Spaces for Life

The ReTouch Home Improvement blog



Spaces for Life: What you should know about your plumbing system

By Lance McCarthy

Do you find your house mysterious and perplexing?  

I have decided to bravely serve as tour guide to the home.  Each month I will dedicate one of my columns to illuminating some part of the house that most people might not know much about.  

This week’s topic: Sewer lines  
This may be the most underappreciated part of a house.  In honor of our clients Stephen and Melissa, who went without a working sewer line in their house for part of the day yesterday, I am here to shed light on something that rarely sees the light (thank goodness!)

Interesting facts:

  • The average person spends around three years on the toilet in their lifetime.  Now don’t you wish you had something to read?
  • A recent report states that 1 in 5 people have dropped a phone in the toilet.  I’ve heard of texting and driving but…
  • About 90% of pharmaceuticals flow right through the body and into the sewer system.  This causes high levels of drugs to be found in our rivers’ fish.  That explains their reduced aches and pains, more effective weight loss and increased sex drive.
  • Even as recently as 1950, 25% of American homes did not have indoor plumbing.  So much for the good old days.
  • A faucet that drips twice a minute wastes a gallon of water a week.  Nothing funny about that.


  • If you notice two cleanout holes right next to each other in your basement, this is probably what is called a “house trap”.  It was probably used originally to keep rats out, but now is just a really great spot for a backup to happen.  They are pretty easy for a plumber to remove usually.
  • A similar thing happens in older pipes behind tubs and other fixtures with a “canister trap”.  These look like a coffee can, and were probably used to catch jewelry that slipped down the drain.  They frequently cause backups, and it is a good idea to get rid of these if they are in your house if you get the chance.
  • Stop the F.O.G.!  Fats, Oils and Grease wreaks havoc on a sewer system (actually a lot like it does on a person’s bloodstream).  Dispose of these items in the trash and you will dramatically cut your risk of needing to snake a line.  
  • I’m not allowed to tell you exactly how, but there are local government programs that assist in paying for main stack and sewer line replacement for many houses in the PV Post area.  I would highly recommend looking into it.  

Questions to ask a plumber:

    • Are you licensed?  There are handymen, and then there are plumbers.  
    • Can you show me your booties?  Stop it! I meant for your feet.  This may seem obvious, but plumbing tools and work can be really messy.  Make sure they use tarps and always protect your finished surfaces.  
    • What equipment do you use to repair the line?  There are a wide variety of options now available to repair a sewer line including hydro-jet, video camera fittings and even trenchless!  You should ask the plumber about the pros and cons of these before they start.
    • Do you tuck in your shirt?  Sorry, but I had to end with a shameless reference to the infamous plumber’s crack.  

Have other questions?  I would be happy to hear from you.  It makes me feel like years of replacing toilets and sewer lines was worth it.  

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