Troubleshooting Clogged Drains & Sewer BackUp – Rooter Service
The plumbing for your drains inside your home is similar to that of a tree. You have a main line (the trunk) and secondary lines (the branches). If it is a branch line that has the obstruction, you may be able to save money by schedule service during regular weekday hours by choosing not to use whatever is on that branch line (usually sink or laundry room). If it is the main line that is the issue, you won’t be able to use any water in your home until the problem is solved. For most people this means you will need our drain cleaning (rooter) services immediately.
Here is a simple way to diagnose branch line vs. main line sewer problems:
Q: Does water come up in your floor drain (downstairs) when you use water anywhere (kitchen, bathroom) in the house ?
A. Yes – your main sewer line has a blockage and you will likely need immediate service.
B. No – it is a branch line that has the blockage
In some homes with upstairs and downstairs suites with kitchens, the two drains will be connected on a branch line prior to the main sewer line. In this case, water from the upstairs kitchen drain will back up in the downstairs kitchen sink.
In a single detached home with good tenants, you may have the option of arranging drain cleaning service during regular weekday hours as long as the tenants refrain from using water in the kitchen until the problem can be resolved.
In multi-family residences such as apartments and condominiums, ALL sewer backups require immediate service due to the number of users on the line and the risk of damage to the property.
Troubleshooting Water Leaks
The water supplied to your home in under constant pressure, so a water leak from a water line will be a constant drip. Know where your water shut off is on your water meter ~ this is ALWAYS inside the house, normally in a utility room and usually near the hot water tank. Mold can start within 12 hrs., so it is important to shut off the water to the area if possible. In some cases, your home may have individual shutoff valves for the kitchen, bathroom, etc but normally there is only one main shut off.
Sometimes, the drain lines in a ceiling or wall can be the source of the leak. In this case the area will only be wet occasionally, but it is important not to delay repairing the problem, as waste water carries bacteria that can cause a great deal of damage in a short period of time.
Troubleshooting Hot Water Tank Issues
There are a few common problems customers encounter with hot water tanks. Here is a simple guide to figuring out what might be wrong:
I have no hot water – do I need a new hot water tank ?
The pilot light will not stay lit.
The gas valve in the thermostat constantly monitors your pilot light through a thermocouple. This is a sensor that sits in the flame of the pilot light and sends a signal to the gas valve to stay open, or to close. If the thermocouple fails to send a signal to the gas valve, the valve will not stay open to protect against natural gas being released into the home. Replacing the thermocouple normally corrects this.
We run out of hot water in a short time
Your hot water tank has a plastic dip tube that brings cold water into the bottom of the tank. Over time this gets brittle and sometimes breaks off inside the tank. In this case, every time you turn on the hot water, you are adding cold water to the top of the tank, which cools off your hot water in a hurry. Replacing the dip tube will correct this.
Troubleshooting Faucets for Sinks, Bathtubs and Showers
There are many different types of taps, but all have internal parts that can wear out. The most common reason is the degradation of rubber and metal parts that are responsible for making a good seal, allowing the water to be shut off. Depending on what you have in your home these parts will cost anywhere from $5 to more than $75.
In many cases, these parts can be changed by a capable homeowner familiar with basic plumbing ~ the key is to know when you are in over your head and STOP before you do something that could lead to a larger repair bill. In regard to anything that may lead to potential injury or property damage it’s always best to get professional help.
Troubleshooting Bad Sewer Smells & Odours
Drain lines are vented upwards through the roof in your home. Normally there is a larger vent for the main stack which carries waste water from the washrooms and a smaller vent for the branch line that services the kitchen. Sometimes these vents can become obstructed and prevent the sewer gas in your drain lines from ‘venting’ properly ~ the result being a rotten egg smell inside your home. Often, venting issues will present through gurgling sounds or air bubbling in a toilet or bathtub, although we have seen a few cases where the source of the sewer odor was a broken waste water drain line.
Vent lines cannot normally be serviced in the winter as it usually requires a technician to clear them from the roof of the building.
Sometimes a clogged drain line will present symptoms similar to a plugged vent line. In order to tell the difference between the two it may be necessary to check cleanouts for various drains. Although relatively straightforward there is always the chance of releasing waste water inside your home if it is not done with caution. A professional will know how to check these properly without risking contamination of your home.
Lastly, if the odor seems to be coming from an area with a floor drain it’s important to check there is water in the drain. Your floor drain has a ‘trap’ that holds water, which keeps sewer gas from entering your home. Try flushing it with water from a garden hose to make sure it is properly filled, and that the water in the trap has not gone stale.
Drain Cleaning Equipment We Use
Mechanical Auger – “The Drain Cleaner”
The mechanical auger is a useful tool for removing hard blockages in sewer lines of almost all sizes. This video shows the industry-standard equipment made by Ridgid Tools that we use to clean larger diameter sewer lines.
Commonly known as a ‘snake’, it consists of a wound steel cable driven by an electric motor which turns the cable, allowing it to travel along the entire length of the line being serviced.
The technician chooses from a range of cutting heads, depending on the type of blockage most common for a particular line. This means retrieval heads and root-cutting heads for main lines where you want to remove foreign materials that may have been flushed, or where a tree root has entered the line through a pipe joint. For smaller lines such as kitchen sink drains where you want to remove the buildup of material along the entire length, a grease cutter head works best.
Mechanical augers are also useful in galvanized steel lines, where often there is a buildup of corrosion that is contributing to the reduced performance of the drain line.
In cases where the drain lines are in good condition, or where the plumbing uses ABS pipe and you need to remove buildup of food and grease in a drain line, we recommend high-pressure hot-water jet flushing.
Jet Flushing Equipment
We use portable jet-flushing equipment that can deliver water up to 180 degrees F at a pressure of up to 1700 psi.
This video shows how a jetter works inside a pipe ~ notice that it does indeed clean the pipe back to it’s original size.
Keep in mind, however that if a sewer line is completely clogged and there is nowhere to safely direct water that cannot drain away, it may still be necessary to use a mechanical auger first to open the line sufficiently to use the jet-flush equipment.
In most residential lines, grease buildup is seldom the issue. We have yet to come across a main sewer line in a single detached house with a significant grease problem.
In situations where the jet-flush equipment would be difficult to use safely, we can achieve nearly similar results using hot water in combination with the mechanical auger.