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Question DetailsAsked on 6/21/2017

Where is my sewer cleanout located?

I frequently have issues with roots and clogs. (no cleanout outside the home from what I know) house was built around 1965 in the NYC area. I know where my pipe runs out to city sewer. What's weird is about 10 ft away over to the right under one of my pavers I see what appears to be a metal cleanout plug. This paver has always been loose and I decided to finally fix it and discovered it. Can that be it? Its not inline with the pipe and I'm just wondering why would it be so far away from the sewer line? I'm thinking this can't be it. I didnt try to remove it but it seems like it wouldn't come off easily.The bottom line is that I would love to have a cleanout outside as it would make my life so much easier since I have a huge city tree in front of my house and when the pipe clogs it backs up inside my home due to the poor location of the main sewer line access inside my home.The sewer vent is located under my deck, and is the first sign that I have an issue because it comes up from there

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6 Answers

Voted Best Answer

I would call the free utility locate service (dial 811) and have them mark your water and sewer line locations and also ask that they mark your cleanout and water curb stop valve. My guess, particularly with the apparent 10' offset (normal lateral clearance between water and sewer lines), is that the metal cap you found is the protective cover (usually bolted down with a center bolt but sometimes a raised or recessed) cap on the riser casing leading up from your curb stop valve - which is the shutoff the city would use to turn off water to your house in the event your interior main sutoff valve failed or had to be worked on, or if you had a leak on the "street side" of the interior shutoff valve. The actual curb stop valve is typically 3-1/2' (code minimum) to 5 feet deep in NYC and is reached with a forked curb stop shutoff wrench on a long Tee-handled metal rod called a water key. Cover commonly looks like these and technically should have WATER stamped or embossed on it:

If covered with a paver, I would put a stake labelled SHUTOFF right next to it, or safer probably stencil or deeply etch WATER SHUTOFF on the paver so it can be readily found if needed. Rather than paint use a stain or permanent stamp pad india ink so it penetrates and lasts.

You said the sewer vent is located under the deck - unless someone really did a scab job on your house and did not run the DWV venting through the roof like it should be, and especially since the backup starts coming out there that pipe under your deck is 99%+ likely to be your sewer cleanout - meaning you may need to put screws in several deck boards (if wood) for periodic access to it if there is not room to reasonably crawl in under the deck to run a snake into the sewer line. Would typically have a cap similar to the ones shown above, typically 3" (older homes) or 4" (after about 1970's)

Here are a couple of previous similar questions regarding the cost to put in another cleanout if needed - though I think using the existing one (which is probably 2-5 feet out from the foundation) is the way to go - making removeable deck boards, or perhaps putting a 45 on it just above ground level to bring it out to a capped end (should be capped) at one side of the deck.

On the chronic clogging - if you have such a problem and want the tree gone generally there is a procedure for that based on the tree being a nuisance. Otherwise, using Root-X annually or so may minimize the blockage issue, if caused by roots. Generally will not harm a large established tree to kill off the few roots in your sewer line.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD


oops - failed to get the links in related to cost for putting in a cleanout, if you end up needing that - obviously you would be in the upper endof the cost range, probably:

Answered 3 years ago by LCD


Thanks for your response. I will call 811 and see what I find out. Hopefully it's that easy!

The vent under the deck might be the key though. The pipe is definitely 3" and it comes up on an angle versus straight up through the ground like you normaly see. Adding a access area right above it would be great idea. I'm hoping I could snake it this way much easier without any messes.

My roof definitely has vents as I recall when we renovated the entire 1st floor a few years back when we did the bathroom we tied into the roof plumbing vent. The house is 2 floors with a basement Built on a hill so maybe that plays into it. I am the last house on thr city sewer run on a dead end block. Actually the city just dug up the entire block a few months back and installed 12" piping in the street vs. the old 6" piping that was there that use to clog frequently due to grease solids. I'm hoping this also helps my chronic clogging situation.

You mentioned something about nuisance trees. I have asked the city to remove it, or even offered to remove it at my cost but they have refused and do not allow it.

Answered 3 years ago by Studiovette


With that pipe on an incline, UNLESS it is an old fuel oil filler pipe (which would usually have a locking flip cap on it, commonly but not always labelled OIL or #3 or such to indicate oil use), is almost certainly a sewer cleanout - an AMAZING number of house designers and architects put the cleanout in an inaccessible location like under the front porch. Certainly removing the cap and sniffing, or better yet running water in the house and then listening at the pipe (cap would not have to be off for that - just put ear to the pipe) would tell you if that is the cleanout. Or take cap off and run water in the house - you should see it running at bottom of the standpipe if you use a flashlight - commonly (best to avoid clogging) comes out of the house pipe and drops through a Tee - one leg goingto the surface cleanout pipe, down to the sewerline to the street or septic tank.

On extending the riser pipe for easier access - preferably use 15 or 30 degree angle fittings (several if absolutely needed but limit ot minimum number absolutelynecessary to gain access) rather than 45's and definitely not a 90 (so there is less resistance to a router or jet cleaner going into the pipe), and do NOT fasten it firmly to the porch - install so there is a loose fitting or bracket or just loose wood frame or crosspiece to support the pipe extension but which will allow the porch to move independently from the pipe so it does not get broken off due to porch settlement or frost heaving. Using one or more rubber no-hub couplings (though their outdoor life is only about 20 years or so - stainless wrap typelast longer) rather than rigid fitting connections would also make it more resistant to cracking the likely cast iron or ductile pipe if there is any movement transverse to the lay of the pipe. Also - put a locking or tightly threaded cap on it so small kids playing can't fill your sewer with pebbles or gravel - AMAZING how often that is the cause of a sewer line blockage. Even found one once which was full with probably 1000 nuts from squirrels using it as a cache.

On the tree - IF you have proof that the tree is causing sewer root intrusion issues (an invoice or work order, or even better more than one, stating in the work description that your blockage problem was tree root intrusion) you might be able to use that to file a complaint with the city about the tree being a damaging nuisance to get it removed - might take an appeal of their decision or going to your assembly member or even before the assembly or city council or such for a determination in your favor. OR you may be able to file a claim with the city for the damage (and routing out cost) caused by their tree - though that is certainly a hassle in most areas.

This assumes the tree is on their property or an easement. Though if on an easement as opposed to city-owned street right-of-way - different locales treat street ownership differently with some having a street and maybe sidewalk right-of-way easement on the properties but the city/county does not actually "own" any of the street, some have a street ownership strip centered on the street plus a sidewalk/snow clearing/utility easement on each or sometimes only one side of that, some the government entity owns the steet and sidewalk strip - sometimes with additional utility easements on the side of that.

Anyway, if on an easement rather than government "owned" land, that easement generally provides the entity (street department, drainage district, utilities, etc) right-of-way to install and maintain their infrastructure but does NOT prevent your concurrent use of the land. Obviously, you generally cannot build any structure in a right-of-way, and can't garden on the street/sidewalk itself for instance because that interferes with the easement use for the street/sidewalk. But the easement is granted for a specific purpose and you still have the right to use your land on that easement as long as your use does not interfere with the easement use. Therefore (though you might specifically includes planting/ maintaining decorative trees then you would have the right to maintain the vegetation or plantings as YOU desire - including cutting the tree down. For instance, you are generally required to leave access for utilities to access their infrastructure on utility easements, but otherwise you can plant what you want - lawn, garden, etc with the understanding they may trample or dig it up if needed to access their right-of-way and service the utility.

Rarely, your subdivision plat will have a codicil or affirmative covenant requiring your maintaining the trees - like exist for the famous palm trees along some of LA's major streets.

Other solution - might take a bit of legal research on this - is having a tree service inject root poison into the ground in a line just on your side of the edge of your exclusive use property (at the boundary of the street or sidewqalk easement most likely). GENERALLY, barring an affirmative covenant or such, (though many states require advance written notice to the tree owner if it will cause major damage to or kill the tree) you are allowed to cut or poison roots intruding into your property and causing damage, even if it ends up killing the tree or causing it to die.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD


I have confirmed that I do not have a cleanout Outside the house. I have a P trap inside the house and the pipe coming up at an angle under the deck is a fresh air pipe for it. I spoke to a local plumber and he's insisting that most of the houses in the area that I'm in ( Staten Island) do not have outdoor cleanouts And most have P traps with a pit inside the home.

Im assuming it would be very difficult to get the snake down the fresh air vent hoping it goes the right way towards thr street and not inside my house.

I had the line scoped a couple years ago and saw where the roots were coming in about 20ft past the foundation. My plan is to have the line scoped again soon to see if this is still the only problem spot. I will also see if these repairs are covered by my sewer/water main insurance policy since they did cover a similar situation a neighbor had. Depending on what we find I will go from there and decide whether It makes sense at that time to have them add a cleanout somewhere outside the house. I do know the pipe is about 6-8ft down so it won't be an easy task but still well worth it.

Answered 3 years ago by Studiovette


Certainly if you are going to have a camera run, check out that inclined pipe too - it might well go into a 45 degree or street wye on the sewer line that could be used for snaking - if a regular 90 degree Tee that is real tough to run a router through, though sometimes you can snake a jetting hose around it - but not easy because of the friction of such a tight turn.

Unfortunately, unless you clean the line frequently (like maybe yearly at least) a routine jetter might not be able to clear the roots like a root cutter head on a cable router can, so I would definitely try to make the cleanout suitable for conventional router access.

I did not consider or mention the possibility of a P trap in the sewer line because I thought those went out in the 40's or 50's - can't imagine that was compliant with code in 1965, but then NYC/NJ area has some real goofy local code amendments too. Some in-line P-traps include an access passage for a router, some essentially prevent running a router through it - hopefully your camera run will determine this.

Certainly any cleanout should be downstream of the P-trap - and a lot neater if located just outside the house rather than inside, and better protection against clogs if right outside the foundation rather than some distance away from the foundation, but modifying the existing air vent to a cleanout might or might not be viable depending on your deck construction and height. I guess if the new cleanout has to be some distance from the house, putting in a 2-way cleanout (two back-to-back wyes so a cleanout tool can go both upstream and downstream from the access standpipe) might be your best solution, even though they are an invitation to clogging (but commonly clearable with a garden hose and jet nozzle in that event). IF you put in a two-way I emphatically recommend separate wyes rather than the combined ones, because the combined ones commonly have a "blind" or inaccessible spot right at the wye, between the upstream and downstream portions - though there are so-called "cleanout Tees" which have curves to allow a router/jetter to curve both upstream and downstream like this:

I prefer two wyes - the downstream one aiming upstream, and upstream one providing access in the downstream direction - the bidirectional cleanout shown at lower right of the illustration in this article -

Generally if you do a bidirectional installation two risers would be best, because trying to bring them toigether into one riser puts several additional bends in the run that the snake/jetter would have to negotiate, potentially limiting the length that could effectively be run into the sewer. So be sure whatever way you go, that the plumber or sewer and drain contractor you use is one who does a lot of snaking so your configuration allows for easy snaking.

Sounds like a budget of around $500-1000 is likely for this project if you end up putting in a new cleanout, depending on where it goes and relative accessibility of that location - and of course depending on how long your sewer run to the street is, the relative cost of the cleanout and replacing the buried portion of the sewer line from house to the street (which would presumably include putting in a cleanout at same time) - putting in seamless pipe or at least glued PVC in the root zone to prevent future root instrusion. Certainly if the vent pipe under the porch can be used as a cleanout I would try that combined with Root-X (which commonly takes several applications a month or so apart initially, then every 6-12 months thereafter) as the cheaper solution - in that instance you could always later go to the added cleanouts and/or replacing the line under the tree.

That brings in another thought - a bit devious, and might not be bought off on by the city, but if you need to replace the line under the tree because of repeated root intrusion blockages, it might just be that you have to remove the tree to be able to trench the line to replace it in that part of the yard ? ;>)

Good Luck

Answered 3 years ago by LCD


Thanks LCD you gave me some awesome advice and gave me some great ideas.

Answered 3 years ago by Studiovette

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