Sewer cleanouts are not everyday topics. As a matter of fact, most homeowners would not know what a sewer cleanout is, what it does, and where it is located. They only become relevant topics when something goes wrong in the pipes or when clogs suddenly become a problem. The truth is, knowing the ins and outs of sewer cleanouts is handy in home maintenance and repair. So before you take that route, best be prepared. Here’s everything you need to know about sewer cleanouts.
In this article:
- What is a sewer cleanout?
- What does a sewer cleanout look like?
- How to find a sewer cleanout
- How to find a buried sewer cleanout
- Benefits of a sewer cleanout
- How to install a sewer cleanout
- Cost to install sewer cleanout
What is a sewer cleanout?
Basically, a sewer cleanout is a capped pipe that connects to the main sewer line. It functions as the dispersal unit of all stock water clogged in the pipes of your home. When there are clogging problems, homeowners must open the sewer cleanout to de-clog stock water. If you do not know how to use hydro jetting tools, best leave it to plumbers. By opening your sewer cleanout, you are preventing wastewater from leaking on the floor or in the gutter, posing threats to you and your family. Sewer cleanouts are usually located near the drain stack. Cleanouts are usually made of PVC or cast iron and they are distinguishable for their cap made of either brass, iron, or plastic. They can be found near toilets or a couple of feet away from the septic tank or the main sewer line.
What does a sewer cleanout look like?
As have been said, sewer cleanouts are pipes that have caps on it. Compared to the pipes laid underground around your property line, cleanout juts up and are distinguishable for their caps. They often come in white, brown, or orange colors.
How to find a sewer cleanout
You would find that finding the sewer cleanout can be a daunting task especially if you do not know where the find begins.
Note that older houses may have their cleanouts lurking inside the home while new model houses have their cleanouts outside. Other than this, there may be more than one cleanout around your property line and you have to locate all of them.
To find your sewer cleanout, here are some steps to follow.
#1. Start searching by the sidewalk
Your home’s pipes are all connected to a lateral sewer line. When you walk by the curb, look for the stamped letter ‘S’ in one of those bricks or just anywhere by the sidewalk. From that marking, follow a straight line back to your home and there you will find your home’s sewer cleanout.
#2. Go to your home’s foundation
Through the years, placing the cleanout near curbs or roads proved to be inconvenient. Thus, if you have a working septic tank in your home, sewer cleanouts are more likely placed a few feet near the home’s foundation. If it is not found there, it will surely be on a location between the curb and the septic.
#3. Indoor cleanouts
As have been mentioned, old model houses usually have indoor cleanouts. They usually come in a T or Y shape where only one side of the pipes is capped. Typically, indoor cleanouts can be found in the attic, the basement, and vent pipes. They can also be found jutting out of bathroom walls.
How to find a buried sewer cleanout
Buried cleanouts are more complex to find compared to those jutting cleanouts. Here are the ways that you can find a buried sewer cleanout.
#1. Get the help of a metal detector
Plumbers always anticipate overgrowth that is why they always leave a steel bar next to it. As such, using a metal detector to locate the buried cleanout will be the easiest way to find it.
#2. Looking for the sign
Again, you can find the location of a buried cleanout by carefully inspecting the markings on the curb. It is typically marked with the letter S and from there, follow a straight line going back to your home. There you will find the buried cleanout.
#3. Check the blueprint
The pipeline layout is surely found in the home’s blueprint. Somewhere in the dotted lines, you will find where the septic tank or lateral line is. If you locate these two, the cleanout is not very far. Perhaps, you can search first the symbols used for plumbing so that you can easily locate the cleanout from the blueprint.
#4. City development plans
If the blueprint checking is unsuccessful and you still cannot find where the cleanout is buried, you can always check with your city’s development plans. You can give them the basic information about where your home sewer line is. They will assist you in locating the buried sewer cleanout by measuring some angles from the main sewer line.
Benefits of a sewer cleanout
In most cases, having a sewer cleanout is not mandated by building codes but having one comes with some perks. If you are looking for reasons to install a sewer cleanout in your property line, here are some benefits that you could get out of it.
Having a sewer cleanout means that regular plumbing monitoring can be cut since pipe clogging is expected to be minimal. More than this, you will no longer have to pay plumbers to clean your sewer lines and the pipes themselves because you already have a direct line to your lateral sewer line.
When major clogging happens, it is expected that your landscape will be dug because your lateral sewer is basically underground. This could be prevented with sewer cleanouts since plumbers can now just easily inspect and amend the clogging through the cleanouts using cameras.
Not many homeowners know but sewer cleanouts also work as drains. When you uncap the cleanout, you can drain excess water from pipes. This prevents water backflow on the floor or when the main sewer (city/tower lateral sewer) is back flowing in your home’s lateral sewer.
Increase home value
If you ever decide to put up your home for sale one day, know that having a cleanout can give you an upside. Potential buyers will always go for a drain inspection and having one already gives the buyer a breather since the plumbing is in place. It also assures them that no serious plumbing repairs will happen anytime soon.
How to install a sewer cleanout
Installing a sewer cleanout means two things: do your research and contact a reputable plumbing service to install it for you.
By researching, it means that you need to get in touch with the officials who issue building permits especially that sewer cleanouts are not universal requirements for homes. In most cases, municipalities have a comprehensive program or grant in sewer cleanout installation and it might be good if you could apply for one.
Two, installing sewer cleanouts is not a job for the ordinary homeowner. The home’s blueprint will be inspected and the pipelines’ layout will be checked. Without the expertise of seasoned plumbers, installing sewer cleanouts can be the mistake of a lifetime.
Plumbers will have to dig up and excavate your underground pipes. From there, they will do a lot of measuring to get the best angle to which the cleanout will be attached. After attaching the cleanout, the cap is boxed in a container so that the pipe body will be buried easily while the cleanout juts out perfectly.
It also pays to know the types of sewer cleanouts that can be installed in your home. Here are the most common types of sewer cleanouts you could check out.
While it does not allow full access to the municipal lateral as it is short by 45degrees, it still provides a direct line from your home’s pipe system towards the municipality’s lateral line.
Modern plumbing is now using this type of cleanout. It forms a U shape in which two pipe shafts connect to the municipal’s lateral while the other one connects to your home’s own lateral sewer or septic tank.
Test tee cleanout
It works like the double cleanout but its T-shape, protruding to a 90-degree angle proves to be a challenge in de-clogging the pipes.
Cost to install sewer cleanout
The average cost of installing a sewer cleanout is in between $600-800. However, in some cases where deeper excavation and more intensive fitting is involved (due to the terrain or landscape of the property and the layout of the pipelines), the cost could reach up to $2000. Added costs would come from the type of cleanout to be installed and the material of the cleanout (PVC, iron, etc.). The materials to be used already falls in the range of $150-450. High-end materials for installation may notch up to at least $500-800. Snaking it to the mainline is another thing. Typically, this costs $100-250. It varies if the pipeline layout is more difficult to snake. If this happens, the estimated cost will double. Maintenance and repair costs might also interest you so might as well mention some cost breakdowns in this section. Cleaning sewer cleanouts range from $350-600 depending on the preferred manner. Rodding costs $100-250 while cleaning through hydro jetting is from $300-500. Repairing broken cleanouts is another thing. At best, the estimated range for this job is from $1000-4000. Now, we have mentioned that it could be strategic to install more than one cleanout, especially in larger homes. But then again, given these breakdowns from installation to maintenance to repair, second thinking is quite normal. Considering the perks of having cleanouts might balance the decision but at the end of the day, the final say is yours to make.
Sewer cleanouts also called drain cleanouts prove to be an essential part of the plumbing structure of the home although it is not required most of the time in building codes. Cleanouts offer a lot of benefits not limited to de-clogging pipelines to avoid backflows and leaking. At best, cleanouts have long-term benefits in terms of preserving the home’s landscape, requiring minimal plumbing maintenance, easier inspection, and adding to the home’s real estate value. With all of these, it is understandable why homeowners need to be familiar with sewer cleanouts especially in terms of how they look, what they do, and how they are located.