If you believe you have a main sewer line clog, you can call a plumber or sewer specialist to handle the problem, or you can try to do it yourself by renting the same kind of sewer snake that the professionals use. A sewer snake differs from more casual drain snakes commonly used to unclog branch drains inside the house. A sewer snake is more powerful with larger diameter metal cables and heads that differ from the general-purpose drain snakes you may already have in your arsenal of home repair tools.
Most sewer snakes can be rented by the hour, day, or half-day at a tool and equipment rental location and home improvement stores. A sewer snake rental machine can be used to clear a main line as long as you get the right machine and you know how to use it.
When to Use a Sewer Snake
A plunger is usually the first line of defense when it comes to unclogging any type of drain. But a plunger can't resolve a problem lurking deep in the main sewer line. But before you rent this type of machine, you first need to find your sewer clean-out. Most houses have one but some may not. It's the best place to work on using a sewer snake to fix a main sewer line problem.
Renting a Sewer Drain Snake
If you decide to rent a sewer snake, learn a few important basics before you head to the tool center:
- Cable diameter: Look for a sewer snake with a minimum cable diameter of 5/8 inches to 7/8 inches. A cable smaller than this will not be strong enough to cut through the typical main line drain stoppage, which can be a pretty substantial clog. Avoid the smaller machines that really are only suitable for clearing branch drains inside the house.
- Cable length: Get a machine with at least 75 to 100 feet of cable length. The length is needed because the sewer drain pipe is commonly quite long and a shorter cable may not be able to reach the clog.
- Clean-out distance: Measure the distance from the clean-out to the street so you can determine the length of cable necessary to clear the clog. If the distance from the cleanout to the street is longer than the typical 100 feet, you will need to rent a drain snake with a longer cable.
- Size: Motorized sewer snakes come in several sizes, and those mounted on a dolly with wheels are easier to move around than ones that must be simply lifted and carried. These are heavy machines, so this convenience is important.
- Clear instructions: Make sure to request a thorough explanation of how the machine works and any safety features it has. There are many different types of sewer snakes available so it is important to be well acquainted with your particular model.
- Protective gear: Ask about what gloves are appropriate to use with the machine you are renting. Leather gloves are typically used, but you will want to know if there is a specific and recommended type.
- Safety measures: When you get the sewer snake rental machine home, go over the safety and use instructions over again. These machines are powerful and can be much more dangerous than drain snakes. The more comfortable you are with using it, the safer and easier it will be to use. Then review the instructions on how to clear a sewer drain clog carefully, making sure to note all safety precautions.
It's a good idea to rent a sewer snake that comes with various heads to fit on the end of the cable. For example, look for a cutter head with sharp blades designed for cutting through tree roots that might be clogging the main sewer line.
When to Call a Professional
Renting and using this tool to clear a main sewer line clog is not an easy job and often best left to the professionals. But if water and waste continue to back up after using a powerful sewer snake, it's definitely time to call in the professionals. The clog might be something complicated that requires the use of a sewer scope to inspect the line for the cause of the problem.