Knowing the location of a clog is critical for determining the best methods to deal with it. However, sometimes it's unclear whether the clog is in the main line or one of the secondary lines that connect to the toilets, sinks, and tubs. Here's how to tell if the clog is in your main line and what to do to fix the problem.

Signs of a Main Line Clog

Plumbing clogs produce some of the same symptoms no matter where they occur in the system. These symptoms include:

  • Slow drains
  • Water backing up through the drain or toilet
  • Flooding underneath the floor
  • Sounds of gurgling in the drains
  • A sewage smell coming from toilet or sinks

However, whereas a clog in a secondary pipe affects only the drain or appliance it's connected to, a clog in the main pipe will affect all the plumbing in the home. Multiple drains will be slow or have sewage spilling out or there may be flooding in several rooms. The effect will be particularly pronounced after using machines that generate a lot of waste water in a short period of time, such as the washing machine or dishwasher.

Therefore, if you're experiencing plumping problems in multiple areas in your home, then there may be an issue with the main line.

Cause of Main Line Clogs

The main line is responsible for pushing all of the waste out of the home. The causes of clogs vary, but a common one is foreign objects that don't belong in the pipes, such as diapers, feminine care products, thick toilet paper, towels, and toys. The drain outs for main lines on most modern homes are covered by heavy duty plates or caps. However, in many homes with older plumbing systems, the drain outs may only be covered with mesh. This means animals will sometimes find their way inside the line, get stuck and clog the pipe. Birds may build nests on or in the pipe, which can also cause clogs.

Another possible cause of clogs in the main line is tree roots, particularly if you live in a dry area where rain is not plentiful. Condensation often forms on the exterior of pipes in the ground. The roots of trees sense the moisture and grow towards it, eventually covering the pipe. The roots may find their way into cracks in the pipe and grow dense enough to clog the fluid's path. Other times, the roots may exert enough pressure on the pipes to actually break them and cause more problems.

Clearing Main Line Clogs

The first thing you should do when you suspect a clog in the main line is turn off the water and open the drain clean out. While there may be a number of clean outs connected to secondary drains like your laundry plumbing or kitchen sink, the clean out for your main line will be on or close to the ground and usually near the front or back wall of the home.

Opening the clean out will help relieve the pressure in the pipes and may cause the clog to issue forth through the opening without further effort on your part. You can help it along, though, by filling all of the sinks and tubs in the home and then letting them drain. The pressure from the water may help clear the blockage.

If this doesn't work, then you can snake the line to manually clear out the clog. Be aware that you may encounter some disgusting materials, so be sure to wear protective gear and be prepared to be grossed out. You'll need a professional plumber snake, which you can buy or rent from a home improvement or equipment rental store. Feed the snake into the drain until you feel the blockage and then maneuver the tool so that it catches the clog and you can pull it out.

You'll likely need to call a plumber for assistance if you're not able to clear the line yourself by snaking it. A plumber can use other methods for clearing the clog or use a camera to view the inside of your pipes to see what the problem may be if all attempts to clear the blockage don't work.

For more assistance with troublesome clogs in your pipes, contact a plumber in your area. You can also click here for more information