HomeownerHelpful Info: Home Maintenance

Drain & Sewer Cleaning & Repair

Drain/Sewer Cleaning & Repair Educational Content

Every sink, toilet, and other plumbing fixture in your house has a drain. Every fixture drain is connected to the main waste and vent stack by a branch drain line. This main stack connects to the main sewer line, usually located near the lowest point of the house. In your home’s plumbing system, vent pipes also lead to the main waste and vent stack. The main stack vents at the roof. This vent is essential. It vents sewer gases and regulates air pressure, which keeps fluids flowing smoothly through the pipes.

In most cases, a clogged drain is caused by hair, food, grease, or a foreign object. Drain screens and strainers can help catch larger items. Remember that your sinks are not garbage cans. Don’t put grease or food down the drain. Limescale can also slow a drain and cause pipe corrosion over time. Limescale is caused by hard water. If you have a drain that seems to clog often, you might be dealing with improperly installed pipes. Pipes installed with sharp turns or insufficient slope, for example, are very likely to clog. Poor ventilation in the plumbing system is another common cause of drain clogs.

While plungers and chemical drain cleaners will get rid of a clog, they aren’t perfect. The suction from a plunger can damage seals and cause leaks. Chemical drain cleaners are corrosive and can weaken pipes. Instead, many plumbers recommend enzyme cleaners for preventative maintenance. Enzyme cleaners won’t fix a completely clogged drain, but if you use them regularly, they will prevent clogs.

Clogs in the branch drains and main waste vent stacks can be accessed from one of the system’s cleanout points. There is, however, a possibility for backed-up waste to come rushing out at these cleanouts. Most people prefer to hire a professional plumber to handle the job. Along with their experience and knowledge, plumbers bring specialized tools to a job. Augers and drain rods are long, flexible tools that can reach and dislodge clogs. A water jet shoots a high-pressure stream of water at the clog.

Your home’s main sewer line connects to all the drains in the house. This main sewer line also connects to the municipal sewer line, which begins at the curb in most cities. Sewer problems are sometimes hard to detect. But because they can be catastrophic (and expensive), it’s important to know the signs of a problem.

Your sewer system probably won’t clog without warning. You may begin to notice sinks draining very slowly or hear gurgling noises coming from the toilets. You might also see water pooling around the floor drain in the basement. Waste backing up into a bathtub is a sure sign that something is wrong. In the case of a more advanced problem, like a broken or collapsed sewer pipe, you may even see clues in your yard. Low or soggy spots in the yard or a collapsed section of the sidewalk or driveway are all signs of serious sewer problems. Have them investigated by an experienced plumber as soon as possible.

In most cases, main sewer line clogs are caused by tree roots that have grown into the pipe. Sewer pipes in newer homes are typically made of PVC. This durable plastic is slick, which helps prevent clogs. Homes built before the 1960s often have sewer pipes made of clay tile or cast iron. Cast iron pipes can last for many years, but clay pipes have a lifespan of less than 50 years. If your home has clay pipes, there is a good chance that those pipes have cracks in them. Unfortunately, those cracks make the pipes susceptible to clogs from tree roots. Sewer lines can break or clog from corrosion, shifting soil, and tree roots. They can also break due to old age and problems in the municipal waste infrastructure. You will need the help of a professional to diagnose and solve these issues.

Sewer video camera inspections. If your sewer line clogs on a regular basis, have a sewer and drain specialist investigate. A video camera inspection is helpful in these cases. With a nearly 100-foot-long snaking camera, the technician can see down the length of the pipe. This makes determining the cause of the problem a lot easier. It will probably be hard to determine exactly what you’re looking at on the video screen. Fortunately, plumbers are pros at interpreting the video footage. Your plumber will be able to point out pipe breaks, tree roots, and other blockages.

Trenchless sewer repair. Digging a trench to reach a broken sewer line is not ideal. It is a time-consuming job that does a number on your landscaping and hardscaping. Luckily, many companies now offer trenchless sewer repair. In a trenchless job, the crew uses a machine to insert a durable liner into the damaged pipe. Relining a pipe does reduce its diameter slightly. This type of repair isn’t always an option. But if your plumber recommends it, then opt for a trenchless repair. This type of work is usually less expensive than standard sewer repair. It’s also far less of a mess than conventional methods. These are a few situations where trenchless sewer repair may not be the best option. The new pipe will be installed in the same location as the old one. If there is already a low spot in the yard that cannot be repaired, don’t use the trenchless method. Instead, you’ll need to go with the conventional pipe replacement method. This way, the grading issue can be fixed at the same time.

Damaged sewer pipes that are close to buried utilities will also need to be repaired conventionally. Most trenchless methods break the existing pipe as the new pipe is installed. As the old pipe is forced out into the surrounding soil, it can damage water lines or gas lines. Contractors should locate and mark any buried utilities before beginning sewer repair work. Be sure to hire a reputable, experienced plumbing and drain company for any sewer work. They will know the most current repair methods and how to make sure you’re getting the repair work you need.

In most cities, any plumbing problems that occur on your property between your house and the curb are your responsibility. Sewer problems that occur from the curb out into the street are handled by the city. These regulations may differ depending on the city or county. Always check your area’s laws to determine who will pay for any sewer main work.