How to Find a Buried Sewer Cleanout

10 Expert Techniques to Find the Sewer Cleanout: A Comprehensive Guide

Owning a home comes with its share of responsibilities, one of which is maintaining a functional plumbing system. While most of us take our pipes for granted until something goes wrong, understanding the ins and outs of your plumbing setup can save you time and hassle in the long run.

One crucial element in this system is to finding the sewer cleanout, a hidden access point vital for maintaining your drainage lines. Most homeowners probably don’t even know what a sewer cleanout looks like, but what happens when you need to access it and it’s buried beneath the ground?

What Is a Sewer Cleanout?

A sewer cleanout is a critical part of your home’s plumbing system that allows for easy access to your main sewer line. This access point comes in the form of a capped pipe sticking out from the ground and can be found along the lateral sewer line, the line that connects your home’s plumbing to the municipal sewer lines.

The cleanout usually has a diameter of about four inches which allows enough space for a plumber to insert a camera for inspection or tools for clearing out blockages.

Its primary function is to help in maintaining the smooth operation of your sewer system, allowing for the quick removal of any obstructions and facilitating regular cleaning and maintenance tasks. In essence, a sewer cleanout is your first line of defense against serious plumbing issues.

When Would I Need To Find The Sewer Cleanout?

A man inspecting a fire hydrant, examining the faucet, pipes, valve, and pressure meter.

find the sewer cleanout sewer cleanout becomes necessary under several circumstances, often when there’s a problem with the home’s plumbing system that needs to be addressed.

  • One of the most common reasons is to clear out blockages. If your drains are running slow or backing up, it could be a sign of a clog in the main sewer line. The sewer cleanout provides a direct point of access to insert a drain snake or hydro-jet cleaning tools to remove the obstruction.
  • Another reason to find the sewer cleanout is for routine maintenance and inspection. A regular visual inspection, performed with a specialized camera inserted through the cleanout, can help identify potential issues before they become serious, saving you time and potentially costly repairs.
  • In case of sewer line repair or replacement, the sewer cleanout serves as an access point for the plumbing professionals to facilitate the repair process. If the sewer line is damaged, it’s often easier and less disruptive to dig down to the cleanout instead of tearing up the entire length of the line.
  • Lastly, locating the sewer cleanout can be crucial in case of a sewage backup. If the sewer line gets blocked and sewage starts to back up, quickly opening the sewer cleanout can allow the sewage to flow out there, rather than backing up into your home.

Gathering Information Before Digging

If you find yourself wondering where is my sewer cleanout, it can be tempting to just start digging. However, before you grab a shovel, it’s crucial to gather as much information as possible.

  • Start by looking at your building plans and permits. These documents often detail the location of utilities, including sewer lines and cleanouts.
  • Next, consult your property survey, which might show the cleanout’s position relative to property lines and other structures.
  • If you’re still unable to locate the cleanout, reach out to your local building department or water utility company. These entities may have access to underground utility maps that can help identify your cleanout’s location.
  • Finally, review any previous work records. If you’ve had plumbing work done in the past, those records could provide information about the location of the cleanout.

How to Find the Sewer Cleanout: Non-Invasive Techniques

Once you’ve located the cleanout, it’s time to get down to the practical side of things. Before resorting to heavy machinery, try some detective work with these non-invasive techniques:

Visual Clues

Take a close look around your foundation wall. Look for small, capped pipes (usually 3-4 inches in diameter) protruding from the ground. These are potential cleanout access points. Additionally, landscaping features like rocks or concrete slabs might be strategically placed to mark the cleanout’s location.

Sound Detection

Grab a hammer or screwdriver and gently tap on the ground near the foundation wall. Listen for a hollow sound, which could indicate the presence of the cleanout pipe. While not foolproof, this method can be surprisingly effective.

Metal Detectors

If you’re feeling adventurous, consider investing in a metal detector. Choose one specifically designed for detecting buried objects, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. With a bit of practice, you might just strike gold (or, in this case, a cleanout).

Advanced Techniques: When DIY Isn’t Enough

Sometimes, the DIY approach just won’t cut it. If your non-invasive techniques leave you scratching your head, consider these advanced options:

Utility Locating Services

Professionals equipped with electromagnetic locators can precisely map underground utilities, including your sewer cleanout. This is a reliable and efficient option, but comes with a price tag.

Video Inspection

For a truly definitive answer, consider a video inspection. This involves inserting a camera system into your sewer line to directly visualize the cleanout’s location and condition. While more expensive than other options, this method offers valuable insights into the overall health of your sewer system.

Safety First

Before you embark on your cleanout-hunting journey, remember safety first! Always call your local utility locate service (usually 811) before digging to avoid damaging underground utilities like gas lines or electrical wires. When digging, wear proper gloves and eye protection, and be mindful of sharp edges or unexpected critters. If you encounter anything suspicious, stop digging immediately and seek professional help.

Remember, the appropriate method depends on your comfort level and the complexity of your situation. If you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to consult a professional plumber. After all, a properly located and accessible cleanout is helpful whenever you need to do a sewer line cleanout or other options to ensure that your sewer system runs smoothly for years to come.

Stronghold Plumbing In & Near Lakeland

If you’re searching for “plumbers near me” or specifically plumbers in and nears Lakeland, look no further. Stronghold Plumbing is a reliable, local plumbing company that offers a range of plumbing services. Our team of skilled Florida plumbing professionals is ready to assist you with any plumbing concern, be it sewer line cleanout, routine maintenance, or emergency plumbing repairs.

We understand that plumbing issues can be a major inconvenience, which is why we strive to provide quick and effective solutions. At Stronghold Plumbing, we believe in transparency and fair pricing, offering free plumbing estimates to our customers. We’re not just your plumbers, we’re your partners in maintaining a safe and efficient home. Reach out to us today and experience the difference of a professional plumbing company with a personal touch.

FAQ’s – Sewer Cleanouts

How many sewer cleanouts does a house have?

The number of sewer cleanouts a house has can vary, depending on the design and size of the home. In general, most homes have at least one main sewer cleanout located near the building’s foundation.

How often should I use my sewer cleanout?

Ideally, you should only need to use your sewer cleanout in case of a blockage or backup. However, it’s recommended to have a professional plumber perform routine maintenance on your sewer system every 1-2 years.

Should a sewer cleanout have water in it?

A properly functioning sewer cleanout should always be dry. If you notice standing water in your cleanout, it could indicate a blockage or other issue in your sewer line. It’s best to contact a plumber for further inspection.

Can I install a sewer cleanout myself?

Installing a sewer cleanout is not recommended as it requires knowledge of plumbing principles and proper building codes. It’s best to hire a professional plumber for this task to ensure it is done correctly and safely.

What happens if I can’t find my sewer cleanout?

If you are unable to locate your sewer cleanout, it’s best to contact a professional plumber. They have the necessary tools and expertise to locate the cleanout and make any necessary repairs. Attempting to find the cleanout yourself without proper knowledge and equipment can result in damage to your property or underground utilities.  Ultimately, it’s always best to leave sewer cleanout installation and maintenance to the professionals. 


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