Main Sewer FAQs
What is a main sewer line?
The main sewer line is the one pipe that carries all waste water out of your home to the street.
What’s the difference between storm and sewer lines?
Storm drains are used to channel rain water to nearby lakes, rivers and streams. Sewer lines, also called sanitary sewers, take waste water from your home and send it to a municipal treatment plant. Both storm and sewer lines can clog.
What is water jetting?
A water jet sends highly pressurized water through a nozzle at the end of a hose, which is inserted into the drain line. Water jetting is a relatively recent addition to the array of tools available for drain cleaning service. This is available for commercial jobs only.
What is preventative maintenance and do I really need it?
Preventative maintenance is having your main sewer line cleaned on an annual basis… before it becomes an emergency. Not only does preventative maintenance prevent sewage from backing up into your home, but it prolongs the life of your main sewer pipe. If roots penetrate the wall of the pipe through tiny fractures, they eventually turn the fractures into cracks. Preventative main line cleaning will keep those roots cut, slowing down the deterioration of the pipe or building up in dips in the line.
How do roots grow?
Tree and shrub roots require oxygen and water to grow. Growth rate is variable and is affected by the soil depth, water supply, aeration, mineral supply and temperature. Root systems are made up of large, permanent roots for support and stabilization, and many small, temporary feeder root and root hairs. These small roots are the primary water and nutrient absorbers. Most roots can be found in the top 6 to 18 inches of soil, where water, nutrients and oxygen are found. Roots generally extend up to two or three times the height of the tree, but can extend as far as seven times the height of the tree. Large, mature trees may have thousands of feet of root system searching for nutrients. Roots will be less extensive in clay soils than in sandy or well-drained soils.
How does weather impact root growth?
During drought conditions and in the winter, roots will travel long distances in search of moisture. When trees and shrubs get thirsty, they follow the trail of moisture vapors escaping from small cracks, holes, or poorly sealed joints in the water and sewer lines. The roots penetrate the opening to reach the nutrients and moisture inside the pipes.
What happens when roots get inside lines?
If not disturbed, the roots will completely fill the pipe with multiple hair-like root masses at each point of entry. The root masses quickly become clogged with toilet tissue, grease and other debris flowing from homes and businesses to the main sewer, resulting in reduced flow and slowed drains. A complete blockage may occur if the roots are not removed and root growth impeded. Once roots have entered the pipe, they continue to grow and expand, exerting considerable pressure at the crack or joint. The increased pressure often breaks the pipe and may result in total collapse, which requires repair or replacement. Some pipe materials are more susceptible to root intrusion than others. Clay tile pipe is easily penetrated and damaged by tree roots. Concrete pipe and PVC pipe may also allow root intrusion, but to a lesser extent than clay pipe. PVC pipe usually has fewer joints and the tightly fitted joints are less likely to leak as a result of settlement around the pipe.
What does it mean to run a blade/cutter/razor?
The blade is the part attached to the end of a drain cleaning cable which cuts through the blockage in the drain pipe. Some people also refer to the blade as the cutter or razor.
When cleaning the main line, why should you use a 6” blade if the opening (the clean-out) to the drain pipe is only 4” in diameter?
For most homes, the main sewer line starts out as 4” in diameter, but goes into a 6” line just outside the foundation all the way to the city connection in the street (or septic tank in some cases). Therefore, in order to assure complete and proper cleaning of the entire main sewer line, it is necessary to use a 6” blade.
Should I get my main line cleaned if I have never had a backup?
Was your home built in the 1980’s or earlier? Do you have, or have you had in the past, trees or large shrubs or bushes in your front yard? Do you dislike having sewage backed up in your basement? If you’ve answered ‘Yes’ to all of the preceding questions, you should have your main line cleaned with an optional video camera inspection to determine the condition of the pipe. However, if your entire main sewer line is made of PVC plastic, then a preventive maintenance is usually not necessary unless dips are present and known.
When should I repair or replace a drain or sewer line?
There are obvious times when a drain or sewer line should be repaired or replaced such as if the line cannot be cleaned due to excessive callouts, bad shifts, or breaks in the line.
Do I still need to do preventive maintenance on my main line if I’ve had my sewer line repaired?
Unless you had the entire line replaced with PVC plastic, it is a good idea to have preventive maintenance done. Many times, a ‘spot repair’ will be done on a line.
What is a ‘spot repair’?
This is the replacement of only one or more sections of the pipe. When a spot repair is done, new PVC plastic replaces the broken area and is connected to the viable portion of the pre-existing pipe. As time passes, the part of the pipe that is not plastic becomes susceptible to the same conditions that caused the original destruction (usually tree roots.)or due to ground shifting.
Branch (Kitchen sink, toilet, bathtubs, etc) Line FAQs
Should I clean my own drains?
Although people think that they are saving money by doing it themselves, but most often they’re doing the job wrong. The inside of a drain runs deep and most homeowners do not have the appropriate equipment to ensure that drains are fixed, safe from danger, and cleaned properly.
Should I use chemical drain cleaners?
Unless you are a chemist and fully understand the composition of the chemical, we do not recommend you to use chemicals to clean your drains. These chemicals may restore some of the drain flow but can damage your drains and pipes. These chemicals are also terrible for our water systems, as they are not biodegradable. Plus they may be harmful to yourself or the technician that comes to clean the line when the chemicals fail.
What should I look for in drain cleaning chemicals?
You should use one that does NOT contain acid, but enzymes or bacteria groups that aid in the breakdown of waste. An acid based cleaner could damage the plumbing causing weak spots, cracks and holes. We carry a product called ProClean Concentrated Drain Cleaner for homeowners looking to keep their pipes pristine, avoid drain issues, and quickly obliterate plumbing problems. It is advised that customers get into the habit of a regular monthly treatment with ProClean Concentrated Drain cleaner as the absolute easiest way to keep their drains from clogging.
ProClean works by employing natural bacteria to transform grease and organic buildup into carbon dioxide and water that dissipates easily. A treatment with ProClean will also coat the inside of the drainpipe, which prevents buildup from gaining a foothold in the future. ProClean is safe to use on all drainpipes, no matter the material because it uses all-natural biological elements. ProClean can be used on copper, PVC, and iron, and in kitchen skins, bathtubs, laundry drains, floor drains, and showers. Top features of ProClean are: ecologically safe, non-toxic, commercial strength potency. In addition, ProClean is NSF Approved which means it is safe to use in and around food areas.
Can I prevent clogged drain lines?
There are various ways to help prevent clogged drain lines. Catching hair and other objects before they go down your drain will prevent the need for frequent drain cleaning. For shower and bathtub drains, use a strainer to catch hair and soap pieces. For kitchen sinks, don’t send your cooking oils and meat fats down the drain! These can solidify. To properly dispose of fats and oils, place them in a sealing bag or container and discard them with your regular trash. Finally, do not flush heavy tissues, any wipes (even if they say biodegradable), or hygiene products down the toilet as these are notorious for causing bad blockages. However, with even the best preventative measures in place, tiny particles, residues, hairs, oils, and soaps can get down your drain and form buildups. When these accumulate slow drains and even total clogs can result.
Should I use a garburator?
It is highly recommended to avoid garburators. First, it can be costly to clean out all the fats, oils, grease, and general gunk that gets chopped up and passed through garburators. Basically our sewage systems were designed to deal with sewage so when people start using garburators a lot of extra stuff get added. This puts more strain on our sewage system which leads to increased maintenance requirements. Second, the environmental cost is also great. Lots of people don’t realize that items put through the garburator end up in the sewer system, which is disposed of at a landfill.
Should I have preventive maintenance done on branch lines drains in my house?
Usually, the repercussions of a backed-up sink or slow draining bathtub are far less severe than a sewer line back-up, so most often it is not necessary to do maintenance on these secondary drains. However, if you are planning a party, or are having a large number of people over, and you know you are not very good at keeping grease, noodles, rice, stringy foods (like celery), and other no-no’s down your kitchen sink drain, it may be a good idea to make a pre-emptive strike against the inevitable morning-before-the-guests-arrive-back-up.
What would clog a laundry drain?
Laundry drains will clog over time due to the buildup of dirt, mud, lint, and other particles as filters don’t always catch everything. In addition, they may share the same line as your kitchen sink which could cause the clog.
I’ve got a fruit fly problem. Could this have something to do with my drain?
Yes. All of your plumbing should have water traps which form a seal by holding a little bit of water in U shaped bend. This water keeps smells and other things from coming up through your pipes. Larvae could be living in the standing water. Flush them out by sending a few gallons of hot water and a little bleach down any drains you think could be the culprit.
My toilet is plugged. Should I plunge it?
In many cases, a plunger will do the trick. We do caution the use of plungers as you run the risk of blowing out the wax seal at the base of the toilet. In most cases, a toilet auger is a better tool. When in doubt, simply give us a call for efficient and professional service.
Why does my toilet keep running?
If it sounds like your toilet is constantly running, you may have a problem with the rubber flapper, which blocks water from entering the bowl. You might also have a problem with the chain, the connection between the flush lever and the handle. There are other possible problems but those are two of the most common. Over time, the flapper may not seal properly due to warping, mineral deposits on the surface or breakage. Whatever the cause, the issue should be addressed immediately as you are potentially wasting gallons of water every day and are easily replaceable.
Is it okay to have standing water in my floor drain in the basement?
Yes, that is normal. The water prevents sewer gas from seeping back up the pipe into your house.
What are some common causes of sewer smell in a basement?
After the odor has been verified not to be natural gas, some of the common causes of sewer smell are caused by dried up floor drains or broken or missing clean-out covers. Both cases are easily remedied. Simply pour some water into the floor drain if it has dried out. If the clean-out cover needs to be replaced, you can find them in most hardware stores and plumbing supply houses.