Beware of $99 Mainline Specials: What you should know about sewer line specials

When it comes to sewer line backups, and sewer line repairs, not all Kansas City area plumbing companies are the same. Several plumbing and drain cleaning companies advertise cheap $99, $89, $79 (and less) mainline (sewer line) specials that include a free camera inspection. While these specials seem like a bargain, they are not designed to clean your sewer line. It is important to understand these specials before you hire a company.

The video process is a sales process…

The machines used for mainline (or sewer line) specials are smaller, lighter, and have smaller diameter cables that are more often equipped with spear blades that are 1 ¾” in diameter. In most homes, the main sewer line is 4-6” in diameter. Using a blade this size will not clean out your line. Its purpose is to temporarily open a hole in your line to restore flow.

Most Mainline Special Machines
.55″ or .66″ cable
A-1 Sewer Cleaning Machine
.75″ cable

Once the flow has been restored in your sewer line by the drain technician, they will use a free video inspection tool to show the inside of your partially cleared pipe. Sometimes, a second person (usually called a “Camera Technician” i.e. a salesperson) comes to your home during or after the drain is being cleared. Most times, you will not be provided with a copy of the video and they will not mark the ground where the problem(s) in your sewer line is located.

Psss. Industry insight: A quality sewer camera for video inspections and the underground locator will cost $8,000-$15,000. If a company is using an expensive tool like this for free, the cost is being added somewhere in the final job.


Your clogged pipe with a 1 ¾” spear blade running through that leaves more than half the pipe uncleaned. Notice how much debris is left. The leftover debris can make the problem look worse than it is.

Things may not be as grim as they sound…

Sewer line backups are extremely unpleasant and once you’ve had one, chances are that you would do just about anything to avoid another backup. Unfortunately, some companies know and use this fear to pressure you to repair or replace your sewer line while your pipe is backing up. The best thing to do when it comes to a potential sewer line repair is to get a second opinion.

The pressure’s on…

If you have someone in your home who’s pressuring you to make a decision, take a step back and think about “why?” It’s very likely that your sewer line has been damaged for quite some time. Something has gotten caught up on it and has caused a backup. While having sewage in your home feels like an emergency, it is not necessary to agree to pay for expensive repairs immediately. Most plumbing companies schedule out the repairs anyways.

The bottom line is you have time…

Remember- you have time. We’re not saying days, weeks, months, or years, but you have time to call in another company to take a look and provide you with their repair recommendations. Sometimes that recommendation may be to have your line cleaned once or twice a year and budget for a sewer line repair. Take a deep breath because you don’t have to make a decision on the spot. If you are feeling pressured, trust your gut and gather more information.

Hey! They’re not all bad…

There are plumbing and sewer companies like A-1, that offer true sewer line cleanings. These companies on average charge more than the mainline specials but you get more because they provide a very different service.

So what is a sewer cleaning, then?…

Companies who clean sewers use a sewer cleaning machine that has a 3 ½” cutting blade that covers almost the entire diameter of your pipes. This machine opens and cleans the debris that caused the backup.

Sewer Cleaning

3 ½” Cutter Blade Used by A-1 for Sewer Cleaning. Now you can clearly see the joints of your pipes.

Cleaning your sewer line should last longer when compared to a mainline special and comes with a warranty when a 3.5” blade can be run through your sewer line. Warranties can differ depending on the company so be sure to ask, “how long the warranty is for?” and, “what exactly does it cover?” Some mainline special companies will also offer a warranty because they know it will back up again and it gives them another chance to sell a pricey repair or replacement. Remember, this is a loss leader, it is all about the expensive repair at the end.

The special adds up…

Although the mainline special sounds like a great deal, think about how it might add up down the line. Here is a typical scenario that many homeowners face after utilizing a mainline special:

First Call
$99 Mainline Special

30 Days Later
$99 Mainline Special + $350 To Locate & Mark the Problem Area

60-90 Days Later
$99 Mainline Special + $7,000+ Sewer Line Repair

You can see how this special might add up fast. The special is not designed to clean your pipes. It is a temporary way to open your line to release the backup. You can just about count on the fact that it will backup again, soon. Having your line cleaned by a sewer expert extends the life of your line and can reduce sewer backups until your line is in absolute need of repair or replacement.

A-1 Sewer and Septic understand that sewer backups are extremely unpleasant which is why we work hard to:

★ Provide a quick response
★ Clean your line for a fair price and not just open it
★ Send a camera technician out Video your sewer line after it’s been cleaned if it is necessary or requested so you can get an accurate picture of what’s going on
★ Provide you with a copy of the video so you can review it anytime
★ Locate and mark your line so that you are able to get a second opinion
★ Provide you with clear explanations and answer your questions
★ Provide you with pricing options for repairs should you request it
★ Warranty our work because we stand by what we do

Let us know how we can help! If you have questions about your sewer line, we are happy to speak with you over the phone. Our goal is to educate our customers about their sewer line, how it works, and how to make accurate decisions when it comes to costly repairs.

Buzz Words Mainline Special Companies Like to Use

Beware if you hear these words from a plumbing or drain cleaning company. It means your line may not be cleaned just opened.

Listen To Our Satisfied Customers

“I have used A-1 on several occasions and the service has always been speedy and of high quality. I always appreciate the coupons you have online”

Terry Baldridge

“Tim was very knowledgeable! I would definitely have him back out. Thanks!”

Carista Misler

“Chuck arrived within 30 minutes on a Sunday and was extremely professional and curtious. I’ve been using A-1 annually for 10 years now to clean roots out of my main and the price is always fair and the staff always top notch. Just wanted to say thanks again to Chuck.”

Kris S.

“Hired them to clean out tree roots from main line. Were on time and did a great job. Have used them before and never been disappointed.”

LeVera Howard

“A-1 was excellent! I recommend them to all. Chuck was so great to work with and gave us really great advice to keep our pipes clean. Thank you!”

Shereen McClellan North

“A-1 is the best for sewer & septic issues! They’re responsive, quick and so helpful! We had a main line issue and that night our kitchen sink backed up. They had the same service tech out the next morning. Very professional and reliable. We’ve never had anything but amazing service from A-1!”

Jenny Miskell McLellan