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fatanddumb 09-19-2011 08:32 PM

Dirt in sewer cleanout
I'm having trouble with a plugged sewer line at my house. House is 80 years old and has two cleanouts in the basement, one is 2 inch, the other is 3 inch. I have snaked both of these with a 50 foot Marco Powerpak 60 and pulled out some balled up roots. Drain is still clogged. There is an exterior cleanout that I decided to try next. It had a brass cap on it that I could not unscrew, so I removed it with a cold chisel and hammer. The exterior vertical cleanout pipe is 3 inch. Using a flashlight, I can see 3 feet down it where it is filled with dry dirt. I tried to run the Marco rooter down it, but the dirt was dry and hard packed. I stuck a drain cleaning bladder on the end of a garden hose down there and that forced water out of the cleanouts in my basement. I'm looking for advice on how to get the dirt out of the exterior cleanout so that I can clear my line. Thanks.

Alan 09-19-2011 09:55 PM

If the dirt is in there that badly dried and packed, I wouldn't think that it would be an active sewer line. Is there a possibility that it's abandoned?

You might be stuck digging down to cut it off closer to the fitting so that you can get at it a little easier.


fatanddumb 09-19-2011 10:14 PM

Thanks for getting back to me. I'm a do it yourself type, so don't know much. You make a good point about the packed dirt indicating it may be abandoned. When I forced water into the exterior cleanout (using a drain cleaning bladder and garden hose) in an attempt to clear it, dirty water & sewage backed up into my basement, so it is definitely connected to the house sewer line.
The cleanout is in my concrete driveway, recessed a couple of inches so I'm hoping to avoid using the concrete cutter and digging if I can. Was wondering if there is some sort of auger or mini post hold digger I could stick down there after wetting the soil with the goal of pulling it up and out of the cleanout pipe. I've asked at several hardware stores in my area and have received only blank stares.

Alan 09-19-2011 10:22 PM

Well, the next best advice that I could even possibly begin to give would be to try and break that dirt up a little with a digging bar, then soak that dirt as much as you can. If you can turn it into soupy mud you could possibly use a shop vac to suck it out of there.

That's all I got at this point. Very interested in the outcome, keep us posted.

TheEplumber 09-19-2011 11:15 PM

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Consider having the line hydro scrubbed (jetted). It'll cost you some, but your whole line will be clean. Then you can camera it and see why that dirt was there. Then you'll know where to make your repairs.

fatanddumb 09-19-2011 11:28 PM

Thanks for your reply. To do this, would the hydro scrubber be inserted via the interior basement cleanouts or the exterior cleanout? I'm not too excited about a load of dirty water flowing into my basement if I can avoid it. Is this a piece of equipment I can rent?
Thanks again.

TheEplumber 09-19-2011 11:44 PM

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Unfortunately, you probably can't rent one yourself. Expect to pay 3-500 to a plumbing shop. You might try a pressure washer at the clean out, but as old as your line is I think you have issues downstream too.
A jetter uses high pressure water. The hose and cleaning head is fed into the pipe much like a cable would be. Then the pipe is scrubbed from one end to the other. A special head can be used to cut through roots as well. Once cleaned, a camera can be inserted to inspect the pipe wall and joints for cracks, holes, separations, bellies, etc.
If your clean out cap had to be chiseled off, where did the dirt come from? I suspect a bad crack nearby.

fatanddumb 09-19-2011 11:52 PM

Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I'll try to stick the wand of my pressure washer down there first to loosen things up and then probably resort to the jetter if I cannot remove the dirt.
I've owned the house for 16 years and the cap has not been off in that time, so you are likely right that I'm facing a broken pipe...ugh.
I'll be sure to update you guys on any progress.

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