Main Sewer Line Clog - Cost to Snake

Clogged Sewer Line? Have It Snaked!

If multiple fixtures start backing up in your home, you may have a clogged sewage line. So if you start hearing gurgling from multiple fixtures and the water doesn’t drain, it’s probably time to call a plumber, as gurgling is a telltale sign of a clogged main line. There are multiple potential causes for drain malfunctions, including an overfilled septic tank, so you may want to talk to a plumber about your first step in remedying the situation. The plumber might recommend checking the septic tank first. Note that not all plumbers will check your septic tank, so make sure to communicate clearly with them before having them come out. Also know that sewer snaking is a basic, early diagnostic. They can also run a camera through your system, but this isn't necessarily warranted unless the snaking produces no results. Don't spend money if you don't have to, and know that "free camera inspections" are sometimes bait for an upsell scam.

How Does Snaking a Sewer Line Work?

Sewer snaking or rodding utilizes a drain-cleaning machine equipped with a cable and auger, which is extended through your pipe until it locates the clog (and drills through it). While you may have a main line access plug, the plumber may have to snake from a higher point in your home to prevent waste from spilling out. Oftentimes, they’ll remove a toilet and feed the tube down. In extreme cases, they can even enter through the roof septic pipe. If you have a multiple-floor home, the plumber will do some detective work to determine where, in the line, the clog might be.

The auger extends and spins through the plumbing system until it reaches and drills through the clog. If your problems are caused by roots growing into the pipe, they usually come back up when the auger is removed from the pipeline. In this case, you may need repairs to the pipe, but there are chemical treatments that can also be used (for an additional fee).

How Much does Snaking a Sewer Line Cost?

Snaking the main line can cost between $175 and $300 for basic jobs and up to $500 for more complex ones. $300 is an average price. If your line can be snaked through an access port or through the septic tank opening, it should cost less. If your toilet needs removing, it may cost $100-$150 to remove and reseal the toilet. Sometimes when your main line backs up, the pressure will blow the seal on your toilet—so it will need replacing anyway. If the toilet starts leaking around the base you'll know the seal has been broken.

If you have broken pipes, especially on the outside, expect to pay considerably more, as they will have to be dug up and repaired or replaced. Accessible pipes can cost $500-$1000 to replace, depending on the pipe type and the length of replacement pipe. Outdoor, buried pipe replacement can cost $1000-$4000.

Other Ways to Clean a Sewer Line

There is another way to clean a sewer line, which is a bit more thorough, but it’s also more expensive: the hydrojet method. Hydrojets cost between $350 and $600. They are more commonly used in industrial situations, but are also used in residential situations. A hydrojet feeds a head through which shoots water out, removing the clog and cleaning the pipe around the clog. Sewage augers may not be big enough to displace the entire clog, as they are much smaller in diameter than the pipe they traverse.

The one downside to using hydrojets is that if you have old pipes, they could damage them, but your plumber or sewer cleaning company should know what’s best for your situation. These estimates are only provided as a ballpark. If you have a complex problem, it could cost considerably more. If you should develop a blockage in your system, ask as many questions as you can before having the pro come out including: Do they do both interior and exterior plumbing work and check the septic? Which diagnostic should be done first and how much will it cost?  If you find a plumber who provides all those services, you might save money in service charges, depending on what their fees are. Also, be sure to ask for a ballpark price for main line snaking, if that is what you need done. If your job turns out to be extensive and expensive, please don’t be afraid to get multiple quotes. Even the service charges vary, so be sure to ask what the baseline fee is when scheduling your repairs.

*Also see our toilet reseating and septic tank cleaning articles.

Tip: To prevent main sewage line blockages flush twice for number two and avoid thick toilet paper (we’re not naming brands).

Thank you, Plumber's Service of Milford, Michigan, for modeling for our photos. 

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