What are drain cleanouts and why do you need them?

Image of a man using a drain cleaning tool

Many things can clog drains in your home. Roots, feminine hygiene products and even toys can make their way down the drain and cause a backup. Clearing the drain is easier for a plumber if your home has drain cleanouts.

What is a drain cleanout?

A drain cleanout provides access to your main sewer line and is located outside of your home in the front or back yard. Cleanouts typically go unnoticed until there is a problem. They look like capped pipes sticking a few inches above the ground.

When you have a backed up drain in your home, a plumber can run a special camera through the cleanouts and into your main sewer drain to locate the problem. This is sometimes necessary if they have trouble clearing the blockage or if you experience frequent problems.

After the plumber knows the clog type and location, the plumber can choose the right size of cutting blade to remove the blockage. He will run the camera through the drain line again after the work is done to make sure the clog is completely gone.

Hydro Jetting

But what if I don’t have a drain cleanout?

If you don’t have drain cleanouts, backups can still be removed but it can sometimes be more challenging. The plumber has two options in this situation: access the sewer line from the roof or from the toilet. Unfortunately, neither option is as effective as going in through a cleanout.

Option #1: Remove the clog from the roof

The sewer line can be accessed from the roof, but it is difficult to get a camera through because of the many turns in the pipes. In most situations, the camera or drain equipment cannot reach the main sewer line and the backup cannot be removed. Another problem is that it is more dangerous. It can also be hazardous for plumbers, especially in winter or during bad weather. There are times when it is too unsafe for our plumbers to go on the roof.

Option #2: Remove toilet

If you don’t have cleanouts, removing the toilet may be your only option. This increases the cost of labor and the risk of damage to the toilet itself. After the toilet is removed, the plumber can then use a drain machine to remove the clog. However, the clog may not be removed as thoroughly because the pipes beneath the toilet are smaller.

Both of these are less effective at removing clogs. You may continue to have problems and frequent backups because you do not know what caused the clog. Did the kids flush a toy car or are roots from the tree in your backyard growing into your pipes? A lot of times plumbers cannot warranty their work if they cannot clear the drain problems through cleanouts.

Drain Clean Outs

So what is the solution?

Every home is unique and several factors come into play when deciding whether or not to install cleanouts. TLC’s licensed plumbers can assess your plumbing needs and help you decide if this option is a good fit for you. As a general rule, cleanouts are a great option for the following reasons:

Prevents frequent drain problems

You want to prevent clogs instead of fix them later. With a drain cleanout, the plumber can tell you exactly what is causing the problem and give recommendations for avoiding them in the future. Other issues you are not aware of can be spotted early, before they become emergencies.


TLC provides a warranty on this type of work when a cleanout is present. You can rest assured that the job is done correctly.

Drain specific cleanouts

If a specific drain continues to give you problems, you may want to install a cleanout specific to that drain. Many new homes are already equipped with these; however, most older homes are not. With drain specific cleanouts, repairs become much easier.

May increase home resell value if buyers request a drain inspection

Cleanouts make home inspections easier because of how easy it is to send a camera through the line. It gives the potential buyer peace of mind regarding the condition of the plumbing. It can also lower the cost of drain repairs in the future.

What’s the bottom line?

Drain cleanouts make it easier to fix clogged pipes. It also makes it easier to identify problems in your drain line that runs from your home to the sewer or septic tank. You will know exactly what the problem is and how to avoid it in the future. If you would like to learn more, contact TLC Plumbing Company today.