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Common Sewer Drain Problems and When to Call a Professional

Plungers for Toilets

Featured Image by Benjamin Franklin

In today’s do-it-yourself culture, almost every homeowner has a few essential tools on hand to deal with common sewer problems such as backed up drains, slow drains, and overflowing toilets. Knowing when to handle the issue yourself and when to call a professional is crucial, as many situations call for the skill and knowledge of an expert. This is important to not only solve the problem, but also to keep your home’s sewage system functional.

We’ve put together a handy guide with the most common sewer drain problems, how to fix the smaller ones yourself, and when to call a professional such as John C. Flood.

1. Clogged Sinks or Toilets

Image by Robinson's Plumbing Service

When the water in your sink, toilet or tub simply won’t go away, you probably have a partial or complete clog. Most of the time, you can unclog the pipe yourself. If the clog is extremely large or located deep in the pipe, then you will probably need to call a pro.

The first thing you will want to do is to pour commercial drain cleaners into the problematic drain. If the clog isn’t large, this will be sufficient to dislodge it and get the drain back to normal. Make sure you don’t use too much of these products, as they can cause damage to the piping material which can lead to expensive replacements.

If drain cleaners are not working, there are a few ways to solve the clogged drain yourself:

  • Check the garbage disposal. If it’s clogged, use a plunger to remove the clog or force it down the drain.
  • If it’s not the garbage disposal, then you’ll want to use the plunger anyway. If it’s the sink that’s clogged, and you have two drains, hold a wet cloth tightly over one drain to seal it. Plunge up and down vigorously for twenty seconds or so, popping the plunger off the drain on the last pull stroke.
  • Use a ‘snake’ (or ‘hand auger’). Thread the tip of the snake into the drain stub-out, and start turning the crank clockwise to feed it into the pipe. If the cable hits an obstruction, continue cranking until the tip breaks through the clog. Once you are through the clog, turn the lever counterclockwise to get it out of the drain. Tip: Keep a bucket handy, as you may get a large plug of material at the end of the cable.

If the drain is still clogged, then it’s time to call a plumbing pro like John C. Flood to help you unclog it effectively — and affordably.

2. Frozen Pipes

Image by Shay Hata

During inclement weather, there’s a good chance that your pipes will freeze, thus causing blockage and slow drainage. If the pipes themselves haven't been cracked or damaged due to the freezing, there are two easy ways to clear the blockage when the pipes are frozen:

  • Wrap the pipes in special wrap heat tape, leaving it in place for a minimum of 24 hours or until the blockage is cleared.
  • Leave the thermostat at a higher heat setting to keep warm air circulating, melt down the ice and prevent further freezing.

3. Sewer Drain Clog

Image by Absolute Plumbing and Drain

If the water cannot go into the septic tank or to the municipal waste system, it’s called a sewer drain clog. This is a plumbing emergency since the wastewater will start to come back through the drains. If you can’t figure out if it’s a sewer drain clog or just a normal clog in the main pipe, look for multiple clogged fixtures, and strange noises when you run the sink or flush the toilet.

If you have a sewer drain clog, call John C. Flood at (703) 752-1267 (Virginia), (301) 222-0751 (Maryland) or (202) 266-4951 (Washington DC) immediately, as professional assistance is essential to unclogging the drain.

4. Tree Roots

Image by Laseaswift

Do you have any trees in your yard or around the house? If yes, then the problem you’re facing may be related to their roots clogging the main sewer drain. Common signs of clogged drains due to tree rots include gurgling noises from your toilet bowls and slow flowing drains. It’s important to take immediate action to remove the roots, otherwise a complete sewer line block will occur, calling for very expensive piping replacement if the roots crush the pipes.

John C. Flood offers sewer drain video inspection services to help identify the cause of the drain clogs, and allow you to decide on an adequate course of action to solve your drain problem. Contact us today and let our experts assist you!