Plumbing

Waste System

Drain, Waste and Vent Plumbing

The waste system in your home consists of vents, drains and sewer line. Drains are larger diameter cast iron or plastic piping whose job it is to remove waste water to the sewage system once it has been used. Vents are connected to the drain lines at key locations to allow air to escape to the roof, and to prevent vacuums in the drain lines. The sewer lines will be discussed on another page.

Purpose

The waste system collects drain water from all the home’s sinks, showers, bathtubs, toilets, washing machines, dishwashers and bidets and through a series of connected piping. This drain piping then delivers it to the municipal sewer line or to a septic tank system located on your property.
image of dissolved iron waste system pipe damaged by drain cleaner
Waste line dissolved by drain cleaner

How Drains Work

Almost all waste system pipes and lines are designed to work on a gravity basis. A downward slope of the pipe is the only power needed to move the waste water out of the house. Since gravity is the main engine for moving waste water, sometimes heavy debris or a poorly sloped system can result in clogging. When this happens use a snake or water jet to get the system flowing again. Do not use chemical drain cleaners. Learn why here. 
Homes with finished basements, or houses where the septic lines are uphill from the structure will often incorporate sewage ejectors that move (via pumps) the wastewater to the sewer or septic tank as needed. In cases where a sewage ejector is used, maintenance of the ejector and its power supply is critical.

Vents

Vents are the mysterious little pipes that you see up on your roof. These pipes are counterintuitively exposed and uncovered to the elements. It is OK that these are open and exposed because they are connected to the house drain lines. Vents serve to allow air into and out of the drain system thus enabling smooth drainage and directing all kinds of foul sewer odors up and away from the house.
To keep you safe and sanitary, there are a lot of building codes that determine details about the waste system in your home. There are codes about size of piping and types of fittings and details about where vents must be located and how many. Leave that to a professional plumber.  As homeowner, this is nearly everything you need to know about the waste system of your home.

To-Do

  • Locate your main sewer line and find the clean outs along the route.
  • If your home has a crawl space, have the main sewer line inspected to ensure it is strapped and sloped properly and there are no breaks or leaks in the line. Especially important to inspect are the connections of the sewer lines and the toilets which are visible at the underside of the subfloor. Any leaks or water damage in these locations are important to have repaired ASAP.
  • Professional plumbers have advised me that in the case of a city sewer connection that it is good practice to leave an exterior clean out cap unscrewed somewhere, between the house and the street so that in the event sewage backs up from the main city sewer line it will blow out of the unscrewed cap rather than flow into your home. YES, this can happen, and I agree with the professionals on this one. Better yet, just leave the cap unscrewed and off the most obvious clean-out so that it will be noticed right away if there is an event like this.

Maintenance

  • 1x per year: Run water through the sewer clean outs to ensure the free flow of material.
  • 1x per 2 years: For those of you with septic tanks, every two years septic systems should have the leach fields rotated and every five years the tank should be pumped out and inspected.

Septic Systems

See Septic in Utilities
SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave
All
Plumbing
Climate
Electrical
Structure
Windows/Doors
Interior
Appliances
Utilities
Landscape
Emergency
Plumbing
Plumbing
Climate
Climate
Electrical
Electrical
Structure
Structure
Windows/Doors
Windows/Doors
Interior Finishes
Interior Finishes
Appliances
Appliances
Utilities
Utilities
Landscape
Landscape
Emergency
Emergency
Plumbing Systems
Plumbing Systems
Main Water Service
Main Water Service
Fittings & Fixtures
Fittings & Fixtures
Water Heaters
Water Heaters
Waste / Septic Systems
Waste / Septic Systems
Fire Extinguishers
Fire Extinguishers
Climate Control
Climate Control
Thermostats
Thermostats
Heat Sources
Heat Sources
Air Quality
Air Quality
Air Conditioners
Air Conditioners
Exhaust/Ceiling Fans
Exhaust/Ceiling Fans
Mold/Mildew
Mold/Mildew
Condensation
Condensation
High Efficiency Furnaces
High Efficiency Furnaces
Electrical
Electrical
Switches
Switches
Outlets
Outlets
Lighting
Lighting
Distribution Panels / Circuit Breakers
Distribution Panels / Circuit Breakers
Smoke / CO Detectors
Smoke / CO Detectors
Electric Water Heaters
Electric Water Heaters
Structure
Structure
Exterior Finishes
Exterior Finishes
Roof System
Roof System
Insulation
Insulation
Fastners
Fastners
Foundation
Foundation
Basement / Crawlspace
Basement / Crawlspace
Attics
Attics
Termites
Termites
Windows
Windows
Doors
Doors
Locks/Hardware
Locks/Hardware
Weatherstripping
Weatherstripping
Interior Finishes
Interior Finishes
Drywall
Drywall
Trim Work
Trim Work
Flooring
Flooring
Mirrors / Shower Door / Glass
Mirrors / Shower Door / Glass
Cabinets / Countertops
Cabinets / Countertops
Paint / Coatings
Paint / Coatings
Hardware
Hardware
Stairs/Railings
Stairs/Railings
Appliances
Appliances
Ovens
Ovens
Cooktops
Cooktops
Exhaust Hoods
Exhaust Hoods
Disposals
Disposals
Dishwashers
Dishwashers
Compactors
Compactors
Refrigerators / Freezers
Refrigerators / Freezers
Ranges
Ranges
Washer / Dryers
Washer / Dryers
Central Vacuum
Central Vacuum
Microwave Oven
Microwave Oven
Utilities
Utilities
Underground Systems
Underground Systems
Electricity / Communication
Electricity / Communication
Water-Municipal / Wells
Water-Municipal / Wells
Natural Gas / Propane
Natural Gas / Propane
Sewer / Septic
Sewer / Septic
Hardscape
Hardscape
Driveways
Driveways
Garden
Garden
Living with Fire
Living with Fire
Family Emergency Strategy
Family Emergency Strategy
Earthquake Preparation
Earthquake Preparation