Proper way to clean home sewer lines?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by Sandykt, Oct 17, 2007.

  1. Sandykt

    Sandykt New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Hello - I have developed a problem with clogged sewer lines recently. So far this year, it has happened three times, and I've had three different plumbers unclog my pipes. Each has done it differently, and each has a different idea of the proper way to clean them. My questions are - what is the proper way to clean the clogged sewer lines, and should I be concerned that this has happened three times this year?

    One plumber went on the roof and ran the cable through a roof vent (not sure of proper terminology - sorry). He never even came into the house to try to troubleshoot anything or at least check to see if the toilet was flushing properly.

    The second plumber ran the cable from the clean out located on the ground in the front yard. He also ran a camera through my line and determined that nothing was out of the ordinary - the pipe was clogged, but otherwise looked fine. He provided great service, but I paid nearly three times as much as I did the first time.

    The third plumber went on the roof and ran cable through all three of my roof vents. He also had me run water from a faucet during this time. The service was good, and the price was fair.

    Each time the lines were cleared, but then clogged again a few months later. (the third time just happened today).

    Any input and and advice?

    (by the way, don't know if this makes a different, but I live in Florida.)

    Thank you,
    Sandy
  2. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    I would not necessarily find fault with what any of the 3 guys did. It sounds like the 3rd guy appropriately upped the ante based on the fact that it was a recurring problem.

    What seems likely now is that it is a bigger problem, either a defect in a pipe joint, roots, etc. The "local" treatments were partially, and temporarily effective. It would seem that at this time, it would be appropriate to have someone do a complete camera inspection of your line, to find out why the prolem is recurring.
  3. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,153
    Location:
    New England
    When the one guy ran the camera, did he indicate what kind of pipe it is? How far did he run it; all the way to the city sewer connection? If the pipe is collapsed or there is a dip in the run, or it runs flat without slope, you'll get an accumulation there. recurring root problems would probably show up when he cleaned the sewer.
  4. Sandykt

    Sandykt New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Thank you for your quick responses - I'll try to answer the questions I know the answers to.

    We have PVC pipes. When he ran the camera through, he saw no roots, and he said the slope was OK. I am not sure how far he ran the camera. He did say there is a Y in the pipes under the hallway, and that if we had the problem again we may want to correct that, but it would involve digging up our floor.

    After talking to my brother, I also discovered another problem that I didn't know was a problem. When the sewer backs up, it backs up in two places - the shower (liquids and solids) and around the toilet (liquid). It doesn't come into the toilet, but around the toilet on the tile floor. Does that mean I need a new seal around the toilet?

    It also seeps into the wood floor in the bedroom. So far I haven't had to replace any wood, because I let a big dehumidifier run for a couple days. I always assumed the water seeped under the tile to the wood somehow, but is there another way it could be getting there? The toilet area is adjacent to the bedroom, and there is a wall between them.

    Thank you again. This like a big mystery to me.
  5. toolaholic

    toolaholic General Contractor Carpenter

    Messages:
    874
    Location:
    Marin Co. Ca.
    There's a difference in approaches. An uncaring [ many out there] will clear a blockage only. A good tech. will scour the pipe walls clean. Have it camered,and make sure ,up front ,You will have a tape ,or cd to keep.
    Sounds like tree roots,or pipe problems are snagging T. P. paper. Do not put dental floss down toilet! Builds webs,that block. P S drain cleaning is an art.
    You need to know how a building is plumbed. Too Many outfits put kids in vans!
  6. Sandykt

    Sandykt New Member

    Messages:
    5
    I never thought to ask for a CD or tape of what the camera saw! I'll make sure I ask for one next time.
    We don't put anything abnormal, like dental floss, down the toilet. We don't have kids and we don't throw big Superbowl parties or Thanksgiving dinners.
    That is why this whole thing befuddles me.
    We do use Charmin Ultra toilet paper. Is there a friendlier TP to use?
  7. wondering

    wondering Member

    Messages:
    106
    I had similar trouble a year or so ago. I had gotten some Charmin on sale and believe me in the end it was no bargain!!! I was telling a guy at work about it and he said that his wife bought some and they had the clogging problem too. He said the plumber that fixed theirs said to use Scott all the time and he said they had and have never had a problem since. It isnt the softest in the world but it is better than all the clogging and $$$$ spent to get the lines unclogged.
    I either use Scott or Angel soft and I haven't had any more trouble. That Charmin just doesn't dissolve. Put some in a pan or something and see how long it takes it to break down. Swirl it with your hand a few times like it woulld be spinning in the water. Try changing this and I bet your clogs will be over--Been there!!
  8. toolaholic

    toolaholic General Contractor Carpenter

    Messages:
    874
    Location:
    Marin Co. Ca.
    Yes, wax ring needs replacement. Is it possible ,someone before You did a
    hack remodel job? There could be some improper plumbing done at one time.
    Also is this a basement area?
  9. Sandykt

    Sandykt New Member

    Messages:
    5
    No, the toilet is not in a basement. We live in Florida, and we have a slab on grade foundation.

    Yes, it is very possible that the toilet plumbing is improper. We had the toilets installed several years ago, and the plumber was the worst home improvement professional I've ever had in my home. It was not a good experience, but I had no way to judge whether he did a good plumbing job.
  10. toolaholic

    toolaholic General Contractor Carpenter

    Messages:
    874
    Location:
    Marin Co. Ca.
    ask neighbors and friends for the name of a good plumber. When a name is
    often repeated ,That's the one. Good luck
  11. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,153
    Location:
    New England
    Assuming you are strong enough to lift a toilet, replacing the wax ring isn't a big deal. the biggest problem is that if they didn't use brass or stainless steel bolts and nuts, you may have to cut off the nuts to remove the toilet. What you'll find when you get the toilet off if it has been leaking for awhile might require some repair, though. if the toilet rocks at all, that will eventually cause the wax seal to fail. The toilet must sit solid.
  12. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,837
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    drain

    A "Y" by itself is nothing that has to be fixed, unless it is installed improperly. Why did he say it should be attended to someday? If the stoppage is outside the house, then the outside cleanout is the only proper way to clear the line. It is easy to tell if the stoppage is outside because if it is the cleanout will be full of water.
  13. toolaholic

    toolaholic General Contractor Carpenter

    Messages:
    874
    Location:
    Marin Co. Ca.
    Thank's HJ ,I didn't understand the Guy dising the y,either.
    He is not good at comunating ,hope He knows plumbing. My weakness is spelling:D
  14. Sandykt

    Sandykt New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Thank you for all your feedback! Most of the time, I use Angie's List to find good home service providers. I think I'll print everyone's feedback and discuss it with the plumber I hire!
    Thank you again.
    Sandy
  15. wondering

    wondering Member

    Messages:
    106
    I am telling you throw that Charmin away and you will see a big difference..

    I even read after the fact that Consumer Reports tested TP and Charmin was the softest but was the worst to not disentegrate(sp).
  16. JeffH

    JeffH New Member

    Messages:
    74
    Location:
    California
    Proper drain cleaning

    It's not your job to ask, but his job to give you all info that pertains to your problem. He charged you to run the camera. Was this for his own benefit only? I would think not. I'm not feeling good about his work ethic. See if he'll run if for your benefit and make him explain what he sees. Make sure he runs it the the lateral of the street sewer line. Believe it or not you are responsible for your pipe even if it's running into a public street.

    When a whole house backs up do a main line blockage, it is not unusual for water and waste to come up into the shower, because it has no where else to go. If the pressure is great enough, then water will come out around a toilet also. When the blockage is cleared. Have the wax ring replaced.

    A wye is not a bad thing, unless installed incorrectly. I've seen wyes installed in leu of a bends because the installer was to lazy to get the right part or ran out of the correct parts. You see crazy stuff out there!

    Toilet paper should not be an issue for healthy pipes, but since you are having problems, I would recommend single ply. Obviously tampons, dental floss, hanywipes, etc should NOT go down drain lines. I make alot of money on these things and it's not by selling them!

    Vents, Toilet closets are not proper cleanouts, but sometimes it is the only way to immediately clear a drain. Drain cleaning is or can be destructive to pipes and utilizing a properly sized and place cleanout minimizes wear on the pipes generated by a powerfull drain cleaning machine.

    At least you're researching the issue and that's a good thing!
  17. patrick88

    patrick88 Plumber

    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    Webster Ma.

    Scott:D A.K.A Sand paper
    I find most people that use soft paper use more than needed. If you are used to not so soft paper and use 10 sheets to make it nice. Then use less with the thicker stuff. It is already nice.

    They may not give you a tape and don't need to. The only time I give a tape is if some one asks for it. Most of the cam's I have used don't record.

    I do believe there is a good plumber that is on here living in your home state.
  18. Jaime

    Jaime New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Jaime

    I had a similar problem a year ago. I had the clog/stoppage in the front yard clean out between the cleanout to the street. When I took the lid off it bubbled over with tp and sludge. The plumber put a hose with a bladder connection and he cleared the line. No more water coming up the main bathtub and the bedroom shower, and seeping up the sides of the toilet at the floor. Today, I experienced the same problem. Water and sludge in the shower and clear water at the base of both toilets. Water could be seen seeping onto the floor from the base of the toilets. I bought me a bladder. I checked the cleanout in front and it was not overflowing, so I figured the stoppage was in the house. First, I placed this bladder hose in the shower. I ran it for five minutes or so, and I checked the cleanout and the water was running freely. I then went to the kitchen sink and repeated the same. Again, the water ran freely thru the cleanout to the street. I then had my family helpers flush the toilets a few times, and again all flowed freely. I had them run water from all faucets and they too ran thru the cleanout freely to the street sewer. Approx 4 hours later and having used both the toilets and the shower, I found a puddle of water at the base of my bedroom toilet? By the way when I ran the bladder hose connector from the shower and the kitchen sink, I left the cleanout lid off, should have I left it screwed on tight, to create more force? It seems to me that I have a moving blockage some where?
  19. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,153
    Location:
    New England
    The best way to clean a sewer line is with an auger with the proper sized cutting head. This is not a great idea for someone who has no experience to use. You could have a dip or tree roots, or a collapsed line somewhere that water and some stuff can get through, but if things get just right, it clogs. If you have the line cleaned that way, a good operator can tell you if there is a (partial) obstruction. If it goes through cleanly, you may have a dip or belly that accumulates stuff.

    As to the toilet, unless it is overflowing the bowl, you have a (potentially major) problem that must be fixed. The seal between the toilet and the flange on the drain is faulty. That joint should not leak. You need to pull the toilet, investigate the subfloor to see if it is now rotten, repair and then seat the toilet. When done right the toilet must NOT move once installed. If it rocks, it needs to be done again and shimmed so it can set flat without movement.
  20. Doherty Plumbing

    Doherty Plumbing Journeyman & Gas Fitter

    Messages:
    810
    Location:
    Penticton, BC
    The water backs up into the shower and toilet because they are the lowest fixtures in the house. If the water is seeping out around the base of the toilet then yes you need a new wax seal.

    If the guy used the camera on your sewer line and everything looked ok then there is no reason why you would have a recurring problem. That is assuming, like you said, you don't flush odd things down the toilet.

    How the plumber knew what the grade of the pipe was by looking at a video I'm not sure. I have run a camera 100x in my career and unless he has a super fancy system that told him the slope on the screen there is no way he knew it was good.

    Even using the locating wand you can't tell what the grade of the pipe is. This is due to many factors.

    If your pipes are all clear and you have proper venting and fitting installation then the only thing I can think of that is wrong is that you have (most likely) too much grade on your sewer line. This will cause solid matter to get left behind and eventually dam up the line.
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