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Clogged Household Drains: Should You Call a Plumber?

Discover the different types of household drains, what causes them to clog, and why you should call a plumber over a DIY fix.

Dealing with a clogged drain can be a truly frustrating experience for any homeowner. Most people know very little about their home’s drainage system and how it really works. But when it comes to plumbing, knowledge is power. And by knowing more about household drains, such as what they’re made of, how they get clogged, and how to properly maintain them, you can make sure that your home’s plumbing runs smoothly and properly.

Interested in learning more? Continue reading and we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about household drains. 

All the Types of Drains In the Average Home

In order to minimize how often you fix and unclog your drains, you need to perform some drain maintenance. However, you can only effectively maintain your drains if you know the type of pipes that connect to your sinks. Depending on how old your home is, you could have pipes that are common in recently constructed buildings or you could have piping that was more common decades ago. 

The most common types of drain pipes that you’re likely to see today are going to be made of the plastics acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and plastics polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Your piping might also be made of copper. In homes built before the 1960s, you might have drain/waste/vent (DWV) piping that’s built out of steel or iron. Let’s look further into the different types of pipes. 

Cast Iron

Cast iron was extremely popular in homes built before 1960. This kind of piping is usually featured in old vertical drains but you can also find them in vent stacks and horizontal drains. 

Although the material is strong, it will eventually rust. If you have cast iron pipes that have rusted, you should contact a specialist to have your pipes replaced. 

Galvanized Steel

Galvanized steel piping was popular in homes constructed in the 1950s. This is a fairly strong material but likely won’t last for more than 50 years. After corrosion takes place, these pipes should be replaced. 

ABS

Plastic piping emerged as an easy-to-repair, cost-efficient alternative to metal pipes in the 1970s. ABS, sometimes referred to as “black piping,” was the first plastic piping to be used in residential buildings. Despite the fact that it has a rust-proof surface, ABS has not been shown to be as durable as metal piping over the long run. ABS is also banned in the construction of new buildings in certain areas. 

PVC

For the past forty years, PVC has been the leading choice in residential drain lines. This material is a highly durable and light-colored plastic that resists the elements. It also seems to outlast all other piping materials. PVC can be made in a variety of different grades: schedules 80 and 40 and chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC).

Schedule 80 PVC is controversial because it can’t handle hot water well but it’s used in some cold-water lines. Schedule 40 is usually used under houses for drain-line piping. CPVC is good at withstanding heat. Because of this, it’s used for interior piping in certain parts of the United States. 

PEX

PEX has emerged as an industry-standard over the years. This is thanks to its heat tolerance and durability. The most common colors for PEX pipes in residential homes are blue for cold and red for hot, although the material can come in a variety of colors. Similar to PVC, PEX won’t rust. It’s also extremely strong and is marked with identifiers along the exteriors of the pipes. However, the purpose of PEX is the opposite of PVC. PVC is restricted to drain lines while PEX is only used for incoming water lines. 

What Usually Clogs Drains? 

By knowing what the common causes of drain clogs are, you can be better at making sure to take preventative measures. Some of the causes you can have control over, while some just happen naturally.

Causes That You Can Control

One of the worst culprits when it comes to clogging drains is fruit peels and rinds. Although you make think it’s fine to throw these to your garbage disposal, that’s actually not the case. That’s because they’re extremely difficult to break down. A good rule of thumb is to know that if you won’t eat it, you probably shouldn’t put it down your sink drain. Grease is another major cause of clogs. You should never pour grease, fats, or oils down your drain. That’s because grease will create sludge and coat your pipes.

The grease will also build up over time and block up your pipes. What you should do instead is let your grease congeal in a container and then throw it away in the trash. Or, you can even use the grease for other purposes. You want to think of pipes like the arteries of the home. And when you add enough fats and oils, they can freeze up and lead to blockage. 

Causes That You Can’t Control

Unfortunately, despite your observing best practices when it comes to drain maintenance, you can still experience a clog. Tree roots may be the most common cause of clogs and blockages in sewer and water mains. Hearing a gurgling sound may indicate that there’s a tree root clog in your water or sewer line. Tree roots seek moisture and are drawn to water in sanitary and waste sewer pipes.

There’s also pipe scale. This is a product of nature that interacts with your pipes. It can actually build up so much that you get a clog from the mineral deposits that water leaves behind.

You usually get scale deposits from dissolved magnesium and calcium that are left behind as water flows.

Signs of a Clogged Drain

If you have a clogged drain, you’ll probably notice it fairly quickly. A major sign is a change in water flow and water pressure. If you notice a change in water pressure, that’s probably because the water flow is being inhibited by a blockage. However, change in water pressure can also indicate that there’s a crack somewhere in the pipe that’s letting water out. Another tell-tale sign of a clogged drain is if water backs up in odd places. For example, if you flush your toilet and the shower drain starts to gurgle, you likely have a clog that’s blocking the water flow in your house. 

Your home’s water will likely back up to the lowest point, most likely the shower drain. Another sign of a clog is if one of your appliances starts to overflow when you run something like the washing machine. This is because the water is trying to exit, but a clog is forcing it to travel to somewhere else. You also might have a clog if you smell any weird odors in your home. When you have something stuck in your pipes, it can catch debris. 

This can include hair or food. That debris will then accumulate and eventually decompose. So if you start smelling something strange from one of your drains, you should get someone to check out your pipes. 

What Is a Sewer Line Clog?

The job of a sewer line is to help move waste-water from your home to the underground sewer mains. A clog in the sewer line can lead to a raw sewage backup that comes out of your drains. This can cause significant damage to your home and mean an expensive sewer line replacement or repair. 

Tree roots and clogged toilets and rains are the main culprits of sewer line clogs. If you believe that you have a clogged sewer drain, you should shut your water off at the source or at the main. A good way to make sure that you have proper flow through your pipes is to fill your sinks and then drain them once a month. 

What Does Snaking a Drain Mean?

A drain snake, sometimes referred to as a sewer snake or plumbing snake, is a drilling device with a handle on one end. You can usually use a 25ft or a 50ft drain snake to clear a typical drain clog. In order to clear the drain, you unspool the device into the pipe. You then crank it in order to drive the snake into the obstruction. 

As the clog starts to break up and flush down the drain, you can use the snake to pull out the rest of the clog. There are some drain snakes that come with an attachment on an electric drill. This helps you break up the clog even more. 

How to Use a Drain Snake

First, you want to push the end of the drain snake into the opening of the drain. Then, turn the handle and keep pushing until you hit resistance. You might have to apply pressure to get the snake to bend around the curve in the sink’s trap. Continue to rotate the snake against the clog until you feel it move freely into the pipe. 

When you pull the snake out of the drain, you should pull the rest of the clog out with it.

Finally, run water at full force for a few minutes in order to make sure that the drain isn’t clogged anymore. 

Why Is Drain Cleaner Harmful?

Before learning how a drain cleaner can be harmful, it’s important to know how it works. When you apply a cleaner to a clogged drain, a chemical reaction will occur in the blockage. This generates gas and heat and dissolves the clog. These drain cleaners rely on powerful chemicals. They’re also toxic and can be dangerous if ingested. 

Unfortunately, drain cleaners can’t tell the difference between the object that’s blocking up your pipes and the pipes themselves. So they eat away at all of it. And if the cleaner doesn’t successfully clear the drain, the chemicals will just be left to sit in your pipes. PVC and older piping materials are especially susceptible to damage from drain cleaners. 

When to Call a Plumber

Sometimes, you can handle a clog on your own with just a plunger or a drain snake. However, if those tools aren’t doing the job, it’s time to call a professional. A deep clog can be cleared with special tools or by disassembling the framework of your pipes. Solutions like these are best left to the trained professionals. You should also call a plumber if you’re not comfortable using a drain snake.

Mishandling of these tools may only make things worse and more expensive for you. 

You should also call a plumber if you notice pools or leaks. A severe pipe clog can damage your plumbing and also lead to water backing up. The pooling of water can lead to moisture damage and then you could really be in trouble. Also, if you’re experiencing frequent clogs in one specific drain, then you should call a plumber. There may be an underlying issue with your pipes that you’re not aware of. 

The Importance of Knowing About Clogged Household Drains

As we can see, there’s a lot of information to know when it comes to clogged household drains. However, although it may seem like a lot, it’s still important to know what your pipes are made of and how they work. By knowing the ins and outs of your pipes, what clogs them, and how clear them, you can be a more responsible and informed homeowner.
 It’s also important to keep in mind that you should call a plumber whenever you’re in doubt or things get out of hand. Paying the costs for a plumber to fix things the first time they go awry will save you from having to call them when your problem gets bigger. Are you looking to get your clogged drains cleared? If so, contact us today and see how we can help you!