Understanding Drain and Sewer Cleanouts

The drain cleanout is known as a sewer cleanout when it’s located outside. These are access points where the drain connects to the lateral sewer line that goes out to the main sewer line. The main sewer line may be to a septic tank or the municipal system depending on where you live and sewer line access on your property. These cleanouts allow a plumber to gain access to the main sewer line that removes the waste from your home. The cleanout is essential when you have severe drain clogging problems or a sewer backup into your home plumbing system.

The Drain Cleanout

This is a pipe that’s usually 3-6 inches in diameter and it may have a different appearance depending on the age of your home and plumbing system. Modern homes have a drain cleanout located in a white or black capped plastic pipe. In older homes, the drain cleanout may be made from copper or cast-iron to match the plumbing system materials. The drain cleanout is usually located inside the home, some common locations include basements, bathrooms, utility rooms, and garages.

The Sewer Cleanout

This is very similar to the drain cleanout, but the location will be different and they are usually found outdoors. A sewer cleanout is typically found in homes that are located in warmer climates or homes that are built on a slab foundation. A home may have multiple cleanouts located indoors and outdoors as required.

How to Locate a Cleanout

You will need a screwdriver, pipe wrench, flashlight, and a pair of rubber gloves. Locating the drain and sewer cleanouts is a great way to learn more about your home plumbing system. But, you should not attempt a DIY clearance or repair because it’s easy to make a mistake. If you have a problem with a cleanout, contact your local plumber for expert assistance. To locate an external sewer cleanout take a walk out to your septic tank or the municipal sewer line at the edge of your property.

Working backward is a useful way to locate the sewer cleanout and municipal sewer line manhole covers are marked with an “S” for easy identification. Walk back from the septic tank or curbside and look for a pipe that’s protruding from the ground. This pipe will be in alignment with the municipal sewer line and from there it should be easy to trace a straight line back to your home. The pipe may be hidden by plant growth or other obstructions, but it will be black or white in color and sealed with a cap. The size can vary from 3-6 inches and it may have a plastic or metal cap.

If your home is connected to a septic tank, look for the sewer cleanout around the foundation of your home. It will typically be located less than three feet away from the home exterior which should make it easy to identify. Under this pipe is the sewer line that connects your home plumbing system to the septic tank.

Look for Extra Cleanouts Indoors

In older homes, there may be additional cleanouts located indoors that extend from an exterior wall. These are usually located in attics, basements, and crawl spaces. Searching for these cleanouts will require the use of a flashlight and you’re looking for Y-shaped or T-shaped pipes. They are usually capped at one end and are used to gain access to the plumbing system pipes. Some homes don’t have a cleanout at all and in this case, it’s a good idea to contact a plumber and get one installed.

5 Regular Drain Cleanout and Cleaning Benefits

Investing in regular drain cleanings for your plumbing system is a simple way to protect your home. In certain locations, it’s illegal to have no cleanout and a cleanout is required to clean the drains properly. Let’s take a look at five drain cleaning benefits. They are:

1.   Protect and Extend the Lifespan of the Drains

The build of mineral and chemical deposits and other debris will occur gradually. These deposits can lead to corrosion issues which in turn will cause leaks. Regular drain cleaning will remove these deposits, prevent corrosion and extend the useful lifespan of the drains.

2.   Preventing Drain Clogs

The accumulation of materials that are poured or flushed into drains can cause clogging problems. Regular drain cleaning can remove these materials and prevent the formation of clogs that can damage the plumbing system.

3.   Mitigating Backflow Risks

A significant drain clog can create a great deal of pressure in the pipe that can cause damage. The cleanout can be used as a kind of safety valve to relieve that pressure and mitigate the risk of a sewer backflow into the home. Uncapping the cleanout will allow the plumber to drain excess water and prevent flooding problems.

4.   Protecting the Yard

A home that has no sewer cleanout can be prone to yard flooding problems from a minor drain line clog. Having easy access to a cleanout and regular cleaning will improve access and prevent the need for excavations if there is a problem.

5.   Lower Repair and Maintenance Costs

Easy access for drain cleaning will lower the costs of maintenance and any repairs that may be required. Excavations can add a lot to the cost of a repair bill and this can be avoided with a cleanout.

In Conclusion

If you have an older home that doesn’t have cleanouts, it’s a great idea to get one installed. They make it easier to access the drain lines which is important for effective cleaning. Regular cleaning is a sound investment, it improves the health and longevity of the system. When you consider the costs of plumbing repairs and the replacement of pipes, regular cleaning and maintenance looks like a bargain. Adopting a proactive approach reduces the risks of an unexpected clog, leaks, or a backflow into the home.

If you need regular drain cleaning and maintenance for your home plumbing system, contact your local professional plumber today.