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Plumbing Cleanouts: What Are They and Where Should They Be?

Plumbing Cleanouts: What Are They and Where Should They Be?

October 10, 2022

Plumbing Cleanout in Atlanta, GA

Your home’s plumbing system serves an essential role by ensuring that waste and sewage can drain out into the municipal sewer system. One of the most important parts of this system is your plumbing cleanout. Without a cleanout, you would have no access to the system and no way to unclog a blocked pipe. Let’s now take a closer look at what plumbing cleanouts are, where they should be located, and why they are so important.

What Is a Plumbing Cleanout?

A plumbing cleanout is a capped pipe that connects to your sewer or drainage lines. This allows the sewage system to be easily accessed in case the pipe is clogged and needs to be cleaned. You can identify your cleanouts by looking for a large PVC pipe with a threaded cap on the end.

If your sewer line gets clogged, it is usually necessary to run a camera down the line to find the blockage. From there, the blockage can be removed by rooting out the sewer line. Hydro-jetting can also be used to blast any blockages out of the pipe. The plumbing cleanout makes all of this possible by providing direct access to your sewer line.

Your sewer line can easily be clogged by things like paper towels, diapers, cotton pads, flushable wipes, feminine hygiene products, and any other solids. This is why you should really never put anything but toilet paper, wastewater, and human waste down your drains.

Tree roots are another common cause of clogged sewer lines. If your pipes are old or damaged, small tree roots can work their way inside your sewer line. Over time, the water and waste allow the roots to thrive and eventually colonize the entire pipe. When this happens, any solids you flush will get trapped and completely block the pipe. The result is that the waste has nowhere to go and will eventually start to back up and overflow out of your drains and toilets.

Where Are Plumbing Cleanouts Needed?

Your home should have at least one cleanout that allows access to the sewer lateral that runs from your home out to the main municipal sewer line. This is usually located in your front yard somewhere near the foundation as plumbing code requires that you have a cleanout within 10 feet of where the drain line from your house connects to the sewer lateral in your yard. Plumbing code also requires that the cleanout has to extend up above the ground level, but in some older homes, the cleanouts may be buried just under the surface.

In extremely cold climates, the cleanout is instead usually located inside to prevent the sewer line from possibly freezing. In this case, the cleanout should also stick up just above the floor level somewhere near the foundation where the sewer line exits the home.

If your home is further away from the municipal sewer main, you should have more than one cleanout along the sewer lateral. According to plumbing codes, an additional cleanout is required for every 100 feet of sewer line. The code also states that you need additional cleanouts inside your home at every junction where the drainage line changes direction by 45 degrees or more.

Your sinks, showers and most other drains also have their own smaller cleanouts located in the P-trap. The primary purpose of this trap is to prevent noxious sewer gases from rising up through the drains. However, the trap can also be taken apart and used as a cleanout to remove any clogs or obstructions inside the drain line.

Types of Plumbing Cleanouts

Older homes that still use PVC pipes will typically have a single cleanout located inside or outside near the foundation. This type of cleanout has a pipe that runs at a 45-degree angle away from the house toward the municipal sewer main. The only issue with this type of single cleanout is that it only provides access to the sewer lateral and not the drain line inside your home.

A plumber will be able to run a camera or snake down the lateral, but the angle prevents them from accessing anything from the cleanout back to the home. If your sewer line has a clog inside the home or before the cleanout, it will be necessary to access the line through a floor drain or some other point inside the home.

There are also some plumbing systems that use a single T-shaped cleanout. Instead of running at a 45-degree angle, the tee connects to the sewer line at a 90-degree angle to provide access to the sewer line on either side of the cleanout. The only issue is that this 90-degree angle still makes it quite difficult to effectively clean or unclog either side of the sewer line.

To overcome these access problems, most newer homes instead use a double cleanout. The two cleanouts are connected by a U-shaped pipe that attaches to the sewer line. The cleanout closest to the home allows full access to the sewer lateral, while the cleanout further away provides access to the sewer line running inside the home.

What If My Home Doesn’t Have Any Cleanouts?

If you have an older home that still uses cast iron plumbing, there is a high chance that you don’t have any cleanouts. In this situation, we highly recommend that you replace the cast iron with PVC and have a double cleanout installed in your yard.

Without any cleanouts, it is extremely difficult to access your sewer system and remove any clogs. If you don’t have any cleanouts, there are only two real ways to access your sewer lines. The first option is to go through the vent stack on your roof. The other solution is to remove a toilet and access the sewer system through the toilet drain in the floor. Unfortunately, neither option is all that effective. Your plumbing system has various bends, and these angles make it extremely difficult to run a camera or a snake through the lines.

For this reason, most plumbing companies will not warrant their work if you don’t have a cleanout. This is because it is virtually impossible to make sure that your sewer lines are fully cleaned. As a result, it is imperative that your home has a cleanout. If not, you will continue to experience frequent clogs and sewer issues since there is no way to properly clean out your pipes.

Expert Plumbing and Home Services

If you’re having any issues with your sewer system or need to have cleanouts installed, Bardi Heating, Cooling & Plumbing is here to help. We specialize in drain and sewer cleaning as well as pipe replacement and other plumbing repairs. Our team also installs and services water heaters, garbage disposals, toilets, and other plumbing fixtures. We also specialize in gas line installation and repair. In addition, we have a team of highly skilled HVAC technicians that can repair, install, and maintain heating and air conditioning systems. If you’re concerned about the indoor air quality in your home, we also install and service whole-home air purification systems.

We have been serving Norcross and the Greater Atlanta region since 1989 and are ready to take care of any of your plumbing or HVAC needs. If you have any questions or need to schedule a service call, contact the home experts at Bardi Heating, Cooling & Plumbing today.