast iron. If it were copper, or PVC, I'd have no issue attempting to replace/repair myself, but they are big, rusty, cast-iron pipes. I'm not sure I won't make the situations worse. But I don't know really how to fix them. I checked the forums and found nothing on cast iron pipes. (Maybe I didn't look hard enough.) But I was thinking of trying to cut and replace the kitchen sink pipe, where it connects to the sewage with PVC and marry it with a Fernco coupling? I think that is right.

I think if I screw that up, it's a drain and a sink. A pain, sure, but not the end of the world. If I successfully fix it, then I could try the main? I don't know. Is there another way to fix a cast-iron pipe that is rusted through? And what do I use to cut the pipe?

I appreciate any suggestions.
 
John C Daley
pollinator
Posts: 4077
Location: Bendigo , Australia
369
dog gear plumbing earthworks bee building homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Can you give us a photo.
I can tell you often plumbers use LPG gas discharge to freeze the pipe above where you are working so they can take off the tap etc.
Alos I have removed and replaced taps on live lines by having it open and getting very wet during the operation.
 
Sam Benson
Posts: 47
Location: Southeast Minnesota
9
foraging bike building
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Let me start by stating that I am not a professional plumber. I have done some of my own plumbing work, though.

I'm sorry about the lack of willingness of your local plumbers to service your location and situation. I foresee an increase in your plumbing skills.

Fernco coupler sounds right. My advice: acquire every coupling, tool, tape, fitting, clamp, solvent, and cement you think you might need and that your budget will allow; youtube the problems you're trying to solve like you're a professional Gen Z  kid; ask around in any other forum you can find; when you're finally as ready as you could be, start the repair, curse and flail, finish the repair; then return everything you didn't use.

Plumbing isn't black magic, but knowing which fitting to use where, and how is the knack. If you try enough different ways, you'll eventually figure out which one is right. Good luck!

 
Steven Willis
Posts: 24
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks Sam, it is most likely the direction I am going. So far have several ferncos and cement and ordered the blade to cut the pipe. John, I am at work now but as soon as I get home I will grab an image an upload it. Thanks for your guys help.
 
John F Dean
master gardener
Posts: 4835
Location: southern Illinois, USA
1557
goat cat dog chicken composting toilet food preservation pig bee solar wood heat homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I suggest you consider one more option before you begin.  Certainly, if this looks like it will be a pretty simple fix, then continue as you currently plan.  The question that haunts me is where does this pipe originate, how long is it, and how deep is it?  Given that the stars align correctly, a better option might be to replace the whole thing.  

I know the odds are against this option, but I have done any number of repairs only to realize that a quality fix would only have been a little more expensive in the short term and much more inexpensive in the long term.
 
Glenn Herbert
Rocket Scientist
Posts: 3958
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
384
5
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I wish you the best of luck getting your water supply fixed. Learning how to do things yourself is a really empowering feeling.

You mention that your water main is a cast iron pipe. I have never heard of cast iron being used in pressurized water service, at least not in a domestic context. (I have not looked into city mains materials as I have never really lived in a city.) What diameter is the pipe that comes through the wall? How much space is there between the wall and the nearest fitting? What kind of fitting connects to the pipe? Can you see screw threads at the joint?

I presume you are on a municipal water service. Is there a valve cover or some evidence of a place to shut off the water outside the house? (It would likely be a small cast iron plate set into the ground near the street.) I would ask the city about the possibility of turning off your water supply for a short time to do repairs. There has to be a way for the city to cut off the water to a house that suffered catastrophic damage without going into its basement and capping a pipe.
 
Steven Willis
Posts: 24
4
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Afternoon George,

I say cast iron only because it is rusting, badly. I guess it could be something else. The drainpipe for the sink, that IS cast iron. Not sure about the circumference of the water main, but it's small. Maybe about the size of a baby's arm, no bigger. It comes directly out of the stone foundation and connects to the piping of the house in a way I have never seen before. It looks, and I cannot be certain without shutting the water off and undoing the connection, almost like its attached to a water hose. Well, I mean the first couple of feet of pipes in the house IS exactly like a water hose. Like I said, never seen that before.

I also have one of those "keys" (is that the right word?) to shut off the water at the street because that is the ONLY shut off between the leak and the pipe going underground. As for screw threads at the joint, I'm a total novice in pipes. I'm guessing by "joint" you mean where that pipe attaches to the house's pipes? And, no, no screw threads, just what looks like a semi clear rubber joint compound, a lot of rust, and the beginning of the hose that attaches the pipe to my system.

(There is maybe 10 inches of this pipe coming out of the stone wall. And yeah, the stone wall is against solid ground, no airspace behind it.)
 
Steven Willis
Posts: 24
4
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Mr. Dean, I wish I COULD replace the whole pipe. But the pipe comes out of the stone wall in a cellar at aprox. four feet below the surface of the ground. This is literally a cellar only under my kitchen. The pipe "appears" to go into the wall and under the formal dining room, four feet underground. Or at least for a good five to ten feet it is under the dining room. The pipe does angle toward the direction of the exterior corner of the dining room closest to the cellar.

Coincidentally, the water connection for the city system, is by the road and only the pipes are metal. The container and cover are hard plastic. The house used a well and cistern for water up until the 90's. The kitchen sink is the only drain in the house that connects to the city sewar system. I'm fighting the elements to build a grey water retrieval for the washing machine, (it just drains into the yard.) and the bathroom sink and the toilet go into a septic tank. (Oh, did I mention the dining room does not even have a crawl space? To access the HVAC ducts, I have to pull the wood planks of the floor up.)

Yay, I'm going to be a terrible layman plumber!   !o{
 
thomas rubino
rocket scientist
Posts: 5350
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
2242
cat pig rocket stoves
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Steven;
Oh boy, do I feel your pain.
So, until the '90s this house used a well.
The connection from the city water sounds like a funky homeowner install.
PVC pipe was common in the 90s, and any plumber would have used it.
If you can fix it, great, I really hope so!  
I suspect that there are threaded connections inside the basement, if so you should be able to attach to it.  

Be aware that they can drill horizontally these days.
I'm sure the cost is scary, but it's a better option than removing the dining room floor and hand-digging that pipe out.



 
Glenn Herbert
Rocket Scientist
Posts: 3958
Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
384
5
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A 1" iron pipe (which is actually mild steel, not cast iron) would be about 1 1/4" outside diameter. That would be a reasonable size for a house supply from a water main. Is there any galvanizing on it, a silver or gray surface?

Having a key to shut off the supply outside the house makes the job just potentially annoying, not dangerous. You are talking about a more or less flexible hose connecting to that pipe, right? Is there a clamp around the hose at the pipe joint? That would be compatible with there being a gob of silicone or something to seal the joint.
 
Steven Willis
Posts: 24
4
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Glenn,
No grey at all. I'll get an image on here as soon as I can. If there is grey, I can't see it. Just a rust color. Well, not flexible. It is a blueish colored water hose and kind of stiffer than a normal hose.  I think there is no clamp, but from what I remember I wasn't very sure HOW the hose attached to the pipe.
 
John C Daley
pollinator
Posts: 4077
Location: Bendigo , Australia
369
dog gear plumbing earthworks bee building homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Steven, can you show us a photo?
 
Steve Zoma
Posts: 252
51
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Typically, incoming water mains are made up of black iron or galvanized pipe, where as waste water is made up of ductile cast iron.

I would doubt you have a rubber boot plumbing fixture, commonly called a Fernco Fitting because of the water pressure involved, but I could be wrong. Most times Fernco fittings are used on low pressure systems to allow a flexible connection from that of plastic or steel to cast iron, or at some odd angle there is no premade fitting for. They rely on clamps that really cannot hold a lot of pressure.

I am guessing that when your incoming pipe froze, it cracked the fitting. You could try something called "Plumbers Putty". It's just a Playdoh like stuff that never hardens and can pull off some miracles sometimes. You just pull it out of the can, roll it into a snake, and press it around where the water is leaking. If I had to give it a percentage, I would say it works for about 50% of the time.

Flex-Seal and that stuff has never worked for me, BUT you can try it, or use it in combination with the plumber's putty. You can get plumbers putty for about $3 so its worth trying.
 
John F Dean
master gardener
Posts: 4835
Location: southern Illinois, USA
1557
goat cat dog chicken composting toilet food preservation pig bee solar wood heat homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Steve,

Good point.  Maybe 7 years ago, I had a early morning leak in a copper hot water line.  I taped it with some kind of tape I had on hand that I got at Walmart.   It held until this last summer when I did a proper repair.  The tape is not the repair I would suggest, but desperate times ….  
 
Sam Benson
Posts: 47
Location: Southeast Minnesota
9
foraging bike building
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It sounds like the blue hose you're referring to might be PEX.
 
Do not threaten THIS beaver! Not even with this tiny ad:
Explore the possibilities: Permies.com where you can work from home, on the road and on the farm
https://permies.com/wiki/209054/Explore-possibilities-Permies-work-home
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic