A Sewer System Design Tutorial for New Service Techs

A look at the specifics and differences among residential, commercial and industrial sewer systems for those new to the drain cleaning trade

A Sewer System Design Tutorial for New Service Techs

Industrial settings often involve extensive planning and compliance with strict environmental regulations to ensure the proper treatment and disposal of wastewater. Technicians should familiarize themselves with the specific regulations and requirements pertaining to their region. 

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As a service technician, having a thorough understanding of the different sewer system designs encountered in residential, commercial and industrial settings is crucial for providing effective and efficient service.

Each system has its unique requirements and complexities, and comprehending the various components and functional characteristics will not only facilitate troubleshooting and maintenance but also ensure optimal performance. 

Here’s a look at the specifics of residential, commercial and industrial sewer system designs, providing service technicians new to the industry with an understanding of each and highlighting why this knowledge is essential.


Residential sewer systems are typically designed to handle the wastewater generated by single-family homes or small apartments. The key components include drainpipes, vent pipes, cleanouts, traps and a septic tank or connection to a municipal sewer system.

Drainpipes collect wastewater from sinks, showers, bathtubs and toilets and transport it toward the main sewer line or septic tank. They are commonly made from materials like PVC or cast iron. Technicians should be familiar with these different materials and their properties in order to identify potential issues such as corrosion or blockages.

Vent pipes play a crucial role in maintaining equal air pressure in the system, preventing water traps from being siphoned or emitting unpleasant odors. They allow fresh air to enter the system, facilitating the flow of wastewater. It is important for technicians to check that vent pipes are properly installed and correctly sized to ensure adequate performance.

Cleanouts provide service technicians with easy access points for inspection, cleaning and maintenance. They are designed with removable caps or plugs to allow for swift access to the sewer line. Technicians should be knowledgeable about the locations of cleanouts within residential properties and any specific protocols for accessing them.

Traps are plumbing devices that utilize water seals to prevent sewer gases from entering the living space. They are installed beneath sinks, showers and other fixtures. Technicians should understand the different types of traps, such as P-traps and S-traps, and how to size and install them correctly to ensure their effectiveness.

For residential properties not connected to a municipal sewer system, a septic tank is employed to collect and treat wastewater. It is crucial for service technicians to comprehend the operational aspects and maintenance requirements of septic tanks. This includes understanding the septic tank’s capacity, knowing when it needs to be pumped and being able to troubleshoot common issues such as backups or drainfield problems.


Commercial properties encompass a wide range of establishments, including office buildings, restaurants, hospitals, shopping centers and hotels. The sewer system designs in these settings are usually more complex than residential systems, due to higher wastewater volumes and additional fixture connections.

Commercial sewer systems often require larger drainpipes and more extensive networks to accommodate the increased flow. Service technicians should be knowledgeable about the various pipe materials and sizes used in commercial settings, such as PVC, cast iron or corrosion-resistant materials like stainless steel or copper. Understanding the appropriate pipe size and slope is crucial to prevent clogs and backups.

Vent pipes in commercial systems must be adequately designed to maintain proper air pressure throughout the system. Technicians should be aware of the different venting strategies, such as combining multiple fixtures into common vents or employing separate vents for each fixture.

Grease traps play a critical role in commercial kitchen settings, where a significant volume of fats, oils and grease is generated. These traps capture FOG and prevent it from blocking drainpipes or polluting the sewer system. Regular maintenance and cleaning of grease traps are essential to their proper functioning, and service technicians should be well-versed in their sizing, installation and maintenance requirements.

In addition, commercial properties often have more complex plumbing configurations, with multiple floors, interconnected plumbing systems, and specialized fixtures like floor drains and handwashing stations. Technicians should be familiar with these various configurations to effectively diagnose and resolve issues.


Industrial sewer systems are designed to handle the substantial wastewater volumes and potential contaminants generated by manufacturing plants, construction sites and other industrial facilities. Service technicians working in these environments require a deeper understanding of the unique challenges posed by heavy-duty applications.

Industrial sewer systems often involve extensive planning and compliance with strict environmental regulations to ensure the proper treatment and disposal of wastewater. Advanced wastewater treatment facilities may be integrated into industrial systems, with various treatment stages to eliminate pollutants and harmful substances before discharge. These stages commonly include sedimentation, filtration, chemical processes and even biological treatment.

Technicians should familiarize themselves with the specific regulations and requirements for industrial wastewater treatment in their region. This knowledge will enable them to assess the compliance of the system and provide appropriate maintenance and oversight.

In addition to the complexities of the treatment facilities, industrial sewer systems may also feature heavy-duty infrastructure, including large-diameter pipes, specialized equipment and complex networks. Technicians need to be equipped with an understanding of these design features to effectively troubleshoot issues and conduct necessary repairs.


Service technicians hold a vital role in maintaining the functionality and efficiency of sewer systems in residential, commercial and industrial settings. An in-depth understanding of the distinctive components and operational aspects of these systems allows technicians to diagnose problems accurately, perform routine maintenance and offer other preventive suggestions to clients.

Whether it involves identifying issues in residential drainpipes, ensuring proper grease trap functioning in commercial establishments, or maintaining compliance with environmental regulations in industrial facilities, service technicians armed with comprehensive knowledge of the range of sewer system designs are well-equipped to excel in their roles.


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