How To Identify and Clear A Clogged Sewer Line

How To Identify and Clear A Clogged Sewer Line

If you’ve noticed signs of a clogged sewer line, the first thing you should do is turn off the water supply at the main source to release pressure. If you can find your sewer clean outline (usually a short white pipe with a 3-4 inch opening) you can open that up to release additional pressure.

Depending on when/where your home was built, you should be able to narrow down the cause of the clog. The only way you will know exactly what the issue is, is if you feed a camera through the pipes. Many things can cause a clogged sewer; Tree roots, broken/shifted pipes, pipe corrosion/deterioration, bellied (warped/sunken) pipes, leaking joints, or a blockage formed by flushed objects. Though PVC pipes are more commonly used today, many areas still have long-standing clay sewer lines. These can be upwards of 100 years old and are not impervious to tree roots causing breaks and clogs. 

Signs Your Sewer Line is Damaged

Frequent backups (dirty water being pushed back up through sink, bath, and shower drains), toilet drain burbling bubbles, more than one fixture clogs at any given time, and drains emitting odors are signs that often point to collapsed sewer lines. When the sewer line is not clogged but collapsed, it is imperative to catch it sooner rather than later. Postponing will allow the problem to worsen and repair fees to increase.

Ways to clear clogged sewer line:

  • Plunging– You can attempt plunging the clog away using a toilet on the ground level. You’ll need to tape over the tub, sink, and shower drains before beginning. Let the toilet fill with water, and with a bellows or force-ball plunger begin the plunging process. You’ll know this technique is working when the water begins to drain. When this happens, pour 2-3 gallons of hot water down to help dissolve the blockage.
  • Using Chemicals– Chemical drain cleaners are effective for clearing out clogged sewer lines if the clog is caused by organic matter. However; if the clog is due to broken, shifted, or corroded pipes this could worsen the problem. Chemicals are also less effective against hair clogs.
  • Drain Snake – Depending on the severity of the clogged sewer line, it is possible to clear a clogged sewer line without a snake. You can use the plunging method or chemical drain cleaners. Enzyme based drain cleaners can take longer to work, however; it’s safer should other plumbing action need to be taken to resolve the issue.
  • Mechanical Drain Cleaning – Mechanical drain cleaning is traditionally done by feeding a drain snake/auger (flexible cable) down the drain and winding it with a hand crank until the blockage is removed. Some plumbers will use a wet jet to try to dislodge the blockage instead. If your sewer pipes are older, practice snaking your drain with caution as the pipes could be deteriorated and this could break the wall, causing a more expensive plumbing issue.

How Much Does it Cost to Fix a Sewer Line?

If the clog is as minor as they come, it could cost as low as the $8 you spent on the chemical drain cleaner. You can find a reusable metal drain snake for as low as $20 at most hardware stores if your plumbing issue is more severe. If you end up calling a plumber to avoid higher risk, on average it’ll be anywhere between $150-200. If the plumbing issue is more severe than a clog, i.e. a collapsed or corroded sewer line you could be looking at anywhere from $1,000-$4,000 depending on how much pipe needs replaced. Sewer line replacement averages $50-$250 per foot.