Home improvement: keep the sewer clean out, but put it underground in a utility box

Sewer Cleanout? Underground it!

Sewer Cleanout Critical but in the Way

A sewer cleanout is a pipe that gives you access to your home's sewer line. So, it's critical for maintaining your connection to your sewer system. Should a backup occur, getting to a sewer cleanout quickly can save you money and reduce the damage from an overflow inside your house. To make sure they are easily accessible, sometimes a builder will install a sewer cleanout above grade. Sometimes that's because of a local law on how high above ground a sewer cleanout has to be. But a sewer cleanout that is above ground has its own set of problems. Luckily, I've found a pretty easy and cheap solution.

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Above-ground sewer cleanout is ugly and a tripping hazard in the grass / lawn.

Same clean out in the middle of the grass / lawn, facing front yard.

Sewer Cleanout also Ugly Tripping Hazard

No matter how important sewer cleanouts are, they sure can be eyesores. When they stick up out of the ground, they're difficult to mow around, and they can be tripping hazards.

Sewer cleanout with box lid open, showing gravel

Cover comes off with a screwdriver and provides easy access to the clean out.

"Undergrounded" Sewer Cleanout

I used an irrigation valve box I had left over from putting in my sprinkler system / irrigation system. But you can buy one for about $20 at a home center.

I dug a hole a few inches deeper than I thought I needed. Then, I cut the pipe with a reciprocating saw. I cleaned the pipe off with a rag. Then, I used a 4" PVC connection piece and some PVC primer and glue to glue the same cap fitting to to the new, lower connection. 

I back-filled the hole with a bag of "crush and run" gravel, and I set the box and its cover flush with the ground.  Then, I back filled around the outside of the box with some of the dirt I had from digging the hole.

Sewer cleanout underground in covered box

The new covered box in place.

Sewer Cleanout Squared Away

I set the box and its cover flush with the ground.  So, no more trip hazard, and mowing is much easier - I just mow right over it.  And if I get really fired up, I use the string trimmer along the edges of the cover.

The Results

Now, the sewer cleanout is safely below ground and in a box that is flush with the ground. So, from the front yard, you can't even see that there is a box, much less some ugly sewer cleanout. This home improvement has really improved curb-appeal and safety.  So, for about $33.00, this was another home improvement that improved my life. 

BONUS Info

This sewer cleanout was my own private cleanout on my property. You might have a sewer cleanout in "your yard" that is actually in the public right of way. (A lot of people don't realize that the public right of way line is often several feet behind the curb or sidewalk.)

But sewer cleanouts inside the right of way often belong to your city or town and not to you.  Many cities and towns have laws saying how high those sewer cleanouts have to be. (The reason is that the municipality needs to be able to quickly and easily find the cleanout in case there is a sanitary sewer overflow.) 

So, before you cut down or underground a sewer cleanout that doesn't belong to you, you should check with your municipality and its local laws. Your town may not enforce this particular type of ordinance, but you should definitely find out what it is first.  

One way to quickly look up your local ordinance on sewer cleanouts is to check Municode. It's a company that many municipalities use to publish their local laws online. You can use it and search for your municipality's laws for free. To do that, you should click here.

About the Author Christopher Simmons

Christopher Simmons is a homeowner in the Raleigh, North Carolina area who enjoys home improvement projects.

  • Jeanne says:

    It looks great. You did a wonderful job.

  • Brenda says:

    I realize this was posted long ago, but finding this exact scenario online is nearly impossible! I tried to explain to my husband what I wanted but he couldn’t visualize it. This is perfect! Your yard is beautiful.

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