So, you were told you need a sewer cleanout outside your home. So, you ask yourself the standard questions, the ones that were drilled into your head as a child in science class. WHY? WHERE, WHAT type of material should be used, WHO should install it? WHEN do I need to have it installed and HOW will it be done? As a Plumbing Contractor that has installed many of these helpful sewer line cleanout stations through the years of our Company’s existence, I will attempt to answer all of those questions that we posed above.
WHY? It’s the first question that comes to mind. My house has a clean out in the basement already!
Typical Basement Sewer Cleanout
That cleanout in your basement is a handy tool! BUT, when the drains inside the house are backed up, that pipe is FULL (Surcharged) of all the water and debris that has been drained through the fixtures in your home. YES that includes the toilets! Removing that plug in your basement when the sewer is blocked outside of your home will result in all of the water that is being held in the system in your home, AS WELL AS OUTSIDE, to come forcefully flowing back into your home!
Dueces Wild. Sewer Backup
Your plumber or rodding technician would have no choice but to remove a toilet or some other fixture above, or at the highest point in the system to access the full size pipe in your home. In the old days before Lawyers and Lawsuits, some plumbers would go on the roof of your home and attempt to rod the drain from the vent stack on your roof. This vent should, depending on local codes, be the same size as the biggest drain line in your home. Today companies just won’t perform this service due to Workman’s Compensation insurance and just really good sound judgment. There aren’t any Contractors I know that will drive down that street for safety reasons. So, WHY? With a cleanout on the exterior of your home, the plug inside would not have to be pulled! The exterior fitting will have a cap or threaded plug at or about the ground level that can be removed OUTSIDE your home. Yes, there may be a sewerage over flow, but it won’t be in your basement! This OUTSIDE CLEANOUT allows all of the work to be performed on the exterior of the home rather that inside. If that doesn’t seem to matter, think about this for a moment….this isn’t the first rod job that your technicians equipment has done, so it’s been in some other nasty location before coming into your home, the equipment always generates dripping or spraying water from being submerged in sewer water while it rotates…..get the picture?
WHERE? The next question is always where does it go and how do you pick a good sewer cleanout location? In our areas the house drain comes out of your house in 4” pipe. The material it is made of is inconsequential. Within 5’ of the house the sewer changes in size from 4” to 6” in diameter. This is done to allow the sewerage to flow longer distances to
Sewer Line Cleanout Excavation
the city main sewer. If left in the smaller size, the sewer would experience frequent “soft” blockages due to normal use. Not to say many sewers aren’t installed in the same 4” pipe for long distances and work just fine, but our area requires the up size of pipe. The where in our area comes in here. We always excavate at the transition of those two pipe sizes. This allows us to install a 6” cleanout on the bigger portion of the pipe allowing the use of larger root cutting equipment on the mechanical rodding equipment. It also creates an entry point for root control treatments from outside your home, eliminating the intrusion and possible mess that can accompany those treatments. The only time we do not install a cleanout at this point in the sewer is when the compromise, break or impassable blockage is further downstream. Then the sewer is excavated and repaired at that point. A 6” cleanout is installed in the process of putting the pipe back together.
WHAT? What type of materials should be used? Well that all depends on where you are at in the world! We encounter every type of material from Cast Iron to old Transite pipe, a pipe made shortly after World War II that was made from, for lack of a better term, compressed cardboard saturated in tar. Ya, great stuff! But we follow today’s codes in our areas that tell us what type of material to use for the repair. 90% of the time the material is PVC plastic of some sort with a grade level specified by the City or Town that we are performing the work in. The cleanout fitting itself should be of a type that allows cleaning in BOTH directions. To the street AND back to the house. To us it really doesn’t make much sense to install a cleanout that is only capable of rodding in one direction. It’s kind of like paying full price for a new transmission in your car that has only drive…no reverse….just doesn’t make sense! The repair should have stone bedding placed under and over it to stabilize the soil AFTER it has been inspected if it is required in your area. The inspection serves two purposes, it protects you as the homeowner that the repair has been performed in compliance with your towns local codes and it protect you again because if your contractor is not Licensed or Insured he will not be able to “pull the permit” through your town.
Two-Way Sewer Cleanout
WHO? In Illinois the repair should be performed by a Licensed Plumbing Contractor. Not only the Contractor needs to be licensed, but also the plumber or technician (I hate that word) that is doing the work. This ensures that the “man on the job” is trained and competent to perform the repair.
WHEN? When does it need to be done? Ultimately it is up to you as the homeowner. Many times we discuss the option of installing an outside cleanout with our clients if there are repetitive blockages in the system, or if there is a small access point to the system that does not allow larger cutting equipment into the sewer. If a job has been extraordinarily messy, having to drain the house piping of its contents before being able to rod the sewer would also be a time we would discuss a cleanout with our clients. Being a costly endeavor, sometimes finances can be a limiting factor. You may just need to “save up” to have one installed. What ever the reason is for your decision, it is ultimately your decision!
HOW? The how of all of this is the most critical to a successful outcome. First the pipe must be excavated using digging equipment or dug up by hand. Once excavated down to the sewer a 3’ or longer trench should be cleaned out along the running length of sewer to be repaired. The existing pipe will be cut out and removed and a new section of piping with the cleanout fitting attached will be put in it’s place. The underside of the pipe as well as approximately one foot of gravel will be placed under and on top of the repaired section to stabilize the new pipe and ground surrounding it to help ensure it does not sag or settle. Then the previously excavated soil is placed back into the excavation and compacted every foot to ensure the excavation will not settle over time and cause a rut or trench in the yard. Sod or black dirt and grass seed then is placed over the excavation to complete the repair.
Expert Plumbing Service, Inc. believes we should complete every job we begin. We always offer the option of seed and or sod as the completion to our job. Leaving piles or mountains of dirt behind just doesn’t seem like good service to us.
May your pipes flow as freely as a mountain stream!
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