Many people have seen a sewer clean out before, but didn’t know what it was at the time. It may be out in the open or hidden behind shrubs. A sewer clean out is a vital part of a property’s plumbing system. Both homeowners and renters should know how to spot one and where the sewer clean out is located.
While innocuous, sewer clean outs can be somewhat of an eyesore. In newer homes, you’ll likely find them in a darker colored pipe and camouflaged so that they blend in with their surroundings. Let’s take a closer look at what sewer clean outs are and how to locate one on your property.
What is a Sewer Clean Out?
A sewer clean out is basically a medium-sized pipe that protrudes from the ground and has a cap on it. It often is white, but depending on what kind of piping is used, it may come in black, dark green or slate gray.
The vertical piping of the sewer clean out is in place to provide easy access to the sewer line in the event blockages occur. This makes it possible to easily remove debris from the sewer line. Most sewer clean outs have lateral pipes that extend on either side connecting your home to the public sewer system or personal septic tank.
There are a variety of modern plumbing solutions and fail-safes to help prevent sewers from backing up. Contraptions like sump pumps, vent pipes, and drain traps all work to discourage sewage backup. Even still, a sewer clean out is essential to the health of your plumbing system. In new construction homes, you may want to consider installing more than one sewer clean out.
When the lateral piping clogs, it can create a pretty awful mess and become a health hazard if it isn’t handled promptly. Whether you call a professional or attempt to unclog the blockage yourself, you’ll still need to know how to find the sewer clean out on your property.
How to Find the Sewer Clean Out
As stated above, the sewer clean out is a pipe that is a little larger than the diameter of a soda can and juts out just above the ground. Locating it may prove difficult, as some homes either have them in hard to find places or have multiple sewer clean outs. In rare cases, the sewer clean out could be located inside the home. Here are some easy to follow tips to help you locate your sewer clean out.
- Look for Marks on the Sidewalk – If you live in a suburban sprawl or gated community, you’ll likely be able to spot where your lateral sewer clean out pipe is by finding the letter ‘S’ painted or stamped on the sidewalk in front of your home. Find the ‘S’ and draw an imaginary straight line back towards your home and follow it. Somewhere in that path you’re liable to find the sewer clean out.
- Trace the Exterior Foundation of the Property – Generally speaking, the sewer clean out is located near the home, especially when you have a septic system installed. The sewer clean out cap will typically be located within three feet of the foundation. If you carefully trace around the exterior of the property you should run into it. Be sure to check behind shrubs and planters.
- Check for Sewer Clean Outs Inside the Home – Finding a clean out pipe inside the home is a rarity, but it does happen. This is especially so with older homes. Check basements, attics and even crawl spaces. Some homes may have indoor sewer clean outs that are ‘T’ or ‘Y’ shaped intersecting pipes with one side capped. These are useful for indoor plumbing maintenance.
Benefits of Having a Sewer Clean-Out
The obvious benefit of having one or more clean outs is being that you can easily unclog your sewer line and perform routine maintenance on your home’s plumbing system, but there are a host of other benefits that you may not have considered.
Saves Money – When your sewer becomes clogged it will eventually back up into your home and could do considerable damage to floor, piping and fixtures. Instead of waiting for a costly plumbing issue to arise, routinely check your sewer clean out and avoid unneeded plumbing expenses.
Easy Cleaning – When properties don’t have a sewer clean out your plumber would have to remove the entire toilet and may even have to go on the roof to fully clean your sewer lines. Having easily accessible sewer clean outs allows plumbers to conveniently service your plumbing system so it continues to run smoothly.
Preserves Landscaping – No one wants to find out that they have to dig up their yard. When the sewer backs up and it is an emergency situation, if no clean out pipe is present, your plumber may have to resort to excavating a portion of your land to get to the clean out lateral that is located underground. The sewer clean out point allows the sewer to be easily inspected without having to unearth the lateral.
External Drainage – When major backups and clogs occur, the sewer clean out can act as an external drain. It could get messy, but uncapping the pipe could allow for excess water and sewage to escape without it backing up into your home, which is the worst-case scenario.
When to Call a Professional Plumber & Sewer Expert
Not everyone is jumping at the chance to clean out their sewer lines. Some homeowners may opt to call a professional. If you are experiencing plumbing problems like gurgling drains, water backing up into the toilet and sinks, noisy pipes, or a witness a foul smell when you turn on the water, then it is probably time to call a professional plumber that specializes in unclogging sewers and drains. They have the equipment and the knowhow to properly snake your sewer line and make sure your plumbing system is in good shape.