Nicolette Forbes

By: Nicolette Forbes on May 16th, 2022

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What’s the Difference Between a Local and Mainline Stoppage?


Is your kitchen sink backed up or is your toilet waste coming up out of your shower drain? Are you experiencing issues with your drains but unsure what’s causing the problem? Then you may be experiencing a stoppage. 

Having helped thousands of clients since 2007, we here at Monkey Wrench Plumbing know our way around a drain (or three-thousand). We created this article to deliver all the information you need about the two different types of stoppages so that you can understand what they are and how to prevent them. 

In this article, we'll go over what causes a stoppage, how you can determine the type of stoppage you have, how to clear them and how to prevent them in the future. 

Let’s get rolling!


What is a local stoppage?

A local stoppage, also known as a secondary line, is when a blockage occurs but it only affects a particular fixture. So that could mean a kitchen sink stoppage, shower stoppage, or anywhere else a drain could become clogged. It does not affect anywhere else in the home.

For example, if you have a local stoppage in your kitchen sink, that means it will only affect your kitchen sink, but won't affect your restroom.

Now, there are many homes where two fixtures connect to the same drain and you will see the stoppage appear in one of the two fixtures. For instance, some homeowners will connect the laundry sink drain to the kitchen sink. If you are experiencing a local stoppage and decide to run your washing machine, the soapy water will back up into the kitchen sink because they share the same drain.

What causes a local stoppage?

There are a few reasons why you could be experiencing a local stoppage. Some of the reasons include

  • In a kitchen sink, it can sometimes be built-up sludge caused by dumping food waste or cleaning products into your drain or garbage disposal.
  • In the laundry drain, lint is one of the most common reasons for a stoppage.
  • In a restroom, a stoppage is typically caused by toothpaste, hair, soap, baby wipes, etc. 

These products can produce scum buildup, which can eventually begin to corrode your pipes, especially if you have old pipes installed in your home. One option to clear up the blockage is to snake the pipes yourself (if you have experience operating a snake) or a professional technician to snake the pipe. A ‘snake’ is a motorized device that cuts through whatever is clogging your pipes. We do not recommend you snaking your drains yourself unless you have experience with operating one.

How to clear a local stoppage

To clear your local stoppage, having a plumber clear it could cost you anywhere from $145 to $195. However, if the problem continues to happen, you may want to consider replacing the piping that continues to get stopped up. Replacing a drain like this could cost anywhere from $1,200-$3,200, but the overall price will depend on how much of the drain pipe needs to be replaced.

How to prevent a local stoppage

To prevent local stoppages from happening, monitor what you put down your drains. Whether it's the kitchen sink, toilet, or shower, limiting what you put down your drains can help stop backups before they happen.A technician trying to clear a local stoppage with a plunger


What is a main line stoppage?

A main line stoppage is when your whole sewer system is backed up, and it affects your entire home. Now how can you tell you’re experiencing a mainline stoppage? With the main line stoppage, whatever fixture you are using will back up into the lowest point or drain in your home, which is your shower drain. For example, if you decide to run your washing machine or flush your toilet, whatever waste is stuck in your mainline will appear in your shower. 

Because water/waste/sewage/items will be clogging your drains, you'll have a hard time using any toilets, showers, or sinks until the issue is resolved.

What causes a mainline stoppage? 

Sounds awful, right? So what causes a main line stoppage? A main line stoppage is the result of one major pain: roots. 

  • Roots - tree roots growing within your pipes are one of the primary reasons behind the main stoppage as they poke holes into your pipes until it completely clogs your sewer line. We go into detail about how tree roots affect your pipes here.
    Roots growing in the pipes

By Los Angeles city code, you’re supposed to have an access point every hundred feet or change of direction of the pipe. The access point, also known as a cleanout, is where you run the snake through to clear your blockages. 

Our technicians recommend that you have an access point in your home to avoid having sewage in your bathtub or shower as it is the lowest point of the home. So in the event you have a main line stoppage, instead of the waste coming back up into your home, it will go out towards your lawn.

If you don’t have an access point, the sewage will appear in your bathtub or shower.

How to clear a main line stoppage

To fix the mainline stoppage, your technician will use the main sewer machine through your access point. The machine will cut through the roots and lead to the city connection. Once the stoppage is cleared, a camera is run through the pipes to determine the ultimate cause of the stoppage. Once the technician is able to see the condition of the pipes, they may suggest repiping some (or all) of the sewer line.

And wouldn’t you believe it, we have four articles that talk about pipe replacements right below:

- 3 ways to fix a broken sewer line

- Pipe repair: Epoxy Liner

- Pipe repair: Pipe Bursting

- Pipe repair: Trench Repair

For a temporary fix to your main stoppage, it could cost you anywhere from $295 to $325. If the problem continues to happen, you may want to consider replacing your main sewer line. Proper main line repair can cost anywhere from $2,100 - $25,000 depending on length of the pipe, depth and service needed such as trenching for an entire new line or partial line replacement.

How to prevent a main stoppage 

Preventing a main stoppage is very similar to preventing a local stoppage. With a main stoppage, monitor what you put down your drains. Whether it's the kitchen sink, toilet, or shower, limiting what you put down your drains can help stop backups before they happen.


Key Differences Between Local Stoppage and Main line Stoppage

Local and mainline stoppages have some key differences. It’s important to know and understand the difference between the two as it can help identify the problem you’re having with your plumbing system.

  • One spot vs the whole house

With a local stoppage, it will only affect one area of your home. A mainline stoppage almost effectively shuts down your whole plumbing system.

  • Causes

A local stoppage is primarily caused by the wrong things being thrown into your sinks or drains. For example, potato peels, hair, flowers, large bones, sanitary napkins, and large bunches of foods are commonly found as the cause of a local stoppage. 

A main line stoppage is typically caused by roots growing into your drains outside. 

  • Costs

Because a local stoppage is an isolated incident, the cost to clear this is typically less than a mainline stoppage. However, if any piping needs to be replaced, this will bring up the cost depending on the amount of pipe needing to be replaced.


Putting a Stop to Stoppage

To recap,we talked about the differences between a local and a mainline stoppage, what causes both types of stoppages and how to clear them and prevent them in the future. While you can snake your drains yourself, Monkey Wrench Plumbing recommends that you call your local technician to do the job to avoid hurting yourself or damaging your plumbing.

Curious to know more about what’s going on in your pipes? Read the articles below to see how drain cleaner can actually hurt your plumbing, along with ways to fix your broken sewer line and why roots are growing in your pipes. 

Can I Use a Drain Cleaner in my pipes?

Ways to Fix a Broken Sewer Line 

Why are there Roots in my Pipes?

While it is common for drains to get clogged, if you continue to experience stoppages, that could be a sign that there's a bigger problem with your drains. If you're experiencing frequent stoppages, calling a plumber to clear the line and perform a camera inspection can help you identify any issues and what solutions are available. We here at Monkey Wrench Plumbing want to make sure that you are prepared for anything. If you have seen any of the signs of a local or mainline stoppage, or are experiencing any other issues with your plumbing, call us at (310) 853-8690 or request an appointment by clicking the 'Book' button below.BOOK ONLINECALL