Everyday Plumbing Tips

How to unblock the 5 common types of blocked drains

Monday, August 27, 2018
How to unblock the 5 common types of blocked drains - blog post image

Getting started

Before you can begin unblocking your drain the first and most crucial part is working out what exactly the problem is. Blocked drains can happen in various different ways, from too much toilet paper by an inquisitive toddler all the way to a complete pipe collapse.

The 5 types of blocked drains

In most cases, your home will only suffer from one of these at a time. In worst cases, you will have multiples but that is also very rare.

Tree Roots

Tree root intrusion in a drain

This is on the horrible spectrum of blocked drains. What happens is a tree root makes its way through a hairline crack and penetrates into your pipe where it grows and eventually blocks the pipe.

Foreign Objects

Foreign objects in a drain

The most common of all blocked drains. This can happen from many different things such as a build-up of soap scum and hair from the shower or too much toilet paper in the toilet as well as food scraps down the kitchen sink.

Misalignment / Breakages

Drain misalignment

This can happen if the type of pipe used isn't designed for underground drainage. Scarily most misaligned pipes are due to incorrect installation to begin with. If left untreated can impact the surrounding fauna and flora.

Pipe Collapse

Drain pipe collapse

Over time pipes lose their rigidity, earth movements and heavy machinery or objects on top of the grass that has older pipes under it are more susceptible to collapsing causing all kinds of trouble.

Soil Settlement

Soil settlement correct
Correct Slope
Soil settlement no soil
No Slope
Soil settlement negative
Negative Slope

Drains rely on gravity in order to move the water from your home to the sewer. Over time the ground moves which can cause the soil under the pipe to shift thus removing the slope of your pipes or even creating a negative slope. Slope issues are more commonly caused by the installer not laying the pipes properly to begin with.

Diagnosing

Drain Camera

Drain Cameras

Enter the Drain Camera. These little devices allow the plumber to be able to see where no one is able to fit. These cameras are fed deep into the pipe to find the source of the problem.

How to unblock a drain

Now that you have diagnosed the problem it is time to look at what methods will be required in order to unblock the problem.

Tree roots in a drain

Tree Roots

In order to fix a tree root intrusion, you will need to have 4 things.

  • 1) A drain auger (Drain Snake)
  • 2) A water jetter (High Pressure Washer)
  • 3) Drain Camera for when you are finished.
  • 4) A full plumbers licence (as it's actually illegal to perform plumbing without a licence).

Slowly insert the drain auger into the pipe to smash the root into small pieces and follow up with a spray down from the water jetter. Using the camera afterwards will help to determine if it is all gone or whether you need to use the auger again.

Drain blocked with debris

Foreign Objects

In order to remove foreign objects, you will need to have 5 things.

  • 1) A plunger
  • 2) A water jetter (High Pressure Washer)
  • 3) A drain auger (Drain Snake)
  • 4) Drain Camera for when you are finished (Optional).
  • 5) A full plumbers licence (as it's actually illegal to perform plumbing without a licence).

To start with it is always recommended to try using a plunger first. This force/suction can sometimes be enough to dislodge the blockage and cause the water to free flow again. If this isn't happening the second course of action is to feed down a water jetter and blast the object. The last resort is to use a drain auger to mash the object into small pieces which can then be washed away with the water jetter.

Drain Misalighnment

Drain Misalignment / Breakages

In order to fix misalignment, you will need to have 3 things.

  • 1) Drain Camera.
  • 2) Pipe relining
  • 3) A full plumbers licence (as it's actually illegal to perform plumbing without a licence).

A drain camera is usually inserted to find where the breakage or misalignment is. Once the break or misalignment has been found pipe relining can commence. Once the pipe has been relined and has cured the pipe will be back in complete running order. As well as being stronger than before.

Broken drain

Pipe Collapse

When a collapsed pipe has been found it needs to be fixed as soon as possible. Sometimes going through concrete slabs or patios to get to the problem. The only way to fix a collapsed pipe is to dig down to it and replace the infected section. (In rare cases it is possible to be able to conduct pipe relining on a collapsed pipe but this will be decided on a case by case basis and cannot be guaranteed).

No soil
Negative soil alignment

Soil Settlement

If the reason for your blocked drains is determined to be from either no slope or negative sloping pipes then a complete relaying of those pipes is necessary. Calculating the correct slope can be done in 2 ways one being ratio and the other percentage. The equation for working out is:

Where

S = Slope in mm
L = Length of the trench (or pipe) in mm
G = Grade as a percentage (or ratio)

Ratio

S = LG

Percentage

S = L x G100

Having sloped pipes will require your yard or slab to be dug up in order to get the pipes to relay.

Keep in mind

Always keep in mind that any plumbing work that is carried out on your home or office is to be conducted by a fully licenced plumber. The information in the post is vague as it is not to be taken as a guide or specific how to.

If you have any of the problems listed above please feel free to contact our expert team on 0406 400 200 or 9191 7309. Alternatively, you can fill in our online booking form and one of our friendly staff will be able to help you with your query.

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