Many property owners may feel overwhelmed and uneducated about understanding the ins and outs of their property’s plumbing system. It’s natural to feel this way. However, it’s relatively simple and easy to gain a basic understanding of plumbing care and maintenance. As a property owner and/or homeowner, you may find the more you understand your home’s plumbing system, the more empowered you will feel when it comes to maintaining and caring for your property.
One of the most critical aspects of most modern plumbing systems is the drain cleanout. When located outside, it’s often called the sewer cleanout. As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to leave any plumbing maintenance or repairs to experienced and licensed plumbing professionals. However, as a property owner, it’s also a good idea for you to have some basic knowledge of your plumbing cleanout and its location, particularly in case of an emergency.
What is a Drain Cleanout?
Essentially, a drain cleanout is an access point that connects to a lateral sewer line. The lateral sewer line is, in turn, connected to the main sewer line, which will either be septic or municipal. The cleanout may be either inside or outside of the home. The function of the cleanout is to allow plumbing professionals a way to access the main sewer line that connects your home to either a private septic tank or the municipal main sewer line.
The cleanout plays a vital role in the event of clogged drains or drain backups in your home’s plumbing system.
Typically, a drain cleanout pipe is three to six inches in diameter. The drain cleanout may look different depending on the age of your home and/or the age of the home’s plumbing system. In most modern homes, the drain cleanout is a capped pipe made out of building-grade plastic and tends to be either white or black.
Some older buildings still contain old or original sewage lines made from cast-iron or copper and will have corresponding cast-iron or copper drain cleanouts. The age of your home will give you clues as to what type of drain cleanout to look for.
Plumbing cleanouts may be either inside or outside of the home. Generally, in homes in colder climates, the drain cleanout is somewhere inside the home. Common indoor locations include bathrooms, basements, garages and utility rooms.
What is a Sewer Cleanout?
A sewer cleanout is essentially the same thing as a drain cleanout. The difference tends to depend on the location of the cleanout. In general, drain cleanouts are indoor plumbing cleanouts, while a sewer cleanout is found outside.
Sewer cleanouts are common in homes that are built-in warmer climates. Cold climate homes that were built on slab foundations will likely have outdoor sewer cleanouts as well. In some cases, homes will have more than one cleanout, both indoors and outdoors.
To locate your property’s drain or sewer cleanout, there are a few common household tools that you may find helpful, such as a flashlight, pipe wrench and screwdriver. You may also want to wear a pair of rubber gloves for safety.
As a reminder, you should refrain from repairing your drain cleanout or other plumbing features in your home. Experienced, professional plumbers best do these repairs. Trying to do plumbing repairs on your own can end up causing more significant problems and costing you more money down the line. However, there may be some emergencies, like sudden blockages, in which you may need to locate and access your home’s plumbing cleanout.
How to Find a Sewer Cleanout
If your home has a sewer cleanout that is outdoors, there are a few simple steps that you can take to determine its location.
Walk to Your Septic Tank or Municipal Line
Sometimes, working backward can be an effective technique for identifying the location of your sewer cleanout. If your home is connected to a septic tank, walk out to where your tank is located. If your home is connected to a municipal sewer line, you will need to find the nearest manhole or curb. Generally, these will be stamped with an “s” for ease of identification.
In the case of a septic tank, the sewer cleanout will likely be near the home’s exterior in line with the tank itself. Walk from your septic tank back to your home, looking for a pipe sticking out of the ground.
If your home is connected to the municipal line, the sewer cleanout will likely be found near the curb or somewhere else in or near the yard. Standing at the nearest manhole or curb, you can estimate the direction of the sewage line connecting back to your home. Typically, it will align with the municipal line.
From the manhole or curb, walk back in the direction of your home, scanning your yard for a visible pipe coming out of the ground. If you don’t see anything right away, try clearing yard ornaments, overgrown brush or other foliage out of the way, as those items may be obstructing your sewer cleanout.
The cleanout pipe itself is generally black or white and will be sealed. The size can range from three to six inches in diameter. In some cases, the pipe might even be covered by a plastic or metal lid, so be on the lookout for those types of features as well.
Search Near Your Foundation
In the case of homes connected to septic tanks, the sewer cleanout will nearly always be near the home’s foundation. Rarely will the capped pipe be more than three feet away from the exterior of your home, somewhere between the road or septic tank, and the place where your home’s sewer line passes underground.
Look For Additional Cleanouts Inside
In particular older homes, some properties may have additional plumbing cleanouts indoors or extending out from an exterior wall. Use a flashlight to search around your home for any potential additional cleanouts. They can often be found in locations like basements, attics and crawl spaces.
Many indoor drain cleanouts will be T-shaped or Y-shaped pipes. Often, one side may be capped while the other is not. In most cases, a home doesn’t need to have more than one plumbing cleanout. These additional cleanouts give further access to the plumbing system.
In some rare cases, your property may not have a cleanout. This is most often the case with older properties. If you are unsure whether or not your home has a cleanout, you can hire a professional plumber to come to assess your property. Generally, a professional will be able to identify any existing cleanouts.
If you know that your home does not have any cleanouts, it’s usually a good idea to have one installed. Consult a professional before installing. In nearly every case, installing a cleanout will be the safest and most cost-effective course of action for maintaining the integrity of your home’s plumbing system.
The Benefits of Cleanouts and Regular Drain Cleanings
In most homes, pipes and other sewage features are not visible. Because of this, you may have overlooked plumbing systems when it comes to regular home maintenance and home repairs. Unresolved plumbing issues can be some of the most damaging and expensive.
It’s an excellent idea for any property owner to invest in regular, consistent professional drain cleanings. Regular maintenance of your drains and your overall plumbing system is a relatively simple way to protect the integrity of your pipes and save money in the long run.
Cleanouts offer ease of access and are a relatively simple way for plumbing professionals to monitor the health of your property’s plumbing system. In some places, it is illegal not to have a cleanout. Check your local legislation and building codes in your area. In nearly every case, it’s in your best interest to have a cleanout installed if your home does not already have one.
The following benefits of cleanouts, and regular drain cleanings, demonstrate the importance of plumbing care and maintenance for all property owners.
Regular Cleanings Protect and Extend Drain Life
In nearly all cases, chemical and mineral deposits will build up in your pipes and drains as a natural result of use. If these deposits are left to their own devices, they can cause corrosion, which may lead to leaks. Routine professional cleanings will prevent these buildups and protect the integrity of your plumbing system, which can extend the overall life of your pipes and drains.
Regular Cleanings Prevent Clogging
There are certain items that most adults know not to pour and/or flush down a drain. For example, coffee grounds, butter, cooking oils, eggshells, cotton balls, tampons and many more can cause severe clogs and other plumbing issues. However, even the most vigilant homeowner can’t keep everything out of their drains. Even innocuous items like hair and soap can build up in pipes and drains and cause costly and damaging clogs. Regular drain cleanings can prevent these run-of-the-mill clogs in your property’s pipes.
Cleanouts Safeguard Against Backflow
If your home’s pipes do have a significant clog, the cleanout can function as a kind of external drip, relieving pressure and preventing backflow into your home. Simply uncapping the cleanout pipe can allow you to drain out excess water and thus prevent backflow and severe flooding in your home.
This is especially true if there are external issues with the municipal water line to which your property is connected. These kinds of backflow situations are usually uncommon, but should they occur, your sewer cleanout can act as a fail-safe against flooding.
Cleanouts Protect Your Yard and Landscaping
Because a drain cleanout gives plumbers easy access to the internal plumbing systems within your home, it’s unlikely that plumbing maintenance would cause any damage to your yard or landscaping. In contrast, in homes that do not have sewer cleanouts, even relatively minor clogs and flooding issues can result in your yard becoming an excavation site.
Without cleanouts, these excavations are needed for the plumber to access the pipes. Not only will your yard become an eyesore, but the repair will likely be much more expensive than would have been with access to a cleanout.
Cleanouts and Regular Cleanings Lower Maintenance Costs
Caring for and maintaining your home’s cleanouts and investing in regular drain cleanings are two of the simplest, yet most important, things that any property owner can do to protect their home, ensure health and safety and save money.
Most of us don’t think twice about investing in other types of regular, ongoing maintenance– whether with material belongings, such as routine car checks, or personal healthcare, like regular dental cleanings. Property owners should think about plumbing care in the same way. Investing in regular, professional maintenance will lower costs and help you avoid significant problems in the long run.
Options for Homes That Do Not Have Cleanouts
Some properties, usually older homes, may not have cleanouts. In nearly every case, it is more than worth the money to have a cleanout installed. Cleanout(s) offers the simplest and easiest way to maintain and repair your property’s pipes. A trusted, professional plumber will be able to advise you on the best cleanout installation options for your home.
If you think your home has a cleanout, but you have not been able to find it, a professional plumber will also help you with that. Sometimes the capped pipe of a sewer cleanout can get buried but dirt and debris. In most cases, a plumber will be able to use their tools and expertise to identify any cleanouts there are to be found.
If your home does not have a cleanout, and you choose not to have one installed, the options for resolving clogs and backflow will likely involve much more structural upheaval in your home. These types of plumbing fixes are nearly always more expensive than solutions offered by a cleanout.
Plumbers will often have to remove your entire toilet without access to a cleanout to address a clogged drain. In some situations, plumbers will have to go onto the roof of your property to gain access to the sewer line. Due to cold climates and inclement weather, there will be times when it is not safe for plumbers, or anyone, to work from the roof, making this type of repair highly undesirable.
Non-cleanout plumbing repairs are naturally much more time-consuming and expensive. In most cases, you can avoid these repairs by installing a cleanout.
Count on Dick Ray Master Plumber for All of Your Plumbing Needs
Trusted, professional plumbing service will be able to advise you on drain and sewer cleanout, regular drain cleanings and overall plumbing maintenance. Dick Ray Master Plumber is a veteran-founded, family-owned company with over seventy years of experience. We pride ourselves on providing the highest quality service at the fairest price.
Dick Ray Master Plumber offers comprehensive plumbing services, including drain cleanings, sewer repairs and septic tank replacement. We are just a call away and ready to assist you with any of your plumbing needs. Contact us today to set up an appointment online.