Drain Line (Snake) Advice

Discussion in 'Drain Cleaning' started by prestonv, Dec 3, 2009.

  1. prestonv

    prestonv New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    san diego
    Hi:

    I have a 4" (inside diameter) cast iron drain pipe that is clogged (very slow to drain). I tried cleaning it with 20' of 1/2" cable ... no success. I estimate the clog is about 50' down the drain (I let the pipe drain for 24 hours, then filled it up quickly and measured the volume of water and pipe to estimate where the clog is).

    I went to my local tool rental shop and the only thing they have is a heavy duty drain cleaner with 100' of 3/4" cable. The guy said 3/4" cable is good for pipes between 3" and 6".

    Is 3/4" cable too big for a 4" pipe?

    Another problem is that the closest I can get the machine to clean-out point is about 5'. I know it is best to get as close as possible. Is 5' too dangerous?

    Thanks for any advice.

    Preston
  2. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    3/4" cable is good for 4" pipe.

    5' of uncontrolled cable is dangerous.

    I'd consider the safe approach and hire a pro.
  3. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,874
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    snake

    I would, and do, only use a 3/4" cable for 3" and 4" pipes. 3' of cable can be dangerous if it gets caught in a serious clog. If you have 5' between the machine and the cleanout, you MUST be very experienced using the machine to be able to tell when it is getting close to the danger point. Otherwise the cable will "fly" out of the drum twisting as it goes and will wind YOU and anything else into a ball. There was a news report of someone it happened to. The snake wound his shirt so tight he perished. The other thing, is if you damage the snake, you will probably get a very large bill for repairing or replacing it, and I have had plumbers who should know how to manage a snake destroy a brand new snake before it was even used once.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2009
  4. prestonv

    prestonv New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    san diego
    Thanks for the advice. My problem is that I've lost my job and money is tight. My local rooter company wants $300 ... the rental will be $28 for a couple of hours.

    Based on your comments, I will remove my toilet and go in through the toilet. This will keep the distance between the machine and drain to about 2' ... and will proceed carefully.

    Thanks for the confirmation that 3/4" is not too much for a 4" drain pipe.

    Preston
  5. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    You could also consider trying a company that doesn't have rooter in their name...

    They tend to be more reasonably priced...:rolleyes:
  6. prestonv

    prestonv New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    san diego
    Thanks. I'll give it a try.

    Preston
  7. prestonv

    prestonv New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    san diego
    Redwood:

    Thanks again ... I found someone that will do it for $145 (no Rooter in the name). My only concern is that he says he will use a 1/2" snake. Is that big enough for a 4" inside diameter cast iron drain pipe (snake up to 70')?

    Can you confirm?

    Thanks,

    Preston
  8. krow

    krow Plumber

    Messages:
    906
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    1/2" cable will work just as good, as long as the cutter on the end of the snake is big enough
  9. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,362
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    It's his problem to clear the drain with whatever snake he has. If he can't, you don't pay. I think one of the problems DIY snakes have is the length. But, regardless of the size of the snake, they are disaster waiting to happen for the novice. I appreciate the fact the money is tight, but can you afford the loss of a couple of fingers, a broken arm, or other such accidents? There are many cases of just such things happening to homeowners attempting to operate these power augers. Sometimes we get taken to task by folks who want DIY help on every project they want to undertake and instead are advised to call in the professionals, but I think of it like this. If you have a wood sliver in your finger, you can probably deal with that at home. But if you somehow have a finger that is mostly severed, you seek professional help. Same with any DIY project. The wise DIYer knows when his ablility level has been reached and it's time to reach for the phone.
  10. jason_72_98043

    jason_72_98043 New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    WA
    its not the drain cleaners problem,,its not his line thats clogged now is it??
    what if its a collapsed line? roots?? still the drain cleaners problem?

    also like others have stated some tasks are better left to those who deal with it on a daily basis
  11. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,362
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    It's his problem if he doesn't have the horse to pull the plow and takes the job anyway. What will Mr. DIYer do when he hits those roots and the snake coils around his arm?:eek: My point is as you restated it in your answer, some jobs are best left to the pros.
  12. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,874
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    snake

    When a 1/2" snake encounters a heavy root mass, it WILL tangle, either in the pipe or around your arm or hand. IF you go through the toilet, be prepared to pay extra for the rental, because it could take you two hours just to get the snake to turn downward at the fitting under the wall. USUALLY it will decide to turn upward and after you put about 15' of snake into the pipe go outside and see if it is sticking out of the roof and banging around on your shingles.
  13. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    I use an 11/16 lined cable myself...
    I wouldn't use a 1/2" cable on an underground line.
  14. Jay Mpls

    Jay Mpls Master plumber

    Messages:
    98
    Location:
    Minneapolis
    If they can get a blade that *restores* the 4" diameter of your pipe you will be fine.
    I have no faith in 1/2" cable for such a job....IF it is roots.
    If you have a low spot in your line then the 1/2 will pass with a good set of blades on the end.
    Bottom line.Call another small/local sewer cleaning co. Ask for a quote on the phone.
    An honest co. will happily tell you what they charge.
    11/16 or 3/4 cable is best.
    Remember it is all a vehicle for the correct blades.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2009
  15. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,874
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    costs

    I tell people what my "rate" is but can not, and will not, EVER try to tell them how long it will take or what the total bill will be until I am done, over the phone or when I at the jobsite.
  16. SoInBoy

    SoInBoy Jack of all trades,, master of none

    Messages:
    12
    Location:
    Southern Indiana
    Haha.. gotta big kick outta that..:D


    Not to add fuel to the fire,, but I'm a DIY'er and I have a little plumbing experience with drain cleaning experience.. I purchased a 1/2" cable auger years ago and have had good luck cleaning the tree root-ed drains out yearly.

    I've had the cable wrap around my arm before and pull out several hairs as well as leave bloody "pinch" marks for about a week.. It doesn't feel good at all.. I am very fortunate that's all I've ever gotten...

    My "adolescent" advice is to leave this to the pro's.. I can't imagine what a 3/4" would do to a person..:confused:
  17. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
  18. SewerRatz

    SewerRatz Illinois Licensed Plumber

    Messages:
    1,705
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    There is a machine that uses 1/2" cable that is made to clear roots in 3" to 6" lines. Its the Magnum .55 cable that a Spartan 300 uses in place of the 5/8 cable.

    Now as for standard 1/2" cable like the stuff used in a Spartan 100 the longest length is 75' and it can do 4" drains. But is not the best choice for a root blockage, it can easily kink up on itself in inexperienced hands.
  19. SoInBoy

    SoInBoy Jack of all trades,, master of none

    Messages:
    12
    Location:
    Southern Indiana
    I never would of thought something like that could happen..

    I have had to replace the cable of few times because it gets bent up pretty bad.

    I have to clean my drains out twice a year. I had and have trees surrounding my house. That's why i purchased the auger, rather than pay someone to come in and do it twice a year.. I've been told that they used that old clay tile stuff underneath my house, and that its breaking up and cracking.. Any suggestions?
  20. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,874
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    clay

    The house would have to be very old, possibly dating to the 1940's or before to have clay pipes under the floors. Metal pipes were scarce and expensive during the war years. If you have them you either live with them or replace them, there are no other "feasible" options.
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