How Much Does It Cost to Clean a Sewer Line?

National Average Range:
$200 - $600
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Reviewed by Laura Madrigal. Written by Fixr.com.

Sewer lines are found in every home, but they are not usually paid much attention to until something goes wrong. Most people only think about the sewers when there is a serious clog or blockage. We even tend to delay routine maintenance without realizing the expensive damage it can cause. When done regularly, sewer line cleaning can save the hassle and a small fortune on repair costs. Professionals should be called immediately when there is a foul smell, backed-up drains, or clogged sewer lines.

The national average rate for sewer cleaning prices ranges between $200 and $600, with most people paying around $250 for a main sewer line cleaning with minimal-to-no excavation to access the cleanout. This project’s low cost is $150 for light-duty professional sewer cleaning with a snake. The high cost is $1,000 for hydro-jetting the main sewer line to resolve a full blockage.

Cost to Clean a Sewer Line

Cost to Unclog a Sewer Line
National average cost$250
Average range$200-$600
Low-end$150
High-end$1,000

Sewer Line Cleaning Cost by Project Range

Low
$150
Professional cleaning using a snake
Average Cost
$250
Main sewer line cleaning with minimal-to-no excavation to access the cleanout
High
$1,000
Hydro-jetting the main sewer line to remove a full blockage

Cost to Have a Sewer Line Cleaned by Problem

Sewer lines 1 can develop many issues, from unpleasant odors to backed-up drains. Cleaning your sewer line can help eliminate these issues by allowing water and waste to pass unimpeded. Cleaning your sewer line can help solve and prevent these issues. By cleaning your line regularly, you can avoid odors and backed-up sewage. The cost to clean the line can be directly related to the issue because each may need a different solution. Below is a table of the most common problems and how much each costs to resolve.

Cost to repair a smelly, backed-up, and clogged sewer line

Cost to repair a smelly, backed-up, and clogged sewer line

ProblemCost to Repair
Sewer Line Smell$100 - $200
Backed-Up Drain$150 - $300
Clogged Sewer Line$250 - $800

Sewer Line Smell

The cost to clean your sewer line to remove an unpleasant odor is $100 to $200. Many things could cause your drains or sewer lines to emit a foul odor. It may smell rotten or like sewage in a worst-case scenario. Even if there are no other signs of a blockage or more serious problem, if you can smell your sewer lines at all, they probably need a good cleaning. While you can purchase drain cleaners from home improvement stores and other retailers, it is often best to leave the cleaning to professionals because you never know how safe or effective those dangerous chemicals are.

Backed-Up Drain

The cost to clean a backed-up drain averages $150 to $300, depending on where the drain is located and how difficult it is to clean. A backed-up drain could have several causes, including improper maintenance, putting things down the drain that should not be, or a grease or hair blockage. If it is a main drain or outside line, tree roots could be in the way, or there could be other dirt and debris from breakdown and age.

Average Cost to Unclog a Sewer Line

Clearing a clogged sewer line costs $250 to $800, depending on where the clog is located, what causes it, and the necessary cleaning. A clogged sewer line is typically an indication of a much larger problem. The main sewer line is much larger and can typically handle more volume than the average drain in your home. If the sewer line is clogged, it could be from tree roots, dirt or sewage, or crumbling pipes that have aged and need to be replaced. Cameras may be needed to clear the clog if it is hard to find, increasing costs.

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Cost to Clear a Sewer Line by Method

Just as several problems occur with a sewer line, there are also several potential methods for dealing with the issue. Depending on what is clogging the line or what build it may have, your plumber may recommend several methods for solving the issue. This may include chemical cleaners, snaking or rodding the line to break the clog, hydro-jetting the line, or replacing sections if they are badly damaged by tree roots. Each method may also have a range of associated costs based on where the clog is located, the cause, and how difficult it is to reach. The table below lists the most common methods and their costs.

Cost to clean a sewer line with a chemical cleaner, a snake, hydro jetting, and by replacing a section

Cost to clean a sewer line with a chemical cleaner, a snake, hydro jetting, and by replacing a section

Clearing MethodCost
Chemical Cleaner$20 - $300
Snake$150 - $375
Hydro-Jetting$250 - $1,000
Section Replacement$1,000 - $20,000

Chemical Sewer Line Cleaner

Chemically cleaning your sewer lines costs $20 to $300. Chemical cleaning usually involves pouring a caustic substance into the line to dissolve the clog. Depending on the cause, a chemical cleaner can remove organic clogs like hair and grease. Some can also tackle slow draining lines by removing buildup on the sides of the pipes. Your plumber decides if this is the correct treatment for your drain because caustic chemicals should not be used in every situation. This method is usually avoided if there is standing water in the drain.

Cost to Snake a Sewer Line

The cost to rod a sewer line is $150 to $375. Rodding or snaking feeds a long flexible auger 2 into the affected line. The auger is extended until it reaches the clog and breaks it up. Sometimes, it may push the clog through. Other times, it may fish the material out. The cost depends on how far down the line the clog is and the clog’s cause. Line snakes come in many sizes and lengths, and some may use an attached camera.

Hydro-Jet Sewer Line Cost

Hydro-jetting a sewer line ranges from $250 to $1,000. Hydro-jetting is like snaking the sewer line with water instead of a physical wire or hose. It can be more costly than standard snake services because of the equipment but gentler on the drains and removes certain clogs and full blockages better. Like standard snaking, the cost varies on the clog type and distance. The more severe the clog, the higher your total costs.

Sewer Line Replacement Cost

A sewer line replacement costs $1,000 to $20,000, depending on the location of the damaged area, its length, and materials. Sometimes, sewer lines become clogged due to incursions with tree roots. The pipe may also break down or corrode, leading to more frequent clogs. The existing pipe must be replaced in these cases to solve the problem permanently. There can be a wide range of costs because this may require trenching and reaching difficult-to-access areas.

Labor Cost to Clean a Sewer Line

Sewer line cleaning can be done through various means, and the work is generally performed by a licensed plumber. Plumbers typically charge $75 to $150 per hour for work outside of specific jobs like those discussed above. Cleaning a sewer line can be accomplished through hydro-jetting, snaking/rodding, or chemical drain cleaners. In extreme cases, full or partial replacement of the drain lines may be required, exponentially increasing the cost.

The job is typically charged at a project or flat rate in the mid-range project mentioned above, where the average main sewer line cleaning cost is $250 without a video inspection. However, if it were charged hourly, most clogs require about 1 to 2 hours of work, so expect to spend $75 to $300 on labor for a basic main line clog or cleaning. Replacing the drain line can take several hours or several days, depending on the location, and may require more than one worker, with labor costs of between $800 and $18,000.

Plumber cleaning an outdoor sewer line with a hydro jetter

Cost to Install a Sewer Cleanout

The sewer line “cleanout” refers to a specific system part, not the cleaning process discussed above. The cleanout is typically found near the base of the main stack in the home, and there is also a cleanout located in the yard, usually between the house and street, for access to the in-ground lines outside. However, the only access may be via a roof vent in some properties.

This part may break and need replacement, or it may be determined that it would behoove your home to install a more accessible cleanout in your existing system for future needs. In either case, replacing the cleanout typically costs between $1,000 and $3,500, depending on the line location and replacement difficulty. Jobs that require extensive retrofitting or excavation cost significantly more, while simple cleanout replacement or installation is fairly in expensive.

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Sewer Line Video Inspection Cost

Sometimes, it is important to do a video inspection before beginning sewer line cleaning or repairs. This can help the plumber better understand what is going on and which repairs may be required. Technology has made these inspections simple, thanks to advanced cameras small enough to be more accommodating than the average drain snake 2. However, these inspections also include a price. Expect to spend $300 to $600 to clean or repair your sewer lines when a video inspection is required.

What Causes a Sewer Back-Up?

Several issues can cause a sewer back-up in the home or lines. The biggest issue is a broken, clogged, or collapsed drain or sewer line. This is a very common occurrence in older homes or homes with materials like clay or iron. This causes severe deterioration and corrosion, leading to breakdown and eventual failure. Because this is happening underground, many people do not notice until it is too late and much more expensive than anticipated.

Sewage back-up can occur in all homes for several reasons. It may be related to the improper installation of a cleanout, lack of access to proper drainage, or improper drain flow driving the waste back into the home. This is a very dangerous situation and must be resolved immediately. Not only does it smell terrible and risk ruining your home, but it is dangerous for your health to breathe raw sewage. Call the professionals immediately and stay out of your home until the problem is resolved for your safety.

How Often Should Sewer Lines Be Cleaned?

The average timing for cleaning a sewer line to prevent problems is every 18 to 22 months. Your exact timing depends on the number of occupants and bathrooms in your home. If you have a high-occupancy home, you may need to clean it closer to every 18 months, while smaller homes with 1 bathroom can go 22 months or more. This timetable is for general maintenance. If you think your line may be clogged or there are other issues, you should not wait to clean it. In these cases, have it cleaned even if it is ahead of schedule to prevent backed lines and other issues.

Signs Your Sewer Line Is Clogged

When a clog or blockage is severe, it is usually obvious. However, there may be small early signs of a sewer line clog that could be overlooked if you are unsure what to watch for. Keep an eye out for gurgling that may come from the sink or drains, such as gurgling in the toilet when you turn on the sink or vice versa when you flush the toilet. You may also see water backing up in the bathtub, shower, or sink. Sometimes, the washing machine causes sinks and toilets to overflow if there is a clog in the sewer line.

Watch for several warnings, but the most important is to know what normal sewer line operation looks like. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, call a plumber. The sooner you can address a clog, the less expensive it is. Do not attempt major unclogging efforts on your own because you may cause more damage and cost yourself more than necessary. Always call a professional whenever you suspect a sewer line clog.

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Enhancement and Improvement Costs

Storm Drain Cleaning Cost

Storm drains should be cleaned every 18 to 22 months, even if they are not clogged or backing up. They take in debris and generally have more build-up than people realize. Fortunately, storm drain cleaning is a service that can be done with sewer line cleaning by the same technician. It typically incurs a small additional charge if you already have work done. The average person spends $200 to $600 on this service, depending on if it is preventative or performed to remove a clog or blockage.

Sewer Back-Up Cleanup Cost

Sewage back-up occurs when a serious blockage has built up or the main drainage system has broken or collapsed, leaving the sewage nowhere to go. Depending on the severity, there could be a lot of cleanup. Replacing or repairing the pipes and sewer lines typically costs $1,000 to $5,000. You may also need damage restoration cleanup services, typically charging $7 per sq.ft. of area needing to be cleaned. Because this is hazardous waste, you should never attempt the job yourself.

Unclog a Main Drain

If the main drain is clogged with other drains, expect to spend $350 to $650 to clear that drain. If the clog is more difficult or the main drain is hard to access, the cost could go into the thousands due to excavation, labor, and other expenses. A video inspection could also increase the sewer drain cleaning cost if it is required to identify the clog before clearing.

Additional Considerations and Costs

  • Estimates. Get 3 to 5 estimates before hiring anyone for a professional service, including sewer line cleaning jobs. If you have never had this service performed, you might not know what a typical or reasonable rate is until you shop around and compare offers. You might end up overpaying if you do not do your homework.
  • DIY. While there are DIY drain cleaners, snakes, and other drain cleaning tools, attempting serious sewer cleaning or clog removal is not recommended on your own. While it might seem to save money, it could cause many more problems because you may not be sure what problem you are trying to solve. At the very least, it may be ineffective and waste money. At worst, it could lead to thousands of dollars in repairs or replacement parts.
  • Responsibility. Check your local municipality regarding boundaries and responsibilities. Generally, it is the city or municipality’s responsibility to clean public storm drains. However, the property owner is responsible for systems that may be connected to these drains, such as cash basins, sump pumps 3, yard drainage pipes, and French drains 4.
  • Job severity. The severity of the job should be considered in how many additional costs you may incur. For example, you may have to pay for sewage cleanup, a camera inspection, toilet removal for drain access, or a new cleanout installation that is easier to access. This can increase the project’s cost significantly.
  • Clog prevention. The best solution is to prevent clogs in the first place. Use hair traps in bathroom drains and avoid putting grease and food down the drains in your home. Ensure paper products are sewer-safe, and do not put anything down your drains if you are not sure it is safe. Paints, oils, grease, hair, and other buildup are often the main source of serious plumbing clogs. A few dollars in prevention could save thousands in repairs and drain cleaning. Ensure roots are not growing through the line if there are trees, which can be a serious source of clogs and system failures. Removing roots or rerouting sewer lines prevents this from creating problems.
  • Insurance. If you experience serious drain back-ups, sewage back-up, or other severe issues with your drainage and sewer system, you may be able to file a homeowners insurance claim to assist with the repairs or cleanup. This is not always possible, but you should get an estimate and discuss the situation with a plumber. They can tell you if the insurance can help or if this comes out of your pocket.
  • Other costs. If the sewage back-up puts you out of your home for an extended period, you may incur hotel or food costs and other living expenses. You may also be able to file an insurance claim for the reimbursement for living expenses while you are out of your home. Talk to your plumber to determine the best course of action when faced with this dangerous and unfortunate situation.
  • Cost to Roto-Rooter a sewer line. If you do not have a regular plumber, companies like Roto-Rooter can help. They specialize in treating drain and sewer line problems, costing $150 to $900, depending on the level of work.

FAQs

  • How much does it cost for a plumber to snake a sewer line?

Professional drain snaking 2 costs  $150 to $375, but it may cost more or less depending on the clog location and type.

  • How much does it cost to unclog a sewer line?

The average costs range from $200 to $600, depending on the clog and level of work.

  • Can I unclog a sewer line myself?

It may be possible if the clog is small and close to the drain. However, you need professional help if it is the main sewer line.

  • Why does my house smell like sewer when it rains?

The most common cause is methane gas sitting too close to the ground after it rains due to atmospheric pressure. It is most common for homes with septic tanks, but a storm drain near your home can also be the source.

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 lines: Principal pipe in a sewage system
2 Drain snake: (Also known as Auger) A thin, pliable tool used to clear difficult clogs in plumbing systems
glossary term picture Sump Pump 3 Sump pumps: A mechanical device used to remove water from wet areas such as basements and crawlspaces in order to help prevent flooding
glossary term picture French Drain 4 French drains: An outdoor buried drain line that leads water away from the house. Water runs through a trench filled with gravel into a perforated pipe underneath, which leads the water downhill to a safe area

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

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