Articles & Advice

Clogged Drains

by Marcus Pickett

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Plumbing

It happens to almost every homeowner at some point. You flush your toilet, run water in the sink, take a shower and it happens. The water doesn't go away, but backs up, begins to build in the basin, bowl, or tub and threatens to overflow. You have a clogged drain.

Knowing what you can do to fix the problem yourself may help you save the cost of calling a plumber. On the other hand, tackling a problem you can't handle or ignoring the problem for too long can escalate the problem and cause for a significantly more expensive repair in the end.

Single Fixture Drain Blockage
When a fixture like a sink, toilet, or tub won't drain or drains slowly, there is a blockage somewhere in your plumbing system. When it's only one fixture, the blockage could be in that fixture's trap and you might be able to repair it yourself by using a plunger or hand auger. (You will often detect a sewer smell when something backs up anywhere in the house.)

Multiple Clogged Drains
If the drain blockage is happening at more than one location, the problem could be in the drain between the fixture and the main line, or branch drain line. Again, after locating the line, you might be able to unclog it yourself with a plunger or hand auger, but in this instance you might be better off calling a professional plumber to clean it out.

If you determine that the problem is in the main waste line and you don't have the equipment, you will probably want to hire a plumber to clear your entire system. (It's a good idea to have this done every few years, anyway). If drains or fixtures are clogged in more than one location, it tells a plumber that the leak is probably located in a branch drain line or the main waste line. If the main drain to the outside from your basement is backing up, the problem is probably somewhere between where your line goes from your house to the main sewer line along your street. Tree roots are a common cause of this problem.

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Unclogging Drains
Obviously, before you call the plumber you'll want to make sure you can't fix the problem yourself. Unclogging drains can often be a relatively simple matter and it doesn't require any overpriced chemical product. Baking soda and boiling water or baking soda and vinegar can do the trick. If you think hair is the reason your drain is clogged, you can also try a hair removal product. The one thing you should avoid doing is using multiple drain cleaners at the same time. They may interact with one another and cause serious damage to your pipes and/or septic system. To reduce the likelihood of a clogged drain, you should also use an enzyme culture for each drain once a month.

Marcus Pickett is a professional freelance writer for the home remodeling industry. He has published more than 600 articles on both regional and national topics within the home improvement industry.