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Sewer Line Tracing:  Should I Call a Plumber or a Drain Specialist

Maintaining your home is one thing, but when there is a problem with your home, like an emergency situation, it seemingly takes over your entire life.  Knowing who to call during these situations can not only save you time but can also save you lots of money.  This is especially true when it comes to plumbing issues when it’s related to sewer lines, backup, and clogged drains.   These unexpected drain backups can develop all of a sudden, leaving you scrambling to find the right plumber.  But did you know that a plumber is not who you should call first?  Most people will want to reach out to a plumber, but let’s take a look at the difference between a plumber and drain/sewer line specialist and what makes them different, and why that is important in saving you time and money.   

What is a Plumber? (What is Plumbing?) 

So this may seem like a fairly straightforward answer and something that we discovered in elementary school. A plumber is a skilled professional who works on your water pipes, right?  The answer is yes and no. Plumbing generally involves fresh water coming into your home and water running through your pipes; therefore, a plumber will specifically handle those plumbing issues that affect the water that comes into your home.

It is fairly common to think of a plumber to be the solution for any water issue in your home.  A plumber is the professional you will want to call when you have dripping faucets, replacing toilets, installing a new sink with new water supply lines or repairing an internal pipe leak. While we often equate plumbing and drain problems as one in the same, understanding that not every plumber or plumbing company can adequately handle major drain issues can get your “plumbing” issue resolved quicker. 

What is a Drain / Sewer Expert?

Think of drain issues as water going out of your home, like when you flush the toilet or water going down your sink, for example.

Why and When to Call A Drain Specialist instead of a Plumber?

It happens all too often.  A clogged toilet that just keeps overflowing.  You plunge it out only for the water to continue overflowing.  So naturally, you think to call a plumber.  And you’re probably going to call that 24-hour emergency plumber so you can get this problem handled immediately.  Once the plumber assesses the problem, the solution, unfortunately, is that you have to call a drain specialist.  And you still have to pay the plumber a fee for just coming out and assessing the situation.  But why can’t the plumber handle this problem?  

Generally speaking, most plumbers simply do not have the equipment required to handle these large, emergency situations.  And in most cases, there is a clog or some type of obstruction in the drain causing the backup.  It could even be a tree root that has grown into the drain or perhaps a collapsed drain pipe underneath the house. These types of situations require a drain specialist who has the right equipment and tools to quickly assess the problem and give you an immediate solution.  

What is sewer line tracing? 

For every sewer drain line, there is also a tracer wire (also known as a locator wire) that has been installed.  This tracer wire is used to assist in locating pipes after they have been buried in the ground.  

When there is a drainage problem within the sewer line, the first step is to trace that sewer line from the home to the main sewer line.  It is this tracer line, known as Sewer Line Tracing, that helps identify sewer line location,  where it’s running from, as well as the sewer line’s depth.  The only way to locate the sewer tracer line is by using specialized locator equipment. Unfortunately, this is equipment that very few plumbers have on hand – which is why you will be referred to a drain specialist. 

A drain specialist is highly-trained to use a top-of-the-line handheld locator, which is receiving a signal in real-time from the camera in the sewer line.  This sounds pretty simple to most of us; however, it does take specialized training to operate the camera that will be flowing through the drain lines which can often be buried up to 12 feet underground.  The locator will provide the technician with the exact location and depth of the line, that way the drain specialist can pinpoint the exact location of the sewer line.  This will also show where the clog or obstruction is located and help to identify the next steps to take for drain repair.  

Some Common Plumbing Problems

Here are a few of the top situations you would call a plumber:

  • A leaky or dripping faucet
  • Low water pressure
  • No water at all
  • Sprinkler System Leaking
  • Shower Leaking
  • Replacing hot water heater
  • Installing a new sink and changing supply lines
  • Internal leak 
  • Continuously running toilet
  • Overflowing toilet of clean water

In any of the situations above you can feel confident that a plumber and plumbing company can help take care of your situation quickly.

Some Common Drain Line or Sewer Line Problems

The following situations are a good indicator that you need a drain specialist, not a plumber:

  • Slow or clogged drains from a sink, toilet, shower, kitchen, or washing machine 
  • Water does not empty from the sink, tub, or washing machine
  • There’s a sewer line break
  • Septic tank break or leak
  • Lift Station 

Knowing the difference between plumbing and drain issues will save you time and money because you’ll know the right questions to ask. Because not every plumber performs drain work, you wouldn’t want to call a plumber out to your house thinking it was a plumbing issue, only to find that plumber doesn’t perform drain work and that you’ll have to begin the whole process again of finding someone to fix your problem. 

Drain issues aren’t the sort of thing that you want to have to deal with for several days…if you know what we mean. Plus, when you use a company that specializes in both plumbing and drains, you’ll know that you’re not only getting the right person for the job but someone who is skilled enough to diagnose the problem and get the job done quickly and efficiently.

Drain Specialists, such as  Tony’s Drain & Sewer Cleaning, specialize in other services including hydro-jetting, sewer pipe cleaning, and plumbing camera inspection services.  If you’re having some draining issues, don’t hesitate,  give us a call today.  We can have one of our trained technicians come out for an onsite assessment.