Primary Sewer Line Problems: Possible Solutions

by Connor Pena

Toilets, washing machines, showers and sinks all need to drain completely in order to allow you to reuse them again. This happens easily in most homes without issue; however, clogs happen. They can be cleared by many means, but you might find yourself becoming increasingly frustrated if one particular clog seems to appear frequently or never clears fully. When nothing seems to help, a primary sewer line problem could exist.

All home pipes eventually feed into the main, or primary, sewer pipe (or line). When the primary line is blocked, that's not something you can fix from inside the home. You'll typically need plumbers to get into the primary line from the entry point that's located somewhere on the grounds of your property. What solutions exist for primary line problems?

Video Sewer Inspection

The first task of most plumbers will be to explore the primary sewer pipe with a video camera. The camera, mounted atop a flexible hose-like structure, is gently inserted into the outdoor access area and pushed through the pipe. A video feed is sent to a monitor visible to both you and the plumber; eventually the professional can describe the problem. It could be that the primary pipe is totally blocked by general home debris and waste and needs to be cleared. It may be that roots have fully grown into the pipe or that the line was so old and weak it was otherwise compromised.


Once the video sewer inspection is over and the problem is more clearly known, the plumber is likely to arrange the type of unblocking technique which seems best. Flushing the primary pipe with a strong, concentrated stream of water is typically the first solution. For more pressure in that primary line, chunks of ice in a slurry could be used to force the obstruction out of the way. 

At times, scouring is done. This technique is like water flushing but instead uses a cyclone of pressurized air. This is neater, at times--air doesn't create the possibility of flooding or leaks.

Chemical Application

If plant roots are part of the obstruction, root-killing chemicals are freely applied. That prevents further plant infiltration and primary line repairs won't be threatened.


The clearing process is usually finished up with swabbing, an internal cleaning of the entire primary pipe. Swabbing clears debris, roots or similar obstructions from the line.

Solutions exist for main or primary pipe clogs. A plumber can complete video sewer inspections and proceed from there.