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-   -   How to use a snake to clear a drain? (http://www.diychatroom.com/f7/how-use-snake-clear-drain-33386/)

Nestor_Kelebay 12-08-2008 10:16 AM

How to use a snake to clear a drain?
 
I've answered enough questions on this board, but now I'm asking one.

I'm currently thinking of renting an electric motorized snake to clear a 1 1/2 inch kitchen sink drain in my apartment block, but I have never done this before. So, I'm hoping to get some basic instructions from anyone in here who has.

The building is a three storey apartment block so that three kitchen sinks all discharge into the same near horizontal drain pipe in the crawl space under the building. I will be running the snake into the kitchen sink drain pipe on the bottom floor and running hot water in the kitchen sink of the main floor (cuz the kitchen sink on the bottom floor is currently out).

When I have seen plumbers do this, the basic procedure as I recall is to run the snake into the drain pipe and back out again just to break up the blockage. Then they start the water running and run the snake in and out a second time so that the running water carries away the crud that's been scraped off the drain pipe walls.

Is this correct? That is, does anyone disagree with the basic instructions given here: http://www.essortment.com/home/homerepairelec_szvh.htm

Is it normally necessary to go further than 25 feet down the drain line to clear the blockage from a kitchen sink? I can rent either a 25 foot snake or a 50 foot snake, and my feeling is that most of the crud would accumulate at the beginning of the near-horizontal section of drain piping in my crawl space. I'm hoping a 25 foot snake will clear the partially clogged section.

Any knowledgeable/experienced input would be appreciated.

DUDE! 12-08-2008 03:39 PM

25' should do it. You are going to be in close quarters if you are under the kitchen sink. Try to plan ahead on your movements. I try use the on button with my knee or toe but make sure you can release the pressure right quick. Another important part is the gloves, best if old work gloves, don't hold the cable tight, let it ride on your hand. The cable will grab your glove very quickly. This isn't rocket science but they can break bones. I've used them maybe 20 times and its not enough. The pro's make it look easier then it is,, good luck, and yes you are a big help to those of us on here, thanks

Marvin Gardens 12-08-2008 04:46 PM

I use a hand held one powered by a drill. It is easier to manage and is not as dangerous as the bigger powered ones with the Pratt and Whitney J57 jet engine with after burner.

Only once did I have to use the big one.

Several times I have had to come down through the roof vent which is a lot easier. Older plumbing can have a lot of twists and turns. Many had 90's at the junction instead of angled connections like they have today.

Above all use mask and goggles. When you are done bag up your cloths and wash them at a laundry mat. Lots of nasty stuff in sewers.

DUDE! 12-08-2008 04:51 PM

Marvin, there are times I need to wipe my screen after reading your replies,, as you stated, using the snake attached to the drill is a good option, especially going into the 1 1/2" pipe. When I use the big boy's snake I like to go through a cleanout into the main pipe, course that won't help with the above kitchen sink..

Marvin Gardens 12-08-2008 05:08 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DUDE! (Post 195697)
Marvin, there are times I need to wipe my screen after reading your replies,, as you stated, using the snake attached to the drill is a good option, especially going into the 1 1/2" pipe. When I use the big boy's snake I like to go through a cleanout into the main pipe, course that won't help with the above kitchen sink..

As in spraying coffee?

4just1don 12-08-2008 05:15 PM

do you have a common flat tape with a roller ball on the end?? MOST of the time those work for 90 % of all clogs,,,I have the BIG style but not the smaller ones.(guess I need to add to my Christmas list,,,,or NOT!!)(and HOPE I dont need it!!)_

Anyway MY modus operanti of doing it,is go thru a cleanout,,traps are too restrictive,,then every now and then turn it round and round(with the water on IF its not 100% clogged) if clogged run it past the clog,,,then start water. anyway the round and round makes those edges flipp around and around inside the pipe and scrubs the walls as good as those expensive guys. Never had one fail in a long time,,so it obviously works. It works to cut a few tree roots outta there too if there are any!! Nother thing that works for stubborn hard to figure out whats wrong is a piece of "Barbed" wire attached to the end to twist around,catch some of what is clogging,and pull out with cable. Anyway BIGGEST bet to a cleaner tape,snake,anything is to have the water running last time and turn it over enough to wash both sides so its pretty clean when you roll it back up for next time.

DUDE! 12-08-2008 08:18 PM

Marvin, it was the P&W jet engine description that got me :laughing:

Nestor_Kelebay 12-08-2008 08:27 PM

Thanks DUDE!, MarvinGardens and 4Just1Don:

In this case the kitchen sink and p-trap are out of the kitchen counter, so I can run the snake directly into the 1 1/2 inch drain line. I won't be "under" the sink, and I expect I'm most likely to be above it, watching what's happening and manipulating the snake (pushing it in or pulling it out) through the sink hole.

The drain piping is not completely clogged. It is only partially clogged. I replaced the water shut off valves in a "stack" of three suites, and so I thought it would be a good idea to clear the drain piping since it hasn't been done in many years. The cost of renting the machine ($35) is about half of what I'd pay to have it done by a pro.

There is a clean out I can go in, and it's got a threaded plastic plug in it to prevent it from corroding like the old iron plugs did in copper piping. I've unthreaded it, so I know it's accessible, but the drain pipe is wide open, so I may as well go in the drain line itself to keep the snake as straight as possible as it enters the piping.

A few possibly dumb questions:

1. I was under the impression that the machine itself feeds the snake into the drain, but the place where I'm renting the snake from says that the machine only twists the snake; it doesn't push it in or pull it out. He says they're all like that and that NO drain machine pushes the snake in or pulls it out. Is that typical of drain machines, or do some of them push the snake in and pull it out as the author of the post in the web site I linked to suggests?

2. If I get 50 feet of snake into my drain piping, is it going to be very difficult to pull it out? I'm thinking that it shouldn't be any more difficult than pulling 50 feet of snake down a hallway or something. That is, the fact that it's rotating in a pipe shouldn't affect how hard it is to pull out, right? My building was built in 1960 and has copper drain piping above ground and cast iron drain piping in the crawl space. So far as I know, they used sanitary wye's for the drain piping everywhere, and not just 90 degree angles as was suggested in a previous post, so there shouldn't be any tight corners for the snake to go through.

3. If I shut the motor off when the snake is in the drain pipe, is it plausible to believe that the snake could get stuck in the drain piping as a result? Me thinks: Prolly not. It seems to me that the slime and rotting putrifaction in the drain piping would probably make for a not so bad lubricant.

4. When I've seen plumbers do this work, they have the hot water running at a relatively slow rate while clearing the drain. If I can put a basin down to catch any water that might back up and come out at the upstream end of the drain piping (where I am), why wouldn't it be better to snake the drain pipe with a greater flow of hot water down the drain piping to help carry all the crud away?

DUDE! 12-08-2008 08:36 PM

I wouldn't snake it from on top, I try to get as close to the pipe as I can, that cable will go all over the place if given too much slack out side the pipe, then accidents will happen. The snake I used, the feed was broken, but from reading and looking on line, most have auto feeds, Having no feed increases chances of getting hands caught. Its mostly a "feel" thing, takes some getting used too. I was shown to use old work gloves, the heavy ones, the more grease, oil worked into them the better.

jamiedolan 12-08-2008 09:50 PM

A few possibly dumb questions:

1. I was under the impression that the machine itself feeds the snake into the drain, but the place where I'm renting the snake from says that the machine only twists the snake; it doesn't push it in or pull it out. He says they're all like that and that NO drain machine pushes the snake in or pulls it out. Is that typical of drain machines, or do some of them push the snake in and pull it out as the author of the post in the web site I linked to suggests?
We've done this a few times, you have to manually push / pull it out of the drain, unless there is some new type of drain cleaner out there.

2. If I get 50 feet of snake into my drain piping, is it going to be very difficult to pull it out? I'm thinking that it shouldn't be any more difficult than pulling 50 feet of snake down a hallway or something. That is, the fact that it's rotating in a pipe shouldn't affect how hard it is to pull out, right? My building was built in 1960 and has copper drain piping above

Is the copper what is clogged? Based on my experience and what other drain guys told me, the copper portion of the plumbing is rarely a problem. stuff does get stuck on the joints in cast iron. I am sure it is possible copper can and does clog, just my experience.

ground and cast iron drain piping in the crawl space. So far as I know, they used sanitary wye's for the drain piping everywhere, and not just 90 degree angles as was suggested in a previous post, so there shouldn't be any tight corners for the snake to go through.

3. If I shut the motor off when the snake is in the drain pipe, is it plausible to believe that the snake could get stuck in the drain piping as a result? Me thinks: Prolly not. It seems to me that the slime and rotting putrifaction in the drain piping would probably make for a not so bad lubricant.
Never had it get stuck, I doubt there would be a problem, It is rather powerful.

4. When I've seen plumbers do this work, they have the hot water running at a relatively slow rate while clearing the drain. If I can put a basin down to catch any water that might back up and come out at the upstream end of the drain piping (where I am), why wouldn't it be better to snake the drain pipe with a greater flow of hot water down the drain piping to help carry all the crud away?

Last time we did it, a decent flow of hot water was helpful. I don't see any reason not to.

Good luck
Jamie

Marvin Gardens 12-08-2008 10:25 PM

Keep the machine as close to the drain as possible. Excess cable outside the drain will....well think of a girl using a hula hoop. And it can hurt you.

I really suggest using a 25 foot hand held with a cordless drill. I have used these with excellent results and they are much safer.

Just push the cable in as far as it will go and then give yourself a foot or so to push in. Then tighten the screw and fire up the drill and push the cable in. It should go further down the drain. Then loosen the screw and pull out some more cable and try and push in some more. If it won't go then tighten the screw and fire up the drill. Repeat till you think you have cleaned out the clog.

I don't run water when I am doing this. If it clogs completely then you have a real mess. If you want to run water run hot water as this will help kill any bugs on the cable.

Nestor_Kelebay 12-09-2008 04:45 PM

OK, Thanks guys. I popped into Home Depot to check out the machines, and I phoned the company that makes the machines to determine what cutter head to use.

http://www.generalpipecleaners.com/cutters/index.html

The guy at customer service told me to run the cable in with a "Arrow head" cutter just to scrape the inside of the pipe clean, and then do a second pass with the "Boring Gimlet".

He said that these were the two easiest bits to run into a 1 1/2 inch pipe. He also said that the purpose of running water during the second pass wasn't so much to carry away any solids, but more to insure that the pipe was clear and to clean off the cable as he's pulling it out of the drain. If the water backed up on him, then he'd know that he didn't clear the clog on the first pass cuz water would come out as he pushed the snake in. And the clean water running down the drain would clean off the snake as he pulled it out.


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