Clogged Drains: When to Call in a Pro

Clogged drains are the most frequent plumbing issue in the house. While the symptoms of an obstructed drain pipe are mostly alike — water backup in a sink or tub — the causes range from minor issues that may respond to simple DIY methods to more complicated situations that require a qualified plumber.

A common plunger may dislodge the easy stuff. Where the clog is in the drain trap under the sink (such as a ball of accumulated hair) use of a flexible, two-foot “drain stick” purchased from a local home center may get things flowing again. Alternatively, most PVC drain traps can be easily unscrewed, cleaned out manually, then reinstalled and hand-tightened by anyone who's handy and willing. If you prefer liquid methods, a pan of boiling water poured down a drain may dissolve soap scum and/or grease clogs. But leave it at that — most plumbers discourage use of caustic drain openers that may damage household plumbing, resulting in major repair expenses.

Here are two more complicated situations that require a plumbing pro:

  • Repeated clogs. Usually resulting from sludge accumulation deep in the pipe, not a temporary obstruction. Use of a drain snake to open a hole in the gooey sludge is a short-term solution that only delays the inevitable. Water flow is soon obstructed as the hole rapidly closes up again. Professional drain cleaning with a hydro-jet tool that blasts sludge out of the pipe with high-pressure water, or use of a powered auger with rotating cutting blades sized to scour the interior of the pipe, are the permanent remedies.
  • Slow-running drains. When a drain continuously runs very slow yet no clog can be identified, a blocked air vent may actually be the cause. These pipes extend from the drain lines all the way to the roof and may become obstructed by bird nests, leaves or other debris. Lack of adequate venting causes air imbalances inside the drain pipes, impeding free flow of wastewater. A plumber's expertise is required to locate and resolve air vent issues.

Ask the pros at Rytech Inc., for more about plumbing issues and professional solutions.