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Unclog Main Sewer Line Cost

Unclog Main Sewer Line Cost

National average
$550
(snaking the clog and hydro-jetting the main sewer line between the house and municipal main)
Low: $150

(snaking the clog from main sewer line near the house)

High: $1,200

(using camera to locate clog, hydro-jetting the line and making repairs)

Cost to unclog main sewer line varies greatly by region (and even by zip code).
Get free estimates from pipe cleaning specialists in your city.

The average cost to unclog a main sewer line is $550.

In this guide

Cost factors
Signs of having a clogged main sewer line
Causes
Professional unclogging methods
Unclogging process
Labor
How to prevent future clogs
Additional considerations and costs
FAQ

How much does it cost to unclog the main sewer line?

Sewer clogs and subsequent back-ups occur when items get flushed that are not kind to a sewer system, like oil, grease, and paper products that are not septic-safe. It may also occur due to encroaching tree roots, depending on where the line is located. A clogged sewer line 1 is not uncommon, but is very problematic and will incur additional expenses in repairs and cleanup costs if left unaddressed.

The average cost to unclog a main sewer line is around $550, which includes snaking the clog and hydro-jetting the main sewer line that runs between a house and municipal main line without additional complications.

Cost factors

When it comes to unclogging a main sewer line, there are many factors that impact the cost:

  • The location and accessibility of the clog are cost factors that play a role in how long your plumber will spend on the job. The average hourly rate for plumbers is $45-$65 per hour.
  • The severity of the clog also matters when it comes to cost. For instance, if numerous drains in the home are clogged, it likely is a broken sewer main, which will be expensive to resolve; if the clog is in a main drain, it can be easily and quickly flushed or snaked in most cases.
  • The method used by your plumber will also contribute to what it costs to unclog your main sewer line. For instance, snaking a drain may only cost you $150, but for a more stubborn clog, flushing or hydro-jetting the line can cost a minimum of $350.
  • A big impact on price will be whether the sewer line needs repairs or not in order to resolve the situation. When you have drain line breakage, it can cost between $360 and $1,290 to repair, but replacing the main sewer line will be a lot more expensive, an average of $2,500 in ideal circumstances. The price goes up if there are difficulties with accessing the main line, such as the need to dig up concrete slabs 2. In this instance, be prepared to spend around $150 per hour for labor and equipment to excavate your home’s slab to access the line.
  • The specific hourly rate of your plumbing contractor is also going to impact the overall cost that you will spend to unclog a main sewer line. Generally, plumbers charge $45-$65 per hour.
  • If this is an emergency and you need to contact a contractor during off-hours, you will pay more to unclog the line. Emergency charges can range from $100-$500 on top of the bill for the plumber’s time and materials, depending on the distinct situation.

Signs of having a clogged main sewer line

It may be tough to tell if you have a stubborn, clogged drain or if the main sewer line is blocked. Typically, if you notice backflow from the tub or your sink, the main sewer line is clogged or blocked. Do you hear strange gurgling sounds coming from the toilet? This may point toward a clogged sewer main. Also, when water bubbles out of the shower or in the tub when you run your dishwasher or washing machine, you may have a clogged sewer main. If more than one sink or fixture is not draining properly or you are experiencing standing water in multiple areas, you likely have a clog in your sewer line or a broken pipe.

Some other things to look for include foliage: if you see pieces of foliage or debris in the toilet when flushing or when it backs up, you could have an issue with your sewer line and tree roots. Call a plumbing contractor immediately if you notice this. Keep an eye out for water backing up in the shower when you flush the toilet or for sewage coming into any sink or tub in the house, as these are indicative of a main sewer line issue.

Also, don’t overlook a foul smell as this is one of the earliest signs of a problem. Take a look around the yard where your main sewer line runs: do you notice odd soggy patches or indents on the ground? These signs all point to a problem with the sewer line.

Causes

Some causes of an issue with the main sewer line cannot be helped, such as tree roots that find their way into your pipes and block the system.

Some other causes of main sewer line clogs include what is actually being flushed and rinsed down the home’s drains, like thick paper, sanitary products, grease, food debris, or oil. Common toilet clogs are typically isolated to the single flush, while sewer line issues impact all of the drains and fixtures in the house.

If the sewer lines and system are older, they could be made with clay or cast iron, which can deteriorate and eventually crack, which will also cause problems including a breakdown of the line and backing up of everything that goes down your drains.

Professional unclogging methods

When it comes to unclogging a sewer line, a professional plumber is going to save you time, headache, and money by preventing any further water damage. These are some of the methods your plumber can employ to unclog your main sewer line:

MethodCharacteristicsCost
Sewer Snake

Fast and easy

First line of defense for clogs

Doesn’t identify nature of clog

$150-$400
Electric Power Auger 3

Often used in conjunction with camera

Fast and easy

Doesn’t identify nature of clog

$250-$400
Camera Inspection

Easier on system

Safe for older pipes

Identifies cause of clog fast

Does not resolve clog or plumbing issue

$250-$550
Hydro-Jetting

Clears more debris than other methods

Removes residue

Fast

$350-$1,000
Sewer Line Replacement

Very expensive

Additional cleanup costs

Updates old clay or iron pipes

$1,000-$4,000


Unclogging process

When you phone a plumbing contractor about your clog, they will usually run a basic sewer snake through the system. If the issue is isolated to a single drain or pipe, this is where they will start. The toilet drain is the easiest access to a main sewer line as it has a larger circumference than other pipes. To reach this drain, the toilet must be lifted from the floor for access. If the snake identifies a blockage but is not able to push through, the plumber may use an electric auger to push or hydro-jet to force the blockage out with water.

If all these steps fail, the plumber may use an auger to send a camera into the line to identify what is going on. This may show the source of the clog, such as tree roots encroaching in the line. In this instance, the pipe will need to be dug up, the roots removed, and any damaged pipes will need to be replaced. It can take as little as an hour to identify and resolve the issue, or in worst case scenarios, you could have plumbing contractors working to dig up a sewer line for several days.

Labor

A stubborn kitchen clog is one thing, but when it comes to unclogging a main sewer line, you should call the professionals as soon as possible. The longer you wait to solve the problem, the worse it will become when it comes to a main sewer line. There will be standing water–even sewage–that needs to be cleaned up. Over time, a problem with a sewer line can impact and contaminate groundwater, which impacts those that live around you.

Without the right materials and equipment, you risk costly repairs, messy cleanup, and a broken sewer drain 4. On average, plumbers charge $45-$65 per hour. Some professional septic services often charge per project instead of on an hourly basis. Usually, this involves running an electric auger and camera through the line to find the underlying cause of the issue. This type of diagnostic visit can cost around $350 from this type of company.

How to prevent future clogs

There are some simple steps that homeowners can take to prevent future clogs. First, make sure that every drain in the home is fitted with a trap to catch anything that should not be doing down. Also, avoid flushing oil, grease, and food debris down any sink, tub, or drain in the home; keep a coffee can nearby to dispose of cooking fat, rather than risk it down the sink or disposal. Try to avoid using chemicals such as copper sulfate on your clogs as it is toxic and harsh to the environment.

Make sure that you are using septic-safe toilet paper and never flush anything besides waste and toilet paper in your bathrooms. Consider annual sewer line cleanings, which cost an average of $200-$400 from septic cleaning professionals.

Additional considerations and costs

  • Permits. There are a lot of safety codes that you need to adhere to when doing anything to a sewer line, which usually requires permits. This is because the sewer line impacts the health of you and your neighbors.
  • DIY. There are always some tips to help prevent or unclog drains, and DIY supplies run around $10-$100. You can typically rent a sewer snake for the day for around $50. However, when it comes to an issue with a main sewer line, it really is most safe to rely on the professionals.
  • Precautions. Unless you are advised otherwise, avoid flushing, using sinks, and filling tubs until the plumber arrives. It simply makes it easier and cleaner for the plumber to assess the situation.
  • Replacement. If the contractor discovers that the sewer line is heavily damaged during the unclogging, it may need to be replaced. On average, it costs about $2,500 to replace a sewer line.
  • Tree roots. Tree roots can pose an obstacle (and added expense) when unclogging the main line. The cost for removing roots varies, depending on the size of the tree and the extent of the damage, but generally adds from $100-$800 more. Annual chemical treatments can prevent roots from re-growing once you have repaired or replaced your line.
  • Cleanouts. Newer properties have what is called a ‘cleanout’ installed, usually on the lawn or near the street. These provide a means of accessing the line to clear obstacles more easily than older homes without this entry. Installation of a cleanout is estimated to be around $2,000 which includes the cost of multiple workers and excavation equipment.
  • Cleanup. The blackwater associated with a sewage backup poses serious health risks and if the backup is extensive or severe, should be addressed by a professional. Some cleaning companies may charge by the hour, but it is estimated that sewage cleanups cost around $7 per square foot.
  • Repercussions. Additionally, a blocked line can become an environmental hazard, subjecting you to fines and litigation in some instances.
  • Responsibility. You may not be responsible for the clogged line at all if it’s located in the city’s sewer main. Typically, the city will send out a contractor with a camera to find the blockage and resolve it if it is on their end. If the clog is between your house and the city’s main line, however, the cost is yours to endure.

FAQ

  • How much does a plumber cost to unclog a main line?

You will likely pay around $550 to have a plumber unclog a main sewer line, unless you have complications like damage to the sewer line itself.

  • How do I unclog my main drain?

Try pouring boiling water down the drain that seems clogged; if this doesn’t help to move the clog, try using a household plunger next. If all of your drains are slow or stopped-up, it is likely the main sewer line that is clogged or damaged and it is best to call a professional plumber to unclog the main drain to prevent any damage to pipes or contamination issues.

  • How often should you clean out your sewer line?

It is advised that you clean your sewer lines annually, which generally costs $200-$400 on average.

  • How much does it cost to have a plumber snake a main drain?

A plumber usually charges $150-$400 to snake a main drain without using a camera to identify the clog or hydro-jet to remove residue from the walls of the pipes.

  • How do you unclog a sewer line without a snake?

Professional plumbing contractors can hydro-jet water into the line to loosen and move clogs fast. This process doesn’t require a snake and starts at around $350.

  • Why does my main sewer line keep backing up?

If water or waste is backing up into your sink, tub, or other fixtures, you could have a clogged or damaged main sewer line. Call a plumber right away.

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Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know.
See full cheat sheet.
glossary term picture Sewer Line 1 Sewer line: Principal pipe in a sewage system
glossary term picture Concrete Pad 2 Concrete slabs: A flat area of concrete that can be used for a variety of purposes, such as a patio or a driveway
3 Auger: A thin, pliable tool used to clear difficult clogs in plumbing systems
glossary term picture Sewer Drain 4 Sewer drain: Exit-point for the removal of waste materials from a home or building

Cost to unclog main sewer line varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

Professional opening a hatch in the street to unclog the main sewer line

Labor cost by city and zip code

Compared to national average
Athens, GA
-9%
Butler, PA
-6%
Cary, NC
-5%
Denver, CO
+1%
Duluth, GA
+16%
Durham, NC
-1%
Fort Lauderdale, FL
+2%
Gary, IN
+11%
Highland, IN
+11%
Independence, MO
+8%
Kansas City, MO
+4%
Kissimmee, FL
-20%
Lafayette, LA
+20%
Leonia, NJ
+31%
New Haven, CT
+22%
Philadelphia, PA
+40%
Raleigh, NC
-3%
Smyrna, GA
+10%
Tampa, FL
-2%
Towson, MD
+17%
Winston Salem, NC
-1%
Labor cost in your zip code
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Methodology and sources