Occasionally, the sewer pipe from the house to the cesspool or sewer will become clogged so that the waste water cannot flow out of the system. More often than not, this stoppage is due to some bulky object forced down a fixture drain.
The pipe must be cleared as soon as possible, because a stopped-up sewer pipe will put the entire drainage system out of order. Do not allow any water to go down a drain until the pipe is cleared, or the waste will very likely back up in the pipes and come through the drains at low points in the system.
Most home sewer systems are equipped with a special clean-out plug for just such stoppages. The clean-out plug is usually located in the basement at a point where the sewer line runs through the wall.
A brass clean-out plug can be removed with a stilson or a monkey wrench. If the plug is made of iron, it may be necessary to use a cold chisel to start it. If the plug is damaged in this process, you can replace it with a special tapered plug.
Once the plug is out, a "snake" is inserted into the pipe to remove the obstruction. The "snake" is a long, thin, steel band with a heavy point at one end. The steel band is very flexible and can be worked around bends until the point comes in contact with the obstruction in the pipe.
Needless to say, cleaning a sewer pipe is an unpleasant task at best, and if the system continues to clog for no apparent reason, it should be dug up and put down properly.
Underground sewer pipes are subject to attack by tree roots. The small roots work their way through the pipe connections and, if given sufficient time, they will effectively clog the system.
Copper sulphate, poured down the fixture drains, will kill the roots but not necessarily remove them completely. A plumber's snake can be used to clear the roots out of the pipe, but this requires considerable effort, especially when the roots are large and densely packed in the pipe.
Plumbers use a powered rotor with a flexible shaft inserted into the pipe, and this will clear the pipe effectively. These are temporary measures, however, for the roots will come back into the pipe. Special sewer pipes are available, which are so constructed that roots cannot penetrate the pipe joints. When a sewer line is repeatedly attacked by tree roots, the only lasting remedy is to dig it up and have this type of pipe installed.
Caustic soda is often used to clean fixture drains. This is not a good practice, for the chemical will cause the grease inside the pipes to harden. After a period of years, the sewer line will be so coated with this hard grease that it cannot handle the volume of water required. Removing hard grease with a snake is a very difficult undertaking.
Outside sewer pipes will fail to operate properly if there is too much or too little pitch to the pipes. While the complete drainage of a pipe depends upon a full charge of water to carry the solid matter through, too much pitch will cause an accumulation of solids at the pipe joints, eventually forming a blockage. To rectify this condition, the pipes should be removed and put down at the right pitch.