The main reason for a sewer clean-out, is to gain access to your sewer for cleaning and inspecting for damage.
The plumbing code requires you to have a clean-out at the base of each waste or soil stack. There are other requirements of the plumbing code in regards to clean-outs, but knowing this one requirement will be helpful in regards to this article.
Take a look at the next two pictures, they show a clean-out at the base of each soil stack. Both of the sewer lines are coming up through the floor and will have a plumbing fixture connected to the sewer like a sink, lavatory, or something else, thereby requiring a clean-out.
With the help of these pictures I hope it makes it easier to understand where to have a clean-out.
Installing a clean-out could be more difficult especially in older homes where you have cast iron pipe and a clean-out cover that won’t come out. This is a common problem in homes over forty years old. You go to take the brass plug out but it won’t come out or breaks.
If you break the brass plug in the clean-out you will have to make a proper repair to eliminate the possibility of methane gas entering your home. You cannot just plug the hole with a plug. See picture.
The plugs above and cap are used for testing purposes not to be left in a clean-out for a permanent repair.
You will only have two choices if the brass plug breaks in the clean-out. First you must tap the clean-out and get the old threads working like new or replace the old clean-out all together.
You will have to cut out the old clean-out with a ratchet chain cutter and put a new clean out in it’s place. See a picture of chain ratchet cutter below.
The tool can be rented at most rental areas.
Once you cut out the old sewer clean-out you can put in a new clean-out. If you choose a plastic clean-out or a cast iron clean-out ensure you purchase the proper size and style. Take a look at the pictures above, you will see that the clean-out is connected with rubber couplings. The rubber coupling can be purchased at any hardware store. The main thing to know is what size of pipe, and what type of piping material you are connecting too.
For example lets say you are connecting extra heavy cast iron to a plastic clean-out. You must make sure you purchase the correct no-hub clamp. On the side of the rubber clamp it will tell you what it connects too. See picture of different clamps.
One style is a all rubber with two stainless steel clamps and the other is a rubber with a stainless steel band and two stainless steel clamps. Make sure that it is the correct clamp for the materials you will be connecting too. The next picture may make it easier to see how a clean-out is installed.
In most cases you would want to hire a plumber once you tried to get out the old brass clean-out cover and it breaks.
If your a DIYer or a handyman installing a new clean-out requires you to pull a permit because you are cutting into the sewer not just unplugging the sewer. Check with your local building and plumbing code department.
Home owners can pull a permit after taking a homeowners plumbing exam. Check out my article on homeowners exam.
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