Identifying and fixing backed up plumbing in your home

Rosie Romero special to the Arizona Daily Star

Question: My bathroom shower and sink drain very slowly. What could be the cause and how do I fix the problem?

Answer: There can be many reasons why water drains slowly.

“Knowing what caused the clog is the first step to understanding where and how to clear a clog,” says Jeff Carmichael of Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating, Plumbing and Water Treatment.

The first point of action is to determine which devices are affected. Is the backup limited to a single device such as a shower drain, sink or toilet? Or is the blockage system-wide?

Types of blockages

Drainage systems are based on gravity. This means that the drain pipes (branch pipes) on all floors collect the wastewater in your home by leading the pipes to a central collection point. At this point, the main line discharges all waste into either a municipal sewer system or your sewer system.

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In our partially hilly terrain throughout our state, if the lowest collection point of your home is lower than the adjacent sewer system, a pump must be provided to deliver waste to the main line.

When the system is blocked, wastewater backs up into the lowest fixtures in the house. The low points are typically a shower tray, a bathtub or a toilet. If your home has a sunken bathtub, you could be surprised by the presence of sewage in the event of a backup. To fix this blockage when your system is backed up or running slowly, special tools are required.

If an isolated faucet does not drain, it indicates that the blockage is localized. The solution could be as simple as cleaning the trap and/or downstream drain. A commonly used tool for this process is a thin, hardened steel wire called a snake. Carmichael tells us that you can fix this type of clog yourself if you have a working knowledge of dealing with drains.

Almost all plastic drain lines are connected with screw connections, which are relatively easy to clean. Vintage homes with cast iron or galvanized plumbing will likely require an experienced plumbing technician.

When you make your first call to the plumber, it’s helpful to know what system your home has. The technician will then have the information he or she needs to provide the right type of equipment to solve your problem.

Isolate the blockage

If it is a single device, the blockage can be easily isolated. System-wide backups are more important.

Carmichael tells us that a drainage technician will begin the visit with questions about your use. For example, if a toilet is clogged, he might ask if a child in the house might have dropped a toy down the toilet.

You should ask if this problem is recurring or an isolated incident. Answering these questions with the customer will help the technician better understand where to start. Isolated problems with fixtures indicate that a branch line needs to be addressed. When wastewater backs up in lower-lying fixtures, the focus is on the main pipe.

Clearing the blockage

As previously mentioned, repairing a branch line generally requires the use of a snake. However, if the main line is blocked, special tools are required.

The main tool for a mainline is a dewatering machine. This machine is a motor-driven cable with a small auger at the tip. The motor causes a rotation or rotational movement on a cable covered with an external cable.

The technician will locate the sewer lines, which are present in almost every home, outside the foundation wall, where the main sewer line exits the home. Cleaning involves routing the drainage machine’s wiring into the main line that runs away from your home to the primary sewer connection. Dewatering machines are available in cable lengths from 50 feet to 350 feet. Once inserted into the sewer line, the motor propels the cable forward, triggering a rotating or grinding motion on the auger head.

Once a blockage occurs, this device usually chews up whatever is causing the blockage. The technician will continue the clearing process until the larger municipal sewer line or septic tank is reached. An experienced technician will have a good idea of ​​whether the line is clear by knowing the distance between the cleaning point and the line and/or the “feel” of the resistance of the cable.

If the slow drain is due to the buildup of grease or debris in the sewer lines, an alternative to restoring flow is to use a hydro-jetting machine. This machine acts like a high-pressure cleaner through its drainage system. The drain technician recommends performing a sewer camera inspection to determine the severity of the problem. The camera helps to find out which solution is best to clear the pipes.

That’s all?

The short answer should be “no.” The next step is to ensure there is no ongoing threat. If blockages have occurred before, there is a recurring problem that needs to be addressed.

Find a plumber who will include the cost of a camera inspection of your sewer line in the inspection if necessary. The camera is moved through the pipe system using a push rod. This view provides live feedback on the condition of the line. It helps determine the cause of the blockage and where it could occur again.

Technicians look for signs of wear and tear on the pipe itself, breaks in the line that would allow roots to grow into the pipe, or severe breaks that could stop the flow of waste.

In older neighborhoods where the main line is made of clay pipes, the main line has completely disintegrated. Replacing the pipe is a complex and expensive repair.

The camera provides a lot of valuable information about weak points in the system that is necessary for effective repair. The camera provides the exact location and depth of the defect via GPS.

Based on the camera’s results, accurate repair cost estimates can be provided. Repairs can be costly. The higher the location accuracy, the more accurate the estimate.

Using an HD camera system is a valuable service and represents a significant investment for the plumber ($12,000 to $15,000+ per camera); It also gives you as a homeowner peace of mind knowing how your home’s system works.

If this emergency occurs, you will know what type of system you have and who to call. Be attentive and tell them in as much detail as possible about the problems you are having.

Carmichael reminds us that a properly maintained system will never be backed up.

Air fryers are the latest and greatest improvement in our kitchens. They’ve made cooking food easier and a lot less messy, but that doesn’t mean the air fryer itself doesn’t need to be cleaned between meals.

Rosie Romero has been an expert in the Arizona home building and remodeling industry for more than 40 years and host of the syndicated Saturday morning radio show “Rosie on the House,” heard locally from 10 to 11 a.m. on KNST-AM (790) in Tucson is.

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