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Ask Angie: Regular cleaning of sewer drain might be worth it

Angieslist.comApril 19, 2013 

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Angie Hicks

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Dear Angie: How often should a sewer drain be cleaned? Is this something that should be part of regular maintenance or as needed? A local plumber who has unclogged our main lines in the past mentioned he was running a "special" of 50 percent off the sewer drain cleanout service, using a 3,000-pound pressure hose, for $200. It seems a small price to pay, considering we've never done this in eight years of home ownership, but a high price to pay if it's not necessary. Should we do it? — Pat C., Oceanside, NY.

Dear Pat: Typically, sewer drain cleaning on an "as-needed" basis will work for most homeowners, assuming the cleaning is done before a clog causes a drain backup that spills raw sewage into the home and creates costly cleanup and repair.

A clogged sewer line usually will offer clues before it backs up. The most common signs of a clogged line are gurgling sounds from drains and toilets; water backing up out of, or pooling around, drains or toilets; or the smell of raw sewage coming from drains.

Most companies can clear a clogged line quickly and for less than $150 before it becomes a major issue.

If, however, you've had a history of your plumbing lines clogging, draining slowly, tree roots penetrating the lines or you live in an older home, then having the main line cleaned out by a professional using high-pressure water techniques might be worth that investment.

High-pressure water jetters — when used by properly trained plumbing professionals — can remove residue that builds in your lines, including grease, mineral deposits, hair, food and other blockages.

High-pressure cleaning can be more effective than using a drain auger, also known as a cable or snake, because it actually cleans the lines, rather than just clearing an obstruction.

For a high-pressure water jet cleaning, $200 seems like a good deal. I've seen reports on Angie's List of members paying up to $900 for a cleaning, depending on their situation. If you decide to go with a sewer drain cleanout, be sure to call at least two other companies to compare prices and service levels, so you can get an apples-to-apples comparison of what this company is offering. Also, check that the plumber is properly licensed to service your area, is insured and has a good history with his or her customers.

Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angieslist.com to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at askangie@angieslist.com.

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