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Drain Clearing – Snake vs. Jetter

drain clearing
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Today we are going to delve into your home’s plumbing system and talk about what you are faced with when a drain backs up in your home. There are many reasons why you may experience a stoppage in your plumbing system. It can be as simple as hair clogging the drain to as complex as having a break in the sewer line, and each scenario presents its own unique challenges. The first thing our fearless drain technician is going to do is determine how bad the stoppage is and what it’s going to take to get all that waste water flowing freely again.

The go-to-tool for clearing most stoppages is called a plumbing snake. It is similar to what you think of when I say the word snake, a long thin metal coil, usually on a spool and attached to a sewer machine that makes it spin in the drain to loosen debris. There are also smaller versions called hand snakes or augers that can be used to clear minor stoppages in sinks and water closets (toilets). The problem with snaking a drain, especially in older homes, is that all it does is poke a hole through whatever the stoppage is, allowing the water to flow again. Often times you can experience a stoppage in the same line multiple times if a snake is the only method used to clear the drain and depending on the amount of built-up crud that is in the line. This is where hydro cleaning, or a jetter comes to the rescue.

When you snake a drain, think about sticking your finger in a jar of peanut butter and pulling it out. The peanut butter now has a hole in it but the jar is still full. Your homes plumbing is no different when we snake it, the line is still full due to years of waste being flushed down the line. The kitchen drain is often the worst due to things that are grease based being dumped down the disposal. So what can we do?

Let’s use our jetter and wash your sewer line out to bring it back to what it was when it was first installed. The machine is similar to the snake with a long hose that we put down through the sewer system allowing us to high-pressure wash the interior of the system. It is somewhat similar to the pressure washer you use on your driveway or the one the guys use to clean roofs only much larger with much higher pressures.

One thing to note, if your home was built before 1972 the jetter may not be the right option for you because the sewer system is likely cast iron vs. PVC pipe and other methods may need to be deployed to get the sewer line draining properly again. Your friendly neighborhood plumber will be able to help you in making the right choice for the drain system in your home.

One final note of caution: Please do not use over-the-counter caustic drain clearing products from home improvement or hardware stores if you have a stoppage. In the long term, these types of products are very harmful to your sewer system.

On a parting thought, I found this to be amusing the other day. One of our plumbers came in and asked for some time off. He said he was just drained. (Deploy sound effects here: ba-dum-chhh)

House Whisperer out!


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