My Foundation Leveling Money Is Now Buried In My Front Yard

…in the form of a brand new sewer line going from the house to the street.

New sewer line 2

Isn’t it beautiful? 🙂

You know what’s funny? I was pouting and throwing a fit like a spoiled child about this just a few days ago (because all I really want to do is get our foundation leveled so I can start adding wainscoting, pretty trim, etc. to the rooms), but now I’m kind of excited about it.

I know…what a strange thing to be excited about, right? A new sewer line is exciting?

But I just love seeing old, outdated, non-functioning things on this old house being replaced with new functioning things that I know will last for several decades to come. And when the plumber dug the trench, and I saw the old clay (clay!?!) sewer line all jointed, crumbly, and filled with roots…

New sewer line 3

…I just got a bit excited for my house getting this upgrade, and I knew that we made the right decision to put this ahead of the house leveling.

And now we’ve got two very easily accessible cleanouts, whereas before, we had none. Not even one. I love seeing things being brought up to current code like that. 🙂

As local code requires, we’ve got a cleanout at the house…

New sewer line 1

…and another one at the street.

New sewer line 5

The only thing I wasn’t excited about was seeing them dig a huge, deep trench right next to my beautiful oak tree.

New sewer line 6

I panicked at the thought of them ripping through very big, very old, very established roots to get to the sewer line. I went out and looked, and the biggest roots I saw were about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. I’m just hoping and praying that the tree will be okay. I’m sure it will. It has a massive root system going out in every other direction, so I’m almost certain it’ll be okay.

Can you tell I’m trying to reassure myself? 🙂 I’d just be so incredibly sad if we lost that tree.

Oak tree in my front yard with orange leaves in the fall

It’ll be okay, right? 🙂

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  1. Oh yeah. Been there. We were in our house 2 days before sewage was backing up in our downstairs shower. $5k of unexpected plumbing bills later, we have a lovely working sewer line. It was a shock and a disappointment but at least now we know we don’t have to worry about it.

  2. Little need to worry about disturbing your Oak’s root system. Oaks have what is called a “taproot”; one very large root that travels downward, with lots of smaller roots going off of it in all directions. The biggest threat to old Oaks is far more likely to be any high gusting winds — they can literally uproot these trees because they *don’t* have a complex large root system.

    1. Tree’s main “feeding” roots are the ones that are deeper in the soil. Typical utility digging will not damage those as they are generally not digging down further than ±15 inches. I used to work for a utility company and people would worry all the time about their trees and landscaping when we would have to repair breaks or leaks on the edge of their properties, adjacent to the street or whatnot. Sometimes we would try to gently dig up their bushes and replant them, with varying degrees of success, but we never lost a large tree as far as I know. As Krikit said, the only problem with some tree species is that they are not well-prepared to withstand immense windstorms, but generally an established tree will not be threatened by the loss of a few roots.

  3. We have lived in our home with big Oaks in the front yard for 22 years. We have done all manner of digging in our front yard and never lost an Oak (knock on wood..LOL). Your beautiful Oak is simply stunning. I am sure it will it won’t be bothered with that little trench beside it.

      1. Funny, when I saw that trench dug just beside your gorgeous tree, the first thing I thought of was “Wow! Kristi has amazing, rich dark soil!!” LOL I am not a gardener. Just dropping in a “glass half full” moment. 🙂 Thinkin’ positive! I live in Florida. I dig a foot down, all I get is sand. Dig two feet down, I hit water! I bet you’re gonna be a fantastic gardener, Kristi! 🙂

  4. We had an old clay sewer break in our first home. With sewage back up into the basement. YUCK! We had purchased flood insurance on the advice/salesmanship of the lender. When the disaster struck we used that insurance for the repair and cleanup. The lender said “Wow, I have never seen anyone actually need that insurance before!” LOL. We have purchased flood insurance ever since. Haha. I am so glad that you feel better about this expense. It would have been a shame to level and then have a backup ruin your new foundation. All good things come to those who wait. Also you beautiful Oak will be fine. They are strong trees. Congrats on your new sewer!

    1. I had no idea that flood insurance could be used for such a thing! How fortunate that you had it!

      Your experience reminded me of a story Matt told me of when he and his family moved from California to a brand new house in Oregon. The builder somehow forgot to tie in the sewer line to the city line, and every time they would try to flush a toilet or run water in a sink, it would back up. 😀 The family had already moved in, so they had to bring a Port-a-Potty into the garage while it was being repaired. And this was in the middle of winter in Oregon. 😀

  5. Sometimes it is the simple things that are the most joyful. I can say from experience that after slow draining pipes and backed up toilets, a new sewer line is a wonderful thing.

  6. Makes you want to have a “come look at my new sewer line” party, doesn’t it?! I told my husband we were going to have a “look at our new roof” party when we had to do a complete tear off. Although you can’t see it and no one really appreciates it, it is a necessary evil i guess!

  7. I know how you feel Kristi. As soon as I moved in I had an unexpected $800 plumbing bill AND and unexpected $8000 foundation bill. So my kitchen and bathroom are waiting to be updated until I have the money. I am thankful I have a house and had the money for those necessary repairs!! It’s all a part of living in an older home.

  8. You have a good point, now with every major expense you are getting many, many years of payback with functioning systems.

    That tree is just gorgeous, I love the picture where you can see the whole thing. How old is it?

    1. Well, all three arborists who looked at it said they would estimate around 100 years old. But the previous owners of the house said that they can remember a time when there were no trees in the yard at all, so that would put it at about 60 years old.

  9. It’s all about priorities when you own a house… not want you want but what the house needs. Now you will go forward knowing that and there’s one more thing checked off the “gotta upgrade” list!

  10. Tree will be fine, it looks like they didn’t have to dig too deep, I expect down south the frost line isn’t as deep as it is up north. As for the new sewer lines, you can now flush with confidence! I’ve had to deal with roots before in a old sewer lines and it isn’t fun. House is looking awesome! Can hardly wait until tomorrow for the next update 🙂

  11. Security that you won’t have sewage back up into your home? Absolutely priceless. Flooding is one of the worst things to have happen in your home. Your sewer lines are drop dead gorgeous, lol.

  12. My son had to do that the first 6 months he lived in his home. Very expensive but he was very glad to get that done and updated, too. When I saw your photos I was shocked at how shallow the trench was but you’re in Texas and the ground rarely freezes very deep, right? In the midwest the trenches are usually 4-5 feet deep because a severe winter can make the ground freeze for 3-4 feet deep. Awesome decision!

  13. Worth the peace of mind knowing you won’t have backup in the wee (no pun intended) hours of the morning. Nothing worse than being half asleep and having to clean up a mess. Way to go, Kristi. Get your basics done and you can have more fun with the remodeling/decorating.

  14. So many of us out here have been there too. Less than 3 months in our new to us home the septic was backing up into our shower. What a UGLY stinky site that was! We too had roots in old piping. So in went the new lines AND a new septic and drain field system…thousands of dollars later. Breathe..breathe…breathe. Houses are just plain money pits! At least they dug up your grass/yard BEFORE you did your landscaping! Welcome to home ownership!

  15. It is a truly beautiful sight! And I’m sure your house is thanking you for eliminating the sewage backup potential. Just think of what might have happened to your beautiful floors. You are making the skeleton of your house strong and it will reward you in many ways. It is a shock, though, when we first learn about the dire straits of some of our necessary home services. Glad you were able to shift into pride and joy.

  16. Kristi, the peace of mind is invaluable. I had to smile, living in Utah, our underground sprinklers have to be trenched even deeper that your new sewer line. Our sewer lines are even deeper! Not knowing the soil, that magnificent tree should be just fine judging on the picture.

    1. Yep, I’m in central Texas. We don’t get much cold weather here. Or when we do, it doesn’t last very long. Like this month, we started out in the 60s and 70s, then dropped down into the 20s and 30s for four days. Then it hovered in the 50s for a while, and now we’re right back up to the 60s and 70s. 🙂 Gotta love “winter” in Texas. We can’t ever really put away the summer clothes. We even had to turn the A/C on in the living room today because it got so warm!

  17. You definitely will not be sorry for tending to this important issue.
    I once owned a very old home and had to tend to plumbing issues, etc.
    Plumbing and electrical are soooo important.
    I am enjoying seeing each step you take…Only problem, it makes me want to do things over in my home…I think that my husband wants me to delete you! LOL Just kidding of course!

  18. The most important thing you will have at the end is a structurally sound house. Décor changes all the time. You may even make some changes to the décor plan between now and when you are actually able to it. Décor should be alive, so don’t worry that it isn’t done asap.

  19. I’m glad you got excited by your new sewer line and with good reason. I think you had the priorities in the right order. When I think of all the catastrophes that this could of caused it makes me cringe. Now you can rest easy instead of wondering when something was going to happen (clay?) Yipes.
    I will cross my fingers that your tree thrives, too. Since they didn’t have to cut any really big roots I think it has a good chance. Who knows, it probably made it though the laying of the original clay pipe.

  20. Wow, Kristi, that is one beautiful new sewer line! 😉 I’m betting you think it’s gorgeous now that you won’t have backup into your house, and frankly, I don’t blame you one bit. It’s that structural stuff that we don’t think about often, but when it goes, wow can it cause nightmares. The house will get it’s foundation leveled before you know it. In the meantime, this type of stuff is telling you it needs to be replaced, and once done, you won’t have to worry about it for a good long time. So, it’s money well spent.

    Your old oak tree is a genuine thing of beauty. I’m glad it’s going to be ok, even with the digging.



  21. You can now rest assured that the plumbing is in great working order. That’s more important than pretty. As you wade through all these necessary structure problems, you will know that nothing terribly expensive can go wrong for years and years. I’m so happy you have this behind you, and that you spent the time waiting in such a beautifully productive way. Now you can work on your beautiful ottoman!

    1. Yep, that’s exactly what I did today — worked on my ottoman. 🙂 I got all of the tufting done. Still need to finish the edges of the upholstered top, and then build the base this weekend. But the tufting (the hard part) is finished! Yay! 🙂

  22. Kristi;
    My sympathies. I love your blog and your up beat attitude! I like challenges too. We had a water entry PVC line brake as it was not originally placed in crushed stone, it had been placed in gravel which pierced a hole the size of a quarter. You had to only go down a few feet , if you had been up north in Nova Scotia where the ground freezes and with a basement you would have had to dig your trench 4-8 feet down.
    Older houses always have issues we found our rental duplex we own had dry rot issues on an outside bathroom wall. We have been told when ever you open up a wall you need to be prepared for issues. 10 k later we have a new end wall , new siding etc. and plus the renovated bathroom we had planned.
    I still enjoy renovating because I love putting new life into old and enjoy the creativity.

  23. While you may think you spent $1500 on something that wasn’t pretty, just think about the really not so pretty stuff you’d be looking at if you hadn’t spent the money!

  24. Its a drag, but so glad to have it done, now you don’t have to worry. We have huge trees front and back and had to have our front line snaked when sewage backed up, it was not pretty! Congrats, and hope you can move forward on the ‘fun’ house things soon:)

  25. I know it’s not fun, but knowing you won’t face a sewer backup or fire due to bad plumbing or wiring is a lot more important. Although getting the house level is rather important too.

    About that tree, please give it some extra TLC the next few years. It just had some serious damage to the root system for taking up water and nutrients. And like us, the older they get the harder it can be to recover from damage. Unfortunately, it can take 5-6 years for the damage to show up, and many people don’t tie it back to events from that long ago.

  26. Kristi,
    I wouldn’t worry too much about that tree. I have a similar one in my front yard and several in the back yard. You have a better chance of it breaking in half (as happened to one in the backyard during Sandy) than being uprooted.

  27. Getting old sewer lines and piping replaced can be much cheaper than if they burst and damage your yard and your home. It can seem like a lot but it is good investment in the larger scheme of things.