Never attempt to clear sewer mainlines from roofs. The Uniform Plumbing Code cites that cleanouts are required on all plumbing systems. Usually the cleanouts were installed originally and have been covered over by concrete, asphalt, landscaping, etc., or removed to accommodate patios, porches and room-additions. It is best never to cover sewer cleanouts. They are important to properly access the sewer system in order to clean stoppages.
Taking sewer cleaning equipment on the roof is risky and dangerous. Damage to roofs (the equipment is heavy and awkward) is a concern, not to mention the worker’s-comp issues when a workman is injured. A 200 lb. falling sewer machine is obviously a danger to customers and their family members, as well. Additionally, most roof vents are maximum 2″ in diameter. Mainlines are always 3″, or 4″ in diameter, which means if you are able to “hook” an intruding root system in the mainline, you are likely to break your cable trying to bring it back through a 2″ vent. That is why a good plumber will always ask if you have a cleanout available. If not, they may be able to pull a toilet and clear the line, but the proper and most effective application is to locate the line and install a two-way cleanout outside the house or business.
Care must be taken when using sewer machines. In a building where the sewer system was properly constructed the sewer machine cable will find its way to the main line as you feed it. If, On the other hand, a mistake was made when the sewer line was installed the cable might find its way to some other part of the building. A trained professional will generally be able to properly clear a line. But at times, even for the trained professional, there can be problems. Sometimes a fitting was used which does not allow for the proper passage of a sewer cable. The cable or the fitting might break. At other times a fitting in the sewer line allows the cable to travel in the wrong direction. The first time you clear a line be cautious. It’s always better to err on the side of safety. While the story of a sewer cable emerging from a toilet and thrashing the bathroom might be funny to tell your grandchildren, it’s not funny when it happens. Having a licensed and bonded contractor has its advantages in situations like this.
Please observe all safety rules when using a drain machine. These can be found here.
Gary R. Tanner
Owner – Town and Country Plumbing