Plumb­ing prob­lems in year-old home

The Palm Beach Post - Residences - - Front Page -

Ques­tion: I live in a house that is barely a year old and the drains are al­ready caus­ing prob­lems. Should this hap­pen, or was the plumb­ing de­signed im­prop­erly? What is the best way to clean the drains?

An­swer: The ma­jor­ity of the plumb­ing is hid­den be­hind the walls and in be­tween the floors, so it is dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine whether or not the plumber is at fault. Too many el­bows in the plumb­ing, not enough ver­ti­cal drop or pipes which are too small can all con­trib­ute to your prob­lems.

If you can get a hold of a copy of your old build­ing plans, you may be able to de­ter­mine how the plumb­ing was de­signed. This will help, but you still have no way of know­ing for sure if the plumber fol­lowed the plans. Next time you have a house built, try to be on-site when the plumb­ing is be­ing in­stalled.

If the plumb­ing was not in­stalled prop­erly, there re­ally is not much you can do to cor­rect it now, so let’s fo­cus on things you can do to keep the drains open. If these things do not help, you may de­cide to con­tact the gen­eral con­trac­tor to dis­cuss it.

All drains, even ones sized and in­stalled prop­erly, will de­velop a buildup of a film on the in­side of the pipes. When you think of all the dif­fer­ent chem­i­cals, soaps, foods, oils, etc. which get rinsed down a drain, it is sur­pris­ing they are not al­ways clogged.

Kitchen sinks and bath­tubs are prob­a­bly the worst sit­u­a­tions. Food par­ti­cles and grease form bio-films in­side of the pipes. It is usu­ally black and you may see some of it form­ing when you wipe out the open­ing to a garage dis­poser. Imag­ine how bad it is down in­side there.

Bath­tubs also have to deal with body hairs that get past the coarse strainer over the drain. These hairs, long and short, get caught in the sticky bio-film and can form a good-sized block­age. Over many years, it can ac­tu­ally get hard.

The best method to try first to re­move a clog quickly is a plunger. The re­peated force and then suc­tion of the wa­ter of­ten will blow out the clog enough to al­low the sink or tub to drain. If, after try­ing it sev­eral times, you just see some black gunk drift­ing up, you will need big­ger guns.

A drain-clean­ing snake is gen­er­ally ef­fec­tive to clean out the drain. You can buy in­ex­pen­sive han­d­op­er­ated ones. Cover the floor to­tally be­cause, when you pull the snake out, it will be cov­ered with the black gunk. If you have trou­ble get­ting it through the drains, it in­di­cates plumb­ing de­sign prob­lems.

Once the drain is open and the sink or bath­tub emp­ties, pour some com­mer­cial drain cleaner in the drain and fol­low the tim­ing in­struc­tions. Don’t be in a hurry to see if it works. If it still seems to drain slowly, try the drain cleaner again. This is prob­a­bly the best you will get with­out pro­fes­sional help.

In the fu­ture, use a nat­u­ral drain cleaner in the drains pe­ri­od­i­cally even if they are flow­ing. A good nat­u­ral drain cleaner uses bak­ing soda, white vine­gar and boil­ing wa­ter. Pour bak­ing soda in the drain fol­lowed by the vine­gar. After it foams for sev­eral min­utes, pour hot wa­ter down the drain.

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