$99 Mainline Special: What you should know about sewer line specials | A-1 Sewer & Septic Service Inc.
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When it comes to sewer line backups, and sewer line repairs, not all Kansas City area plumbing companies are the same. Many plumbing and drain cleaning companies advertise $99, $89, $79 (and lower) mainline (sewer line) specials that include a free camera inspection. While these specials seem like a good deal, these are loss leaders (What is a loss leader?). It is important to understand the special before you decide to hire a company.

Did you know?

Not all drain cleaning machines are created equal…

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 vs A-1 Sewer Cleaning Machine

sewer cleaning machine

Most Mainline Special Machines

.55″ or .66″ cable

sewer cleaning machine

A-1 Sewer Cleaning Machine

.75″ cable

The video process is a sales process…

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, they will send a second person (usually called a “Camera Technician” i.e. a salesperson) to your home during or after. This person is typically a commissioned salesperson. Many times, they will not provide a copy of the video and they will not provide marks on the ground of where your problem(s) is in your sewer line. Industry insight moment: A quality sewer camera for video inspections and underground locator will cost $8,000-$15,000. If a company is an expensive tool like this for free, the cost is 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…

The thing about sewer backups is that they are extremely unpleasant and once you’ve had one, chances are that you would do just about anything to avoid it again in the future. Unfortunately, some plumbing companies know this and use this insight to encourage 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.

Plumbing and sewer companies who provide recommendations and pricing will have no issue with a customer who asks them to wait while they get a second opinion. In fact, we encourage it. Just like different doctors can give you different diagnoses, it’s good to get a second opinion when it comes to the serious stuff. Your line may look worse when it’s partially opened than it really is.

The pressure’s on…

If you have someone in your home who is pushing hard for you to make a decision about your sewer line right now, take a step back and think about why they are pushing the sale so hard. 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 replace your sewer line 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 before you hire, how long the warranty is for, and what exactly it covers. 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.

Video, locating & recommendations…

When you choose to have a video inspection after your sewer line is cleaned, you should also receive a copy of your video inspection, and the technician should locate and mark the problem spots. Most mainline specials do not include a copy of the video and will charge additional ($350 on average) for the technician to locate and mark the line. The technician who cleaned, videoed, and marked your line should also be able to explain to you in detail the severity of what’s happening and your options. Be sure to ask as many questions as you can because the options can feel overwhelming.

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 Locate

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.

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

Take Control of Your Sewer Line Needs By Asking These 4 Key Questions:



Mainline Special: 1 ¾” Spear Blade

Sewer Cleaning

A-1 Sewer Cleaning: 3 ½” Cutting Blade