If you’re like most homeowners, certain maintenance issues are at the top of your mind – mowing the lawn, cleaning the gutters, checking the HVAC system bi-annually, making sure the roof is up to par, cleaning the chimney once a year, cleaning the pool, etc. But guess what? A large number of homeowners completely forget to clean their sewer lines.
In fact, homeowners are in the habit of overlooking this important home maintenance task. However, if you fall into the “Out of sight, out of mind trap,” bad things can happen. Your walls, flooring, and furnishings can sustain costly water damage and you could be stuck with a huge mess you can’t avoid. Don’t ignore your sewers. If you do, you could find out the hard way that you should have had your drains cleaned.
Why Do Main Lines Back Up?
While there are numerous reasons why a residential main sewer line can backup, most of the time it comes down to one of the following reasons: 1) thirsty tree roots have made their way into the pipes, 2) grease buildup, or 3) pipe scale buildup. If you have clay, fiber conduit, or cast iron sewer lines, here’s what you need to know:
Clay Sewer Lines: Clay sewer lines were installed in homes built before 1950. With these pipes in particular, there are a lot of joints where thirsty tree roots can make their way in and drink the water in the line. When such roots are left to their own devices, they will grow thick and solids, such as toilet paper will catch on them, eventually creating a blockage. With clay pipes, we recommend snaking them with root cutting equipment at least once a year.
Fiber Conduit Sewer Lines: Fiber conduit sewer lines were used in homes from the late 1950s throughout the 1960s. Fiber conduit, also known as “Orangeburg,” was made out of tar and wood pulp. While these pipes are less susceptible to penetrating tree roots, fiber conduit tends to warp and bend out of shape, which can affect the flow in sewer lines.
As professional drain cleaners, we can determine which cleaning method is best if your pipes are made out of fiber conduit. Often, once a year high-pressure water jetting is the recommended solution in these cases, as it is safe and effective.
Cast Iron Sewer Lines: From the 1970s to today, home manufacturers have been using heavy-duty cast iron pipes for sewer lines. Unlike clay, there are fewer joints and unlike fiber conduit, it doesn’t warp. Not only that, but cast iron is incredibly strong; therefore, it’s the material of choice.
Cast iron is not perfect. By its nature, it tends to form hard, rusty deposits inside the pipe. Like coral in the ocean, solids can catch on pipe scale, causing blockages. For cast iron sewer lines, we recommend having the line pressure water jetted to smooth out the interior of the pipe and to have the line snaked annually.
Related: Plumbing Issues with Older Homes