Can't open cleanout cap. Got any advice?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by RyanPeterson, Jan 14, 2008.

  1. RyanPeterson

    RyanPeterson New Member

    My sewer line is clogged, and I can't open the cleanout cap. I'm a complete novice when it comes to plumbing, but I'm guessing it is a brass(?) cleanout cap attached to a 4" cast iron pipe which is under the house just inside the opening under the house on the left.

    This happened last year, and the plumber worked on the cap for an hour and could not unscrew the cap. He was able to clear the clog by snaking down from the vent in the roof.

    The culprit is roots growing down in the sewer line. Well stupid me, we started putting "sewer safe" baby wipes down the drain. Now it appears to be a combination of wipes and roots. I rented a 75' snake from Home Depot and take it to the roof. I don't hit resistance till about 70', so it would appear the blockage is closer to the street. I pull back small clumps of roots and wipes. However, I am not able to punch through the blockage. Since it takes so long to snake all the way from the roof I feel like I'm chipping away at a dam with a chisel.

    I had a plumber come out and explained the whole situation. He wants $1000 to put in a new cleanout cap in front of the house. The other option is to install a new cleanout line under the house, but he says it will end up protruding out further and partially block the small entrance under the house which I didn't want to do.

    I'm wondering if it is possible to drill out and remove with destruction the existing cleanout cap and have it replaced. Maybe I could hire a plumber to replace the cleanout cap? Would they even do that without redoing the piping making it so costly? Or if I went at it with a sawsall and drill, would I do more damage than good... I found this forum on Google, and I thought I'd ask the guys who know their stuff. Thanks!

    If more information or a picture would help I'll certainly give what I can.
  2. First, I'm not a pro plumber, just a long-time DIYer.
    If you're having root problems, the good news is that they simply can be "roto-rootered" out to open up the clogged line. The bad news is that the roots will grow back in 1.5-2 years, creating the same problem over and over again.
    To open that corroded clean-out, I would apply the old "red wrench" (aka a torch) to really heat it up, and then turn it out with a large pipe wrench with a cheater pipe on the handle for leverage.
    The only permanent solution for a root problem is to replace the main drain line sectional cast iron with "glued" white plastic PVC or black plastic ABS, if allowed by local code. The "glued" joints actually are chemically "welded" and will not allow any roots to enter. Anything else will be a band-aid.
    Get three bids and CHECK REFERENCES. The low bid isn't always the best.
    Good Luck!
  3. RyanPeterson

    RyanPeterson New Member

    Wow thank you for the fast reply! I think my Dad has a 4ft pipe wrench that weighs like 30 lbs. If he still has it(he's kinda like Sanford and Son with junk) would it be okay for me to tug on this wrench if I can even get it attached for all I'm worth? Or would I risk breaking the pipe itself... I don't know that I can get my hands on a torch, let alone feel comfortable using one under the house. I got a can of WD-40. :p
  4. 1890farmhouse

    1890farmhouse New Member

    I drilled the cover of one out with a series of 1/2" drilled holes. The metal cover was soft and easy to drill through. Once I had drilled enough holes I was able to pry it out without damaging the threads and replace with a new brass cap. Make sure you have a new cap of the correct size before you start drilling! A 4" test plug would be a good backup to have just in case.
  5. MACPLUMB 777


    Houston, Texas, United States
    Clean Out Plug


    Do Not Remove Your Clean Out Plug;

    #1 All The Sewerage In The Pipe Will Run Out There Then What Do You Do ? ?

    #2 How Are You Gone To Get Electric Snake Under Floor ? ?

    Bit The Bullet Pay A Plumber To Install Clean Out At Front Of House And Snake Drain,

    Then In The Future You Can Snake To Your Hearts Contined
    And Save The Money Then ! !

    Macplumb 777 Master Plumber & Master Drainman
  6. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    I don't play with caps that won't come off.

    3lb. hammer tap around the edge of the cap, then 24" pipe wrench on the nut of the cleanout plug. if it moves great if it doesn't, hammer thumps on the wrench while trying to turn the wrench.

    If it works great if not the chisel against the edge of the plug in a manner that would cause it to turn when whacked with the 3 lb hammer, If it moves great then use the wrench to take it off the rest of the way.

    If it doesn't move take the chisel and cut the center of the cleanout plug out then beat the threaded portion into the broken out center.

    Now comes the fun part knowing how good the pipe is and what it can take!

    Personally, I'd have a pro do this job if I were you! Chances of success are very limited for a DIYer. Be Careful don't let that cable kink up and get you!

    If I were you I would have the line professionally cleaned then camera inspected to determine where repairs are needed. I have seen situations where replacing 10' of pipe and installing an outside cleanout cured every problem the sewer line had. If you dig down to the sewer pipe installing a cleanout at that point should be automatic.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2008
  7. RyanPeterson

    RyanPeterson New Member

    How it ended.

    I just wanted to post a quick follow-up since you guys were kind enough to offer me help. I found a plumbing company in Yellow Book "A Priced Rite," who came out to my house in Kent, WA. This guy didn't have any big ads, so it indicated to me low overhead and hopefully cheaper. He has been a plumber for over 20 years and does everything himself. He mentioned to me that most of the big companies are way overpriced and have younger plumbers who are not very experienced and often give bad advice.

    I mentioned the stuck cleanout cap to which is replied that he had not found a cap he could not remove. He ended up cutting it out with hammer and chisel and sawzall. Then he snaked out my drain and showed me how to install the new cap which could be easily removed. This took him two hours and only cost me $239.

    This is a very happy ending to my initial grim quotes of $1000 and installing a new cleanout system in the front yard and other unnecessary work.
  8. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Cave Creek, Arizona

    I don't have a big ad. I don't have high overhead. BUT, I am also not a cheap plumber, just good. As my dad used to say, "They make cleanout plugs out of thin metal so they are easier to cut out."
  9. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Keep his card handy! It sounds like you've got a plumber! Glad to here it worked out well for you!
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