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If you have ever had a sewer line backup, and do not have a plumbing cleanout, you have probably been told you should have one. While this is undoubtedly true, you may be wondering why, and what cleanout installation entails. If so, this article is for you!
Let’s begin with what a plumbing cleanout is.
What is a Plumbing Cleanout?
Simply stated, a plumbing cleanout is nothing more than an access point to a drain line. Every drain line that is over 5 feet long in every home in the San Jose area has one, unless the drain line is overhead (such as upstairs bathroom lines). The problem is that often, they are under the home, and not really accessible to use for cleaning your drain lines.
The ideal plumbing cleanout is easily accessible, direct access to the drain that has the same inside diameter as the drain it services. So, basically, if you have a 4” sewer line, you want a 4” hole, directly into that line to clean it from. Anything else, and it is virtually impossible to do a proper job of cleaning that line.
There is one thing that is very important to say here. The plumbing cleanout is NOT on your roof. Regardless of what others may have told you, that is a vent, and NOT a proper access for cleaning a drain. Attempting to access your main sewer line through a vent on the roof is not only very dangerous, but is actually illegal without the proper safety devices in place (a LOT of safety devices).
Cleanout Installation Basics
Installing a cleanout is not usually a complex project, but it can be very labor intensive… especially main line cleanouts. If installing a main line cleanout at the front of the house to service the line to the sidewalk (the most popular scenario), these are the steps.
The first thing is to find where the sewer line exits the house. That can sometimes be obvious in houses with a crawlspace underneath, where you can see it exiting the foundation. In other scenarios it may actually require electronic line location. Either way, it is a smart bet for the plumber to “probe” the area to try to get an idea of depth, and to make sure they have found the actual line.
Once the pipe is located, the next step is to dig a rectangle hole to access the pipe. It is usually around 3’ long by 2’ wide. There needs to be plenty of room for the plumber to be able to work in, as well as plenty of room for the new cleanout.
Next, a section of the old pipe must be remove. This can be the trickiest part. Snap-cutters (a tool made specifically for cutting cast iron pipe) will crush the pipe, rather than cut it if the pipe is old and brittle. If this is the case, you are (unfortunately) due for a new line soon, and may want to think along those lines sooner rather than later.
Once the old section of pipe is remove, it is a pretty simple task for a seasoned plumber to correctly install a new one. The most difficult part here is getting a leak proof connection, so testing is very important before backfilling the hole.
Once complete and tested, the hole is backfilled, and the clean out plug is left exposed. The preferred method is to use a “Christy Box” here. The important thing to note here is that, with a small hole like the one created during this project, it is not usually effective to try to mechanically compact the dirt. This means that there will usually be a small mound at the excavation site. This is normal. Remember, all the dirt came out of the hole, it all needs to go back in. It is not usually possible to completely compact the dirt manually, but give it some time and a little moisture, and it will work its way back to being level.
Well, there you have the basics behind cleanout installation. If you have more questions, or would like a quote from one of our plumbers, call the experts at Gogo Rooter Plumbing.