Locating Sewer Line Cleanout

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alfuzzy

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Hello everyone. I'm trying to locate the sewer line clean-out for my home. I've done lots of internet reading & watching video's...and understand that sewer clean-out access can be located inside or outside. I've done some quick looking outside...and haven't found anything yet. Going to look more today...and do some scratching around in case it's gotten covered with dirt/grass/mulch/etc.

Some additional info. I live in a 100+ year old home in Northern, NJ...so who knows if an outside sewer clean-out access was ever installed. It can also get real cold here in the Winter...and I've been reading that sewer clean-out access in colder areas can be located indoors.

In case it helps...I'm including a couple photos of what I have in my basement. I do have a short vertical section of pipe that has a cap on it in my basement...and wasn't sure if this was the sewer clean-out (or if it could be used as a sewer clean-out).

My only concern about using this as a sewer clean-out is...if I rent a drain cleaner/snake from my local Home Depot...the pipe has a least two 90° bends that the snake would need to deal with and wasn't sure if the drain cleaner/snake could deal with this.

Thanks:)

 

alfuzzy

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By the way...I should add that this pipe is located right next to a foundation wall...and there is a clean-out plug in the photo (on the right).

But since this clean out plug is vertical (instead of horizontal)...I didn't know if it was a good idea to use this as sewer clean-out access for a power drain cleaning snake (instead of the vertical pipe with the cap on it)...since any liquid from the sewer pipe would end up on the floor (or in the black container I have underneath it at the moment).

Thanks
 

alfuzzy

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Also wanted to mention that this sewer pipe inside my home/basement is approximately 3 feet below the soil surface outside.
 

alfuzzy

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This is what the short vertical section of pipe looks like with the cap removed:

 

alfuzzy

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If this vertical access pipe in the basement is used...will a rented electric drain cleaner snake from Home Depot work ok if there are at least two 90° bends in the sewer pipe (total of 180°). Here's a little drawing I made of the layout of the pipe:



Thanks
 

alfuzzy

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Was just thinking about it. If I used that vertical section of pipe in my basement...that would be three 90° pipe bends the snake would need to work around. Can a rented power snake still function ok with three 90° bends to deal with?

Thanks
 

Jeff Handy

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That brass plug/cap on the far right is the clean-out.
They often are very hard to unscrew. Try using a loooong pipe wrench, if you can get enough bite on that hex nut in the center

Plumbers I talk to tell me they often just break up the brass cap with a cold chisel and a ball peen hammer, then after rodding they install a modern pvc screw plug in the old threads.
Threads usually need vigorous wire brushing first.

Or a rotary wire brush in a drill would do great to clean out the century old crud from those threads.

Pros on here can advise about breaking up the brass cap.

You would get a much less convoluted route if you could go through the old cleanout, as opposed to the short vertical section nearby.
 

alfuzzy

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That brass plug/cap on the far right is the clean-out.
They often are very hard to unscrew. Try using a loooong pipe wrench, if you can get enough bite on that hex nut in the center

Plumbers I talk to tell me they often just break up the brass cap with a cold chisel and a ball peen hammer, then after rodding they install a modern pvc screw plug in the old threads.
Threads usually need vigorous wire brushing first.

Or a rotary wire brush in a drill would do great to clean out the century old crud from those threads.

Pros on here can advise about breaking up the brass cap.

You would get a much less convoluted route if you could go through the old cleanout, as opposed to the short vertical section nearby.
Hello Jeff...thanks very much for the reply.:)

I did know that the brass cap was a clean out...and using it would be a much less convoluted route for the power-snake...but my concern was since this clean-out cap is in a vertical orientation (and at the same height/level as the sewer pipe)...I was concerned that if any sewer liquid was to backwash in the sewer pipe or even during the snaking process...my basement could be full of "you-know-what"! Lol

Thanks
 

alfuzzy

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If using this vertically-oriented brass clean-out in the inside of my basement is the thing to use for power-snaking my sewer line...can anyone offer any tips on how to remove the brass plug/cap (if removal with a long/large pipe wrench with a "cheater-pipe" on it for extra leverage doesn't do it)?

I hate to do too much hammering on it...since the sewer line is cast iron...and wouldn't want to crack the cast iron sewer pipe.

Thanks
 

Jeff Handy

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Just stop using water in the evening. Turn the house water off.
Don’t flush toilets.
Tell your family not to flush.
Make arrangements for using a neighbor’s or friend’s toilet and shower for next morning.
The sewer will drain down somewhat over night.

Open up that brass cap next morning.

Even if there is some blockage in the sewer, there won’t be a river of sludge flowing back out the clean out.
The sewer pipe is pitched gradually down as it goes toward the street.
 

alfuzzy

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Just stop using water in the evening. Turn the house water off.
Don’t flush toilets.
Tell your family not to flush.
Make arrangements for using a neighbor’s or friend’s toilet and shower for next morning.
The sewer will drain down somewhat over night.

Open up that brass cap next morning.

Even if there is some blockage in the sewer, there won’t be a river of sludge flowing back out the clean out.
The sewer pipe is pitched gradually down as it goes toward the street.
With my drainage issue (at the moment)...we can do everything but shower & wash laundry. Actually can shower...but need to let the water flow out slowly. This suddenly happened over the last 7 days...which is probably the way it usually happens.

My plan is to do everything in a couple hours at most:

- Remove the clean-out cap (have new cap ready to go).
- Rent power snake.
- Do the snaking.
- Install new cap.

Hopefully clean sewer pipe!:)
 

Jeff Handy

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If you are worried about outflow when you remove the clean out plug on the right, you should stop using all water and don’t flush toilets, the night before.

So as much dirty water can trickle past the blockage as possible.
 

alfuzzy

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If anyone has any tips...watch-outs...or alternative ideas how to get my project done (seeing the photos/drawing above)...I'm all ears! Want to do this right the first time.:)

Also...if removing the brass clean-out cap in my basement (see photo above)...instead of using the short vertical section of pipe with the cap on it is what I need to do (to do the snaking). Any tips on how to remove the brass cap if a pipe wrench doesn't do it?

I've actually already tried big pipe wrench + used some liquid wrench + some moderate hammer tapping on everything to help loosen...and no luck yet.

Thanks
 

Diehard

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Do you have any drainage type fixtures in the basement? So are you able to see a backed up level of liquid in your lowest fixture?

Can you see liquid in that uncapped vertical line? That would give you a good idea of where the backed up water level is. If nothing there you could run a shop vac hose down to get an even better idea of the presence of liquid that may back out of that brass clean out plug.

You can't put too much torque on those brass plugs using that small hex provided for a wrench, without twisting and deforming the plug.
Lubricate well the day before, tap around perimeter as well as light taps on face of plug. When you put a wrench on it, don't apply brute force immediately but rather use healthy raps the end of the wrench handle with a hammer. Action such as an impact wrench is more effective.

If still too hard the next step would be to hit edges of the OD of the plug with a chisel and hammer to help break it loose. Much better torque at that larger diameter than on the small hex.
 

alfuzzy

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Do you have any drainage type fixtures in the basement? So are you able to see a backed up level of liquid in your lowest fixture?

Can you see liquid in that uncapped vertical line?
Thanks for the great questions & reply Diehard.

I've already removed a PVC clean-out cap further back in the system...and snaked everything inside my home. No blockages inside the home pipes...and thankfully no standing water in any of the pipes inside the home. Thus 99.9% sure the blockage/partial blockage is in the sewer line outside the home.

The system seems to only back up & spill onto the basement floor...when a large amount of water is used for an extended time (such as showering). The water spills out of the open pipe my washing machines discharges water into (washing machine is located in the basement).

All other water use (toilet flush, kitchen sink, bathroom sink, dish washer, etc.)...all seem to discharge water at a rate that the system can handle. Thus my homes sewer system (at the moment) seems to be a partial blockage...but no standing water in the pipes in the home.

You can't put too much torque on those brass plugs using that small hex provided for a wrench, without twisting and deforming the plug.
The hex on the brass clean-out plug is a pretty good size (36mm...about 1.4 inches). So I'm using a 36mm 6-sided socket on it...with about a 24" breaker bar. Can't budge it yet.

Lubricate well the day before, tap around perimeter as well as light taps on face of plug. When you put a wrench on it, don't apply brute force immediately but rather use healthy raps the end of the wrench handle with a hammer. Action such as an impact wrench is more effective.
I've done all this (lubrication also applied about 18 hours ago). I do a lot of automobile repair...and I use the exact same techniques when working on cars. But no luck loosening it yet.

If still too hard the next step would be to hit edges of the OD of the plug with a chisel and hammer to help break it loose. Much better torque at that larger diameter than on the small hex.
Ooh yes...totally agree. Was saving any techniques that damage the brass plug until all else fails.

Please keep the ideas, thoughts, and tips coming. Probably need to get this done in the next 1-2 days.:)
 

Diehard

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Thanks for the additional details.

So I take it you don't have an impact wrench.

You'd be surprised how that tapping with an angular force on the edge of that much larger diameter, with a sharp chisel, sometimes does the trick. No guarantees of course. You won't damage the threads that would be engaged. If still no luck just wack it with a chisel any way you want.

I've sheared many car lug bolts when I was younger using just brute force.

I'll bet that 24" breaker bar still has a bit of flex to it, which leaves the rapping with a hammer less effective.

May I assume that washer standpipe is higher than that uncapped vertical pipe?
 

frodo

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break the brass cap with a hammer and chisel
peel the cap out of the clean out body.
reinstall a pvc threaded cap into the brass clean out body.

either clean out you use
vertical or horizontal. the snake turning in the sewer machine and the 25' section of cable is going to make a mess

spread plastic on the floor and wall to avoid splatter,,

buy a section of 1 1/2'' pvc pipe for the cable to sit in as it turns ,so it does not walk all over the house
 

alfuzzy

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So I take it you don't have an impact wrench.
Sorry...forgot to reply to this. Yes I do. I could give this try if all else fails. Unless you think the impact wrench will work better than other methods. My floor compressor, hoses, and tools are in my detached garage...so a bit of a pain to setup everything up...and run the air hose into my basement. But I'm fine with doing this if it's a superior method.

You'd be surprised how that tapping with an angular force on the edge of that much larger diameter, with a sharp chisel, sometimes does the trick. No guarantees of course. You won't damage the threads that would be engaged. If still no luck just wack it with a chisel any way you want.
I'll certainly give this a try if I can't get the socket + breaker bar + possible extension to work.

I'll bet that 24" breaker bar still has a bit of flex to it, which leaves the rapping with a hammer less effective.
Most definitely a good amount of flex. Hitting the breaker bar with the hammer definitely doesn't transfer the sharp-blow hammer energy to the clean out plug the way it should. I think I have a 24"-30" pipe wrench somewhere. I'm guessing this may work better + hammer blows on the pipe wrench handle.

Here's a close up of the brass clean out plug. The brass plug itself is 3.5"...then the brass plug seems to be fitted into some sort of adapter that's about 4.0" (outside diameter)...and then this 4.0" adapter is cemented/secured into the actual sewer pipe fitting which is about 5.25" (inside diameter).

I have red arrow pointing to the "cement" material (maybe it's lead). Is there any chance this "cementing" material could be damaged with all of hammering or torque energy used to remove the clean out plug?



May I assume that washer standpipe is higher than that uncapped vertical pipe?
Since you asked...I took a photo. The top of the pipe that the washing machine drains into is about 24" higher than the horizontal run of the inside waste/dirty water pipe.



Thanks again for all the help.:)
 

Jeff Handy

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I have had success helping penetrating oils get into old threads by chucking a big hex bolt or similar, into my small hammer drill. Then using the hammer drill to transmit thousands of little taps onto the area I want the oil to get into.

Also, you could try heating up the threads of the cap with a heat gun or hair dryer.
That might get the oil in there, or might soften up the century old pipe dope on the threads.
Or a torch, just keep it moving, don’t catch the oil on fire or melt the lead.
There might be oakum in the outer joint that could burn also, I think.
Maybe a torch is unsafe, others can weigh in.

Then try turning again after it cools most of the way down.
 
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