Bonfe Insider: April 2024

A Comprehensive Guide to Drains and Drain Maintenance

The wonders of modern plumbing! We turn a handle and water appears, flush a toilet and…well, let’s just say magic happens. But what about the unseen heroes behind the scenes? Your home’s drain system silently whisks away wastewater, keeping your life flowing smoothly. Until it doesn’t.

While often overlooked until a problem arises, understanding the infrastructure of your drain system and how to properly maintain it can save you from costly repairs and inconveniences down the line. In this guide, we’ll delve into the intricacies of your home’s drain system, covering everything from infrastructure to maintenance tips.

Guide to Drains and Drain Maintenance

Understanding Your Drainage System: Branch Lines vs. Main Line and City Sewer

Your home’s drainage system resembles a branching tree. Smaller branch lines connect individual fixtures like sinks, toilets, and bathtubs to the main line, or “stack”. This main line can be further divided into an interior main line (within your foundation) and an exterior main line (leading to the city sewer line). This main line acts as the trunk, collecting wastewater from all branches and transporting it out of your house. Beyond the main drain lies the city sewer line, which functions like the root system, carrying wastewater away from your property and eventually to a treatment facility.

Here’s a crucial distinction to remember: as a homeowner, your responsibility extends to maintaining the branch lines and the main drain up to the point of connection with the city sewer line.

Understanding Your Pipes: Materials and Lifespan

The main line and, in some cases, even the branch lines, can be constructed from various materials, each with its own lifespan and vulnerabilities:

  • Clay: Most common in older homes, vitrified clay pipes offer excellent corrosion resistance and can last for 30 to 60 years. However, they are brittle and can crack under pressure or tree root intrusion.
  • Cast Iron: A traditional material known for its durability, cast iron pipes can last for 50 to 75 years. However, they are susceptible to rust and corrosion over time.
  • PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride): A lightweight and affordable option, PVC pipes boast a lifespan of up to 100 years. They are resistant to corrosion but are susceptible to damage from harsh chemicals

The Importance of Drain Maintenance: Preventing Clogs Before They Occur

While your drains work tirelessly, they are susceptible to accumulating debris. Grease, hair, soap scum, food scraps, and mineral deposits can slowly build up, eventually leading to a clog. Just like regularly servicing your car ensures smooth operation, preventative drain maintenance is crucial for a healthy plumbing system. Here are some effective strategies:

  • Avoid pouring grease or oil down the drain: Oil, grease, and fats solidify as they cool, causing blockages deep within the pipes. Always dispose of these substances in a designated container, not down the drain.
  • Use a drain screen: Place a screen (available at any hardware store) over your sink and shower drains to trap hair and other debris before they enter the pipes.
  • Regularly clean your drains (the RIGHT way): Use an enzyme-based drain cleaner that works by breaking down organic matter naturally and gently. Those harsh chemical cleaners might seem like a quick fix, but they can severely damage your pipes.

Warning Signs of a Troubled Drain:

Is your home’s plumbing acting sluggish? Don’t wait for a major clog. Left unattended, slow drains can point to bigger issues lurking beneath the surface. Here are some warning signs to watch out for:

  • Slow drains in multiple areas of your home: This could indicate an issue with your main line.
  • Regular snaking is needed: This indicates that the issue is likely larger than the initial clog broken up with the drain snake.
  • .Gurgling toilets: A gurgling sound is caused by air trapped in the pipes. Normally, vent pipes allow air to flow freely through the drainage system. When there’s a clog or blockage, air gets trapped and makes those gurgling noises as water struggles to flow through.
  • Floor drains slow after doing laundry: Floor drains are designed to handle a good amount of water, but if they’re draining slowly after laundry, it could be a sign that the drain line is clogged with debris.
  • A frequent smell of sewage: Sewage smells coming from your drains are a sign that sewage gases are escaping the system. This can happen if there’s a clog or blockage preventing the gases from venting properly.
Warning Signs of a Troubled Drain

Addressing Clogged Drains: Understanding the Toolbox of Solutions

Despite your best efforts, clogs sometimes happen. When faced with a slow drain or backup, it’s essential to choose the right solution for the problem. Here’s a breakdown of common drain cleaning methods employed by professional plumbers:

  • Drain Clearing Snake: For simple clogs caused by hair, soap scum, or other soft materials, a drain snake can effectively break up and remove the obstruction. This is a common and often sufficient solution for minor blockages.
  • Camera Inspection: Considered the “eyes” of your drain system, a high-tech camera allows you to pinpoint the exact location and nature of the clog. This information is crucial for choosing the most effective and targeted cleaning method.
  • Intensive Cleaning: For tougher clogs or extensive buildup, intensive cleaning utilizes a long metal chain to reach deep into the drain system and break up the clogged debris and/or tree root intrusion.
  • Spot Repair: If a damaged pipe is identified as the cause of the clog, a spot repair may be an option. This trenchless approach is less disruptive than a full dig and more cost-effective in many cases, though it’s not a guaranteed permanent solution.
  • Sewer Liner Installation: For damaged or cracked pipes lining the main drain or even extending into the city sewer line, a special epoxy liner can be installed. This minimally invasive technique creates a new, smooth lining within the existing pipe, restoring functionality without major digging. It’s a permanent solution protected by Bonfe’s Lifetime Warranty.
    An important note: A sewer liner can only be installed if your main line is in good enough condition, so it’s important to have it done proactively. Once your sewer line collapses, the only option is a full excavation.
  • Excavation: This method is considered a last resort, typically employed for severe pipe damage or when other solutions are not feasible. Excavation involves digging up the main sewer line beneath your foundation and front yard to excavate and replace the sewer pipe. While disruptive, excavation allows for complete pipe replacement and ensures long-term functionality.

Don’t let drain problems become a plumbing emergency.

Knowing exactly what’s causing your drain problem makes all the difference. A simple clog might be resolved with a drain snake, but for persistent issues, a camera inspection offers an invaluable advantage. Professional drain inspection cameras act like a roadmap, guiding us to the precise location and nature of the blockage. This intel ensures we recommend the most effective solution, saving you time, money, and future headaches.

For a clear diagnosis and a long-lasting solution, call us at (651) 332-6633 or schedule online.

April Offers:
Membership Plan customers may combine any/all offers with their 15% discount.
Learn more about our Membership Plans here.



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