It’s easy to overlook your home’s drains. After all, gravity does all the work and they generally, well, just work! However, many clogs and leaks can become a serious threat to your home. In this article, we’ll review the basics of drain and drain line upkeep, as well as what you should do to protect your home’s essential sewer or septic line.
It’s time that you started taking care of your home’s drains. For even more tips and advice for keeping your home’s plumbing in great shape, check out this info graphic from the team at King Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, a long-time plumber in Chicago.
Put away the drain cleaners
When most homeowners encounter a clog, they turn to the nearest, easiest “fix”: drain cleaning chemicals. Although different drain cleaners have different formulas, they all work in the same, fundamental way: using a chemical reaction to eat away at the clog and get water draining again. However, while drain cleaners are marketed as “safe for pipes,” there are many cases in which they are not. The chemical reaction generates heat energy, which can damage PVC and metal pipes over a sustained period of time. Drain cleaners can also damage the sink basin, your faucets, or the drain trim.
On top of the potential harm they can do to your home’s pipes and plumbing, drain cleaning chemicals are among the most hazardous substances many American homeowners have in their home. Accidental ingestion requires immediate medical treatment, and skin or eye exposure may, as well.
If your home is connected to a septic system, chemical drain cleaners are even more disastrous. A septic system relies on beneficial bacteria to break down organic waste. Flushing harsh drain cleaners down the sink, toilet, or drain can lead to a massive die-off of this bacteria, preventing your septic system from working as intended.
Avoid sewer line problems
Your home’s sewer line carries wastewater from your home to the municipal sewer—without it, the water that goes down your sink, shower drain, or toilet would have nowhere to go. That’s actually precisely what happens when the line clogs: wastewater is unable to exit the system and begins to back up into the home, with disastrous consequences. A sewer line clog is one of the most terrifying scenarios any homeowner can face. So, are they avoidable?
The answer, for the most part, is yes. Most sewer line clogs are caused by trapped grease, oil, coffee grounds, eggshells, rice, and flour that has adhered to the interior of the line and started to form a clog. With enough time—and enough material—the clog will eventually fill the line. To avoid this, be cautious and conscious of what you put down the drain. In the bathroom, never flush non-organic waste products, including so-called “flushable” sanitary wipes. In the kitchen, dispose of grease in a separate container, and put coffee grounds and eggshells directly into the trash.
Another potential cause of sewer line clogs and cracks are tree roots. Some species have aggressive, fast-growing roots that burrow deep in search of water. Near your sewer line, they’ll hone in on even a tiny leak and start growing around and into the line, trying to absorb as much moisture and nutrients as possible. With enough time, this can partially or fully clog the line. If you have trees or bushes within 10 feet or so of where your sewer line is buried, talk to an arborist in your area to get their opinion on whether or not the tree should be moved to another part of your property.
At the first sign of trouble, call in a professional
Many clogs are solved by a homeowner with nothing more than a plunger. However, for anything more serious than that, you need to have a trusted professional you can call for emergency service. The night you discover a leaking pipe is not the point where you want to be calling multiple plumbers, trying to figure out which one is reputable and available to work in your home. Be proactive and vet out several emergency plumbers in your area right now. Then, you’ll have a list to call when you need emergency service. This can save minutes or even hours when it comes to a plumbing emergency, which can make all the difference.