Looking straight down into the pipe, the morning sunlight illuminated a channel of water, flowing briskly along ... and then slowing down ... and then creeping upwards, filling up the access pipe. It was confirmation that the blockage to the system was somewhere downstream, inside the sewer lateral itself.
So yes ... this work was very necessary.
Here's what it looked like!
First thing on the list: Carve a big hole in the middle of the street.
They got about 30 seconds in, when the air compressor made a funny noise, and the jackhammer stopped.
They found the defect (a valve head sheared off for some reason) and it looks like it's time to go get another compressor.
Meanwhile, a second team is cutting out several squares of sidewalk with a concrete saw.
After a few hours work, they had this. About eight feet down is a junction they'll need to replace.
A third team has excavated the junction where the city's sewer lateral hooks up with the house plumbing.
At the end of the first day, they had the joint exposed, and had set out the new pipe that was going to replace it.
They spent most of the next day using a method called "pipe bursting" to get the new pipe in place. They basically hauled the new pipe in along the tunnel made by the old pipe, smashing the old pipe to bits as they went. It was much better than digging a trench along the entire length, which would have destroyed the driveway, sidewalk, and fence.
Here's the joint they extracted:
And here are a few fragments of the sewer pipe they replaced.
According to the inspection reports, the old pipe was made of ceramic and in extremely poor shape, with multiple root intrusions and at least two "lateral displacements." It's amazing it lasted as long as it did.
Here's the new pipe, installed with a new joint, hooked up to the house plumbing. Not quite ready for the pressure test, but getting there.
Meanwhile, two other crews were filling in the holes at the sidewalk and in the street. Look at all this chaos!
This fellow is using a gigantic one-legged hopping device to pack down the soil very thoroughly. It makes a pretty funny noise.
By the middle of the third day, they'd done the pressure test, brought out a city inspector who issued a certificate of compliance, and filled in their excavations. The area next to the driveway was more-or-less back to normal, but needed some more grass...
... The sidewalk had been re-filled and the cement replaced ...
... And the hole in the street had been filled up and re-paved. They finished half a day ahead of schedule.
The whole operation was relatively painless, even though it's a nasty blow to my finances for the time being. The plumbing is happy again. I ran the garbage disposal, put in a load of laundry, flushed the toilet, and then drained the bathtub, all at once. ... not so much as a gurgle of complaint came from the pipes. In a way, I'm glad I got this taken care of now, because even though the contractors worked efficiently, they made an epic amount of noise. It would have aggravated any house-bound tenants for sure.
The concrete saw was the loudest ... Imagine a blender set on the fastest setting, and filled with sand and rocks. Now imagine it six feet tall. Now cram a banshee inside. That's almost as loud.
While they were working, all the rest of the blinds arrived. That's the next thing on my list...