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Lets talk clogs

Posted 03-06-2009 at 08:21 AM by faucetman886

I think its time to discuss plumbing clogs again because the hot topic on ALL of the DIY discussion forums of late has been clogs. The one that I see more than most is the one that leaves me absolutely incredulous. I am a FIRM believer in DIY forums but for the life of me this one floors meÖ.ĒHELP!!!! my toilet is over flowing and I donít know what to doÖsomebody help me quick!!!!Ē. Well my friends isnít the answer pretty obvious? Shut the damn water off, look under the toilet and find the shut off valve and turn it. Donít have a shut off valve? Where were you 3 months ago when I cautioned everyone about having them on every fixture? Well then go and shut off the main water connection. Oh, I guess if you donít know how to stop the toilet from overflowing you havenít bothered to find the main shut off valve or maybe didnít know you had one. In either case even if I tell you how to fix the clog its not likely you will be able to handle the high tech super declogger device (plunger, see picture above) that I recommend that everyone have close by. FOR GOODNESS SAKE CALL A PLUMBER! Donít wait for your house to be two feet deep in water and toilet effluent. Seriously there are three basic reasons why a toilet overflows.
One reason is that you have a teenage son like mind that only goes to the bathroom, for bowel functions, say once a month, is in their for a couple of hours of which Iím not always sure is devoted to the original task and when he is through the toilet is clogged and the smell takes care of the idea that any insects could be alive in there. Or maybe you have a small child or as in my case, the beloved grandson, who can do not wrong, who has learned how to flush all sorts of things down the toilet including the family cat. The cat wasnít happy, by the way, but the scratches will heal and both the cat and the grandbaby have learned to avoid one another. The quick way to know that this is a localized toilet clog is that all the rest of the toilets and drains in the house are clearing properly. You would not believe how many people immediately assume that if one toilet is clogged they all are. Either way, try to free the obvious material and use a plunger. If this doesnít work try a short snake device inserted from the toilet. If this doesnít work a longer snake inserted through the clean out opening in your drain system should clear it.

The second cause can be very subtle and sometimes completely overlooked. Every drain in the house is linked to a vent stack. The vent stack allows air into the system so that no vacuum is created and water can flow freely out through the lowest point on the system, the main drain. If your vent stack becomes clogged, usually with leaves and debris, some times with a bird or animal builds a nest in it, then your system canít breathe and drain properly. Like the first clog, the vent can be a simple thing to clear of you have a snake or high pressure garden hose and feel adept at navigating your roof. Every vent exits the house through your roof and can be cleared by simply blowing it out or snaking it. The exception to this rule is when you discover that the bird that has built itís nest is a rare endangered species which is protected by law or that your next door neighbor is the local president of PETA and mounts a protest group in your yard because you are trying to harm some small animal. In either case itís time to call the local ďport-a-pottyĒ company and be prepared to wait for the hatching or leaving of the nest. Maybe you could learn to navigate the roof under the cover of darkness so as to escape discovery?

That brings me to the third type of clog and that is the main drain. This happens for several reasons. A major clog from one toilet has migrated to the main drain and stopped it up, a simple short snake or sometimes a serious plunging still should take care of it. By the way, toilets are not the only offender. I once caused a major main drain clog by peeling potatoes, for Christmas dinner, and trying to dispose of the peelings through the garbage disposal. A second common cause can be that your main drain has become impinged by roots growing through. This doesnít happen over night and you should have noticed that all the household drains have become increasingly slower. Thirdly your septic system can be full or the drain field has become compromised, again not a sudden problem. If you are not on a septic system you local sewer system can be backed up because of a simple grease trap clogged or maybe due to its own inadequacy after a rainstorm. All of these non localized clogs will require more serious plumbing expertise than most are capable of. Iím pretty DIY adept and could handle a 25í snake with the best of them, as long as its not the teenagers Burmese python, which would allow me to clear the average main drain clog. But if you have a septic tank problem its time to call a septic system specialist. If itís a sewer problem call your county/city provider. It is their responsibility to unclog it. This main drain clog can become, quickly, more serious than just a clogged toilet. A clogged main has to go somewhere and that is usually up and through the lowest point in your house. This can be a drain in the basement, a tub on the first floor and so on. This is a very unpleasant experience because it can be more than just your sewage that comes back into your home. If you are down hill from others on a sewer system you can have everyone up hill from you dumping their every flush into your house.
The best way to avoid any of these situations is to be alert watch how your drains are clearing, eat lots of fiberÖLOL, listen for gurgling noises which might indicate an on coming clog either from the previously mentions vent stack or main drain not clearing. As to preparing yourself for the inevitable clog, keep a good plunger nearby, invest in a 25í manual plumbing snake, locate your shut off valves, both for each fixture and the entire house, find your clean out access, look at where the vent stacks come out through your roof and keep a good local plumberís phone number close by, possibly tattooed to the back of your right hand. Last but not least you donít have time to wait for one of us in the forums to give you an answer.
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