Tips for Regular Sewer Inspection, Maintenance and How to Avoid Blockage

Commercial business sewer maintenance

Regular inspection and cleaning are key tools to prevent problems with commercial sewers and to maintain a steady flow of material through them.

Why regular maintenance is important 

It’s easy for commercial establishments to ignore or downplay the importance of having clean pipes. Out of sight, out of mind. Plus, most establishments aren’t equipped to clean pipes, even if they are responsible for cleaning and maintaining the rest of the property. Most companies need a professional plumbing company to perform this work.

“Commercial properties that don’t regularly maintain their pipes risk backups, pipe damage, and flooding,” says Ralph Gutierrez, Drain Department Manager at TLC Plumbing, HVAC, and Electrical. “In which case, it’s often an emergency type of situation when we visit these properties.”

An example of a worst-case scenario would be that a restaurant has an emergency, where the pipes are backed up beyond use—its peak seating time on a Saturday and customers aren’t able to flush the toilets. It takes the plumbing company longer than usual to respond as companies have fewer plumbing professionals deployed on the weekend. Also, sewage smells really, really bad. And your customers are smelling it.

Gutierrez says regular maintenance isn’t the same for all commercial properties. “Some companies advise you clean your pipes at a regular schedule that’s more frequent than necessary, but that actually causes greater wear and tear on the pipes, which will increase the chances of something bad happening in the future,” he says.

“When we visit a customer’s property for the first time, we cable or jet the system clean and then put a camera in there to show the customer the state of their pipes. We show them if there’s any damage and how clean it is,” says Gutierrez. “Then we visit the site again in three months and put a camera in there to show them the amount of buildup in that time, and then we devise a schedule with the customer based on those results. This way it does not put an unnecessary burden on the pipes or the customer’s wallet.”

How to avoid pipe blockage

Generally, restaurants need to be maintained more often than standard commercial buildings, such as a warehouse, because the number of people who visit the property is much higher and because more foreign objects (such as feminine products, keys, and cell phones) get flushed down these systems. Restaurants also have foreign objects falling down floor drains, all of the food and grease particles that go through the line need to be cleaned out, because as will build up and cause issues.

Also, some commercial properties need to consider more than just the outgoing pipes; the property may be equipped with grease traps, sand traps, and lift stations, which are sub-pumps that pump the material up (against gravity), into the street, or into a grafting line.

There are several options for cleaning pipes. Professionals generally have two tools at their disposal: cable machines and hydro jetters.

A cabling machine is a fast and efficient tool for clearing drain clogs. There are two types of cable machines—a sectional and a drum.

  • The cables on sectionals typically come in lengths of 8, 10, and 15 feet, which are coupled together and fed into a pipe. The sections spin, which cleans the interior of the pipe.
  • A drum machine is similar to a sectional machine, but its cables don’t break apart into sections. It comes with a standard 100-foot, 100-pound cable. With sectionals, plumbers only need to carry and handle the amount of cable needed for the job, but cables on drum machines tend to be easier to deploy and retract. Cable machines are ideal for removing small blockages and slow-draining lines, such as food debris stuck in your sink or too much toilet paper.  

The hot water jetter includes a high-pressure hose equipped with application-specific nozzles on one end and is attached to a pressurizing machine. The machine creates a lot of pressure and pushes the water through the pipes at intense speeds to clean debris or buildup from inside a pipe. The pressure is so powerful, that it can even destroy tree roots that have grown into the pipe. Jetters are ideal for tough clogs, such as grease build-up or sand from bottomed-out pipes.    

“Then we use a camera to show the customer their cleaned pipes,” says Guiterrez. “Although cameras aren’t used in the cleaning of pipes, they’re extremely important for identifying buildup or integrity issues to the customer and then proving quality work was completed.”


Getting back to the idea about sewers smelling, that bad smell can be the first sign that something’s wrong with your outbound pipes. “Smells give us an opportunity to find issues,” says Gutierrez. “Problems aren’t always in the ground; sometimes, they’re in the walls. This is why we recommend to customers they periodically use smoke tests to look for cracks in pipes and other issues.”

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