What is a plumbing cleanout?
Plumbing (or drain) cleanouts are essentially drain pipes -- typically found in your front or back yard -- that provide access to your main sewer line. They contain a cap, sitting a few inches above the ground, that you can likely spot in your yard. The main purpose of a plumbing cleanout is to allow you (or a plumber) to remove clogs or blockages in your home's sewer line.
Your home's main sewer line consists of a large pipe that carries waste from every plumbing fixture in your home to the city's sewer system. In other words, this pipe connects to all of your home's toilets, sinks, and showers with the help of branch drains. Oftentimes, when one of these fixtures is clogged, you will be able to remedy the problem with a bottle of drain cleaner or a snake. Tough clogs, however, sometimes require a professional to access your home's main sewer line via the plumbing cleanout. If your home doesn't have a cleanout, a clog or blockage is much more difficult to remove. In this instance, a plumber might have to remove one of your toilets or even go up on your roof to access the main sewer line.
Why is it advantageous for your home to have a plumbing cleanout?
As previously mentioned, there are many benefits to having a plumbing cleanout. First and foremost, this enables you (or a qualified plumber) to remove plumbing clogs without having to remove toilets or other plumbing fixtures in the house. Additionally, in the event of a clog, all machinery and mess remains outside the house! In the long run, a cleanout is an efficient and cost-effective plumbing solution for you, because it saves you the headache of having to remove and potentially damage toilets, and it allows plumbers easier access to your main sewer line for camera inspections and pressure washing.
Do plumbing cleanouts require routine maintenance?
Because sewer lines are underground and therefore "invisible," it is important to perform routine maintenance in order to prevent clogs and other problems. As a general rule, you should have your sewer lines cleaned (via a pressure washing machine) every 1 1/2 to 2 years. In the meantime, you should always be on the lookout for red flags that might indicate a problem down below. Some potential red flags include: drains that are slow to empty, drains that clog frequently, obvious sewer odors, gurgling pipes, and the presence of raw sewage backing up into toilets, sinks, bath tubs, or showers. All of these potential problems warrant a call to your local plumber as soon as possible!