How to Unclog a Basement Sewer Pipe

A backed-up sewer line can be quite messy.
A backed-up sewer line can be quite messy. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

The basement sewer pipe, often called the main drain is the collection point for all of the drains in your home. If the main drain clogs, you have serious problems because none of the waste in your home can get to the sewer. Eventually, the waste will backflow through drains such as your sink or shower. The backflow will start with the lowest drain in the home, usually in the basement or first floor.

Things You'll Need

  • Pipe wrench
  • Manual or electric snake

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Locate the easiest place to access the drainpipe. First, inspect the area where the sewer line leaves the house. Look outside the home for an access pipe where the pipe leaves the basement. If you do not locate an access point outside the home, look inside the home. Often the pipe is located in an access panel in the basement floor. If you do not have an access point inside the home or outside the home, use the closest drain to the clog. You can tell the closest drain because it is the first drain to back up waste.

Take a rough measurement from the drain to the wall where the drain exits the home. This tells you how long of a plumbing snake you need. If less than 10-feet, you can use a manual snake. If more, rent an electric snake. A plumbing snake is a metal cable with a cutter on one end of it. The metal cutter removes the clog in a drain.

Remove the access cap on the sewer pipe with a pipe wrench. If you are using a drain in the home, remove the trap from the drain, if possible, so you have a straight shot with the snake. If you are using a shower or tub drain, and it is not feasible to remove the trap, remove the strainer from the drain or find the nearest drain where you can remove the trap.

Feed the metal cable from the snake into the hole and direct it toward the clog. If you are using a drain, direct the snake down the drain toward the wall where the pipe exists the home. If you are using the access point, direct the snake up the drain toward the first drain. If you are using a manual snake, feed it slowly into the drain and spin the handle fast. With a slow speed and a fast spinning cutter, you have a better chance of removing the clog. If you are using an electric snake, feed the snake slowly and wear rubber gloves designed for feeding electric snake so you can maneuver the snake inside the drain.

Look for running water. Once the clog clears you will see the water flowing past the access hole in the sewer pipe or the water will drain from the drain you placed the snake into.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be cautious of methane gas. When you open a sewer drain, methane will come into your home. Make sure you keep windows open to help reduce the methane trapped in your home.


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