Accessing a clean-out outside the home rather than indoors makes your job easier. Customers will also appreciate it, but you have to be prepared to explain why.


Every residential plumber knows the joys of cleaning out a blocked main sewer line.

It depends on the age of a home, but many have a clean-out somewhere within the building for this purpose. Most interior clean-outs are in the basement, but they can also be in a crawlspace under the home and sometimes in floors, walls, and ceilings. Some homes don’t have a clean-out, which means pulling the toilet to clear the line.

No matter the circumstances, it’s a dirty job and you’ve got to do it. But sometimes it can be particularly difficult — if not impossible — to clean the main sewer line if the customer doesn’t have an outside clean-out you can access.

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How do you encourage customers to add one to their homes? Most homeowners will hit you with a barrage of questions about your reasoning. Here are some tips courtesy of PlumbingZone.com to help you answer those questions and convince your customers that it’d be wise to install an outdoor cleanout.

There’s Already a Clean-out in My Basement

Customers may not understand why they should add an outdoor clean-out when there’s already a clean-out in the basement. You can explain that while basement clean-outs are usually easily accessible, everything stuck in the pipe must go somewhere once it’s opened. If the blockage is inside the home, all the fluids and debris that entered every pipe in the house will pour out.

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On the other hand, if the blockage in the sewer line is outside the home, all the water trapped in the plumbing system, along with everything trapped in the exterior line, will propel itself back into the building with great force.

This calls for removing an upstairs toilet to access the full-size pipe and rod the blockage from there. With a clean-out on the exterior of the home, the basement plug won’t have to be pulled. Any resulting sewage overflow and the rodding work will occur outside.

Where Will You Put It?

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Customers may be concerned about where exactly an outside clean-out will have to be installed. After locating the exact area where the home’s sewer line exits the building, a hole will need to be dug to expose the line. Most residential sewer lines extend several feet beyond the structure, where they then expand to a larger-size pipe.

This change in size allows the liquid sewage to more easily flow to the city’s main line. The excavation is usually made at the point where the house line transitions to the larger pipe. Connecting a clean-out at the junction of the larger section of pipe allows for easier access in the case larger rodding or root removal equipment is ever needed.

Explain the Benefits

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There are several benefits to installing an outside clean-out:

  • The homeowner can avoid possible water damage, pipe damage, basement cleanup expenses and potential repair expenses that may occur when a clean-out is located inside the home.
  • Any necessary rodding work is accomplished faster and easier when performed outside. Plumbing equipment does not have to be brought into the home and lugged upstairs, downstairs or into a crawlspace.
  • The entire process is cleaner if performed outdoors. Tarps don’t have to be laid out inside the house to protect the work areas from potential water or sewage damage during the rodding process.
  • If the home has an interior clean-out, it must be opened slowly to allow all the water and sewage inside the line to slowly drain out before the clean-out cap can be completely removed. This is a time consuming, messy and more expensive process that’s necessary before any rodding work can start.

Blocked sewer lines aren’t fun for either you or the homeowner, but an outside clean-out provides better access, makes testing interior lines easier, and can ultimately save the homeowner money in costly video inspections and difficult rodding or jetting work.


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