7 Tips for Maintaining Your Sewer Line

Candace Nelson
Written by Candace Nelson
Updated November 5, 2021
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Sewer main maintenance isn’t fun, but you’ll thank yourself for staying on top of it

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You can probably think of a couple of ways you’d rather spend nearly $320 than sewer line cleaning. But your future self will thank you for properly maintaining your sewer line system so that wastewater continues to flow out of the house properly and you don’t have to call an emergency plumber for sewer line repairs (which come with unpleasant smells). Let’s take a look at what causes sewer main line issues, plus some tips to maintain a clear sewer line.

What Causes Common Sewer Main Line Problems?

The sewer main line is a pipe that removes wastewater from your home. You probably have an access point for cleaning in your basement or utility room. It’s about four inches in diameter and has a screw top. The sewer main line connects to the city’s system so that your home’s water can be treated. 

Tree roots, grease accumulation, and pipe scale buildup are common causes of sewer main problems. Over time, the pipe can get clogged and cause the water to back up into your house or yard. Obviously, that’s something you want to prevent from happening. Luckily, regular maintenance can help keep water flowing freely back to the treatment plant.

Top Tips For Maintaining a Sewer Line

1. Watch What Goes Down the Pipes

The first rule of sewer main maintenance is prevention. Putting anything besides human waste and toilet paper in the drain can start a clog. To avoid a sewer main backup, follow these guidelines:

  • Use trash cans or compost pails to keep food scraps, cooking grease, dental floss, and feminine hygiene products out of the sewer system.

  • Use the trash can for disposing of personal wipes, too. Even if they’re marked flushable, they cause significant problems for city sewer systems.

  • Get a drain screen to catch strands of hair in the shower, and then throw the clump away instead of letting it slip down the drain.

2. Run the Water

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When things inevitably get in the drain, the best way to send them on their way and out of your pipes is by running water. Once a month, fill each sink with water, and then pull the stopper to let it rush out. At the same time, flush all the toilets to push everything through the plumbing system.

3. Pay Attention to Drainage

If you notice a sink draining slowly, you might be past the prevention stage and due for a sewer main line cleaning. Don’t delay cleaning if you notice these problems. The clog won’t improve with time. Warning signs of a sewer main clog include:

  • Multiple plumbing fixtures (toilet, sink, or shower drains) appear to be clogged

  • Water appears in strange places, such as the shower after you flush the toilet

  • A sulfur (rotten eggs) smell

  • Bubbling or gurgling noises in the drain

  • Changes to the yard, such as a new indentation or mysteriously soggy grass

4. Address Sewer Issues Quickly

If you identify a clog or other issue with your sewer line, the best thing you can do for your system is to address the problem as quickly as possible. A professional sewer company can help assess the issue. They will send a camera down the line to check for the cause and extent of the problem, which costs an average of $100 to $500

To unclog your sewer line, the professional sewer cleaner will recommend snaking or hydro jetting the main line.

  • Snaking: Depending on the size of the clog, your professional will recommend a fix. Snaking a main line—also known as rodding or augering—costs $100 to $250. The professional will send a thin line down the drain to pull out any gunk backing up the system. This tactic is usually enough to get the water flowing again, but it can leave residue or smaller debris. That means clogs can start to form again.

  • Hydro Jetting: For a more stubborn clog, the plumber might recommend hydro jetting. This technique uses a high-pressure hose to force major clogs out. It can even blast tree roots out of the system. This service is more expensive at $350 to $600, but it  usually gets more of the debris out.

5. Clear Out Tree Roots

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You can’t (and don’t want to) stop trees from growing in your yard. But with the average sewer line running 50 feet long, there are a lot of joints where tree roots can enter and ultimately feed off the water in the line. That’s good for the tree, but not so much for ridding your house of wastewater.

If tree roots grow in the sewer line, they will become thick and snag things, like those personal wipes marked “flushable,” but never break them down. Solid items will cling together and eventually cause a blockage. To prevent that from happening, hire a pro to snake the sewer main and use root-cutting equipment at least once a year to prevent major blockages.

6. Say Sayonara to Scale

If you have cast-iron pipes, you’re susceptible to hard, rusty deposits forming inside of the pipe. Like barnacles on the side of a ship, pipe scale will catch solids and ultimately cause a blockage. To prevent it, see if your sewer main needs descaling.

Annual water jetting should clear out any build-up, leaving only a smooth pipe surface behind. After that, snake your system every year to keep it clear.

7. Know When it’s Time to Get Help

One of the best ways to maintain your sewer main line is to talk to a pro. During a consultation, a professional sewer and draining company will take the time to discuss your options and tailor a maintenance program that is effective, affordable, and will keep your sewer system flowing trouble-free. 

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