Recently, we were hired to unclog and video inspect (camera) a customers sewer pipe. The only clean out they had was in an accessible but difficult location in the crawl space. The sewer line had already backed up through this clean out into the crawl space and the homeowners had called out a remediation company to clean up. This was not only difficult for the remediation company but difficult for the owners as they had to endure the smell that radiated throughout their home during the process and lingered for days.
Upon arrival we began the process of snaking the main sewer line. Their sewer line was approximately 150′ from the clean out in the crawl space to the county tap. We were only able to snake out and inspect the first 100′ as that’s the length of the cable. Internal and local Plumbing Code requires that a clean out be installed every 80′. We discovered the following: Between the point where the sewer line exits the home and before the county tap, their sewer pipe had a backfall or sloped upwards. Their sewer pipe should not be sloping upwards at all, your sewer line should drain with gravity into your septic tank or into the county tap.
Most backfalls or upward sloping occur due to improper installation or shifting of the ground over time. This backfall causes waste to be trapped and not drain. Overtime waste and debris will collect in the upward slope and eventually will cause the drain to clog up due to not being able to drain with gravity.
1) Replace the section of pipe between the house and the county tap. The new pipe would slope appropriately allowing gravity to drain.
2) Install a clean-out while the pipe backfall/slope was being corrected. Had the owners had a clean out outside they simply could have opened that up releasing the stopage and it would have been less likely to back up into their crawl space. It also would have allowed us access to the remainder of the pipe that was not accessible.
After the clean out was installed we video inspected (camered) the remainder of the sewer line and found a second issue. The sewer line had a belly further down the line. A belly in the sewer pipe is when the pipe sags. This is likely due to settlement in the ground and not avoidable.
Now the emergency plumbing was taken care of the homeowners had options:
Option #1. Leave the belly or sag in the pipe alone and over time see how it responds to the waste. In the event it did back up we had installed the clean out outside and it would be much more accessible to snake the pipe out and less likely to back up into the home.
Option #2. Replace the section that was sagging and have 100% peace of mind that the main sewer pipe was repaired.
They went with option #2. In these circumstances there was no fault to the homeowners just a very unfortunate situation that had to be corrected. Clean outs make everyone’s life easier, just ask anyone whose sewage has backed up into their home!