Clear the Way for Proper Drainage

Article by John Swygert; Home Inspectors of Middle Tennessee, LLC
March 2014 Monthly Tips Eblast Distribution 032014

MarchDrain-2A clogged drain can be annoying, but it is usually not too difficult to clear. Chemical drain cleaners should be used as a last resort, rather than the first. Always use caution with chemical cleaners and be sure to read the labels carefully, because some can be used safely and others may destroy pipes or septic systems. If you are unable to clear a clog after a few attempts, it’s time to turn the job over to a professional. Exerting too much force can permanently damage a fixture or pipe.

If the clog is in the bathroom sink or bathtub, a plunger and wet rag should suffice. Place the rag on top of the overflow drain (or stuff the rag into the overflow hole) to create suction needed to clear the pipe with the plunger. Partially fill the sink basin with water. Vigorously work the plunger up and down repeatedly before quickly removing it from the drain opening. The same process can be used for kitchen sinks, but if it’s a double-bowl sink, stuff a wet rag into one drain opening while you plunge the other side.

MarchDrain-1If plunging doesn’t work, a cable auger can be used. Remove the sink trap under the sink with a pipe wrench or by hand. Empty the water from the trap into a bucket and inspect it to see if the clog is in the trap. If the trap is empty, remove the horizontal trap arm that extends out from the stub-out until you can feel resistance. Pull out 18 inches more cable, tighten the lock screw and crank the handle clockwise and push forward, feeding the cable further into the pipe. Repeat the process until you break through the blockage. Turn the crank counterclockwise to retrieve the cable.

Reassemble the drain pipe. (It might be helpful to grab your cell phone and take a photo or two of the assembly before you remove the sink pipes). Turn on the hot water to see if the sink drains. Some debris from the dislodged clog may settle into a loose blockage, requiring the plunger step to be repeated.

For shower drains, a clog typically builds up slowly over time and water begins to drain slowly. Remove the drain covering. Using a flashpoint and a bent wire, scoop out any buildup of hair or soap scum you can see. The drain may operate properly again with just the one step. If not, move on to the plunger, and then the auger if needed. For bathtub clogs, try the previous steps and if the cable auger is needed, unscrew the overflow plate from the end of the tub and remove it (the stopper linkage will come out with it). Feed about 30 inches of cable down the overflow tube and push forward while turning the crank. You’ll soon feel resistance, but keep going until the cable passes through the P-trap that is under the tub. After retrieving the cable, run several gallons of hot water down the drain.

To clear a toilet clog, a plunger can usually provide enough force to clear the clog. If it doesn’t, a toilet auger (different from a cable auger) can be used. Place the end of the auger into the bowl. Hold the shaft of the tool steady as you crank. Continue cranking until there is no more cable to fed into the toilet – about 3 feet. If you feel you’ve grabbled something, gently pull to remove it. Never force the auger or you will risk cracking the toilet.

Retrieve the cable, and flush the toilet to clear the drainpipe. If needed, the plunger can be used again or the auger can be fed into the toilet again to the right side of the drain opening, and again on the left.

John Swygert | Home Inspectors of Middle Tennessee, LLC

Source: Home Inspectors of Middle Tennessee LLC; eblast 032014 | Blog, In The News, distribution provided by Kenneth Bargers and Bargers Solutions, member of Pilkerton Realtors, residential real estate services located in Nashville, Tennessee

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