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Sewer and Drains

Dealing with a blocked drain

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Blocked drains, like taxes, are an inevitable part of life. Despite what advertisers say, solving the problem is not as easy as pouring some liquid into the stopped-up fixtures and letting it work its magic. Liquid cleaners are usually ineffective against blocked drains. Even worse, they are also caustic, as they contain potent acidic cleaners that can damage porcelain and sometimes even older trap pipes. In addition, your sink and pipes are now filled with acidic chemicals that may leak out onto hands and cabinetry when the drain lines are opened up to properly fix the blocked drain.

Enzymatic cleaners are a bit easier on the environment, but they are designed for preventative maintenance, not quick fixes, and can take a few days to clear a blocked drain.

For more information on the dangers of liquid drain cleaners, check out the U.S. National Library of Medicine report on the subject.

Fortunately, clearing a blocked drain can be easily taken care of by most DIYers.

For drains with pop-up stoppers, such as those in bathroom sinks, removing the pop-up plug and clearing away any hair, grease or other debris is a quick and easy way to remedy the problem. If the sink is full of water, take care to place a bucket and towel under the trap before loosening any parts. With necessary precautions taken, loosen the pop-up lever nut. This is located directly under the sink facing the back of the drain line. Remove the pop-up plug and clear away any obstructions. While the plug is off, look down the drain with a flashlight and remove any further clogs with a clothes hanger.

If the problem persists, the clog is likely further down the line. You can attempt to plunge the sink, though depending on the size and density of the blockage, this might prove futile.

If plunging and cleaning the pop-ups fail, you should contact a licensed plumber who can snake the line. While you can rent snaking equipment yourself, there is the risk of damaging the pipes, particularly with power augers, which can break through drain lines.

If you are dealing with a “slow block,” in which the sink backs up after water has been running for a little while, your clog is likely very far down the line. In addition to the slow buildup, other fixtures in the home will be slow to drain, as well. This is a sign that the clog is somewhere in a main drain line (and perhaps caused by tree roots) and will likely require some heavy-duty equipment. To resolve this problem, you should call a licensed plumber, as the equipment necessary for this job is powerful, and the potential for injury is high for those without experience.


Troubleshooting Your Sump Pump Noise

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

A sump pump is one of those things in life that you never think about until it stops working. Oftentimes, you won’t know there is something wrong until you’re ankle-deep in water. Sometimes, though, you may get lucky and notice sump pump noise, a telltale sign that trouble is down the road. Keep an ear out for uncommon noises like banging, gurgling and humming, and conduct routine maintenance for years of worry-free use.

Here’s what to do if you hear those uncommon sounds from your sump pump.

Gurgling: This sump pump noise usually indicates that water is flowing back down the pipes after the pumping cycle. A common cause for this is a lack of or a malfunction in your check valve, which opens as water rushes up from the pump and closes when flow lessens. If your model has a check valve, you can find it on the PVC or ABS pipe directly above the sump basin. It is fitted with rubber slide sleeves and held on with radiator clamps, so you can fix it relatively easily by loosening the clamps and replacing the valve. ALWAYS be sure to unplug the pump before making any repairs.

Banging: A banging or thudding noise is usually caused by a rush of water streaming back down the pipe and hitting the closed check valve. If you have a particularly long rise of pipe from the basin, having the check valve installed higher up might lessen the thud. Since this requires cutting into the line, it is a good idea to have a licensed, professional plumber do the job.

These sounds can also be caused by pipes hitting wall joists or other framing structures. A simple way to check for this problem is by grabbing onto the pipe when the pump kicks on, as vibration can rattle the pipes. If this is the problem, securing the pipe with additional clamps should alleviate it.

Humming: This is a common sound when the pump is running, but if the noise is constant, then the system might be running without actually moving any water. A common cause for this is the lack of a relief hole between the pump and the check valve, which will develop an air lock in your system. Drill a 1/16- to 1/8-inch hole into the plastic PVC or ABS pipe at a downward angle, so water shoots out back into the basin between the pump and check valve.

Another cause could be a clog somewhere in the line, most commonly at the pump itself. This can be fixed by removing the sump pump, taking its bottom plate off and clearing away any debris. If the problem persists, call a licensed plumber, as the problem is probably further down the line.

Humming can also be an indication that the pump’s motor has failed, which means you will have to replace the unit.


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Plumbing Pipes
Septic Repair Marietta
Bathroom Sink