Monthly Archives: May 2010

Nasty Summer niffs mean it’s time to clean out the drains

A CCTV inspection of the drain will show the nature and location of the problem.

As mid-summer nears, and the days get warmer and longer, the hot weather might not just bring the sweet perfume from gardens in bloom but a nasty niff as well – a sure sign it could be time to look at your drains.

The summer growing season may be good for the garden but, below ground, the roots that support the new growth can play havoc with drains and sewers, penetrating pipes and causing blockages. 

As a householder, if the blockage is within the boundary of your property, you are responsible for clearing it. If it is beneath the street outside, it is probably the responsibility of the water company. 

Locating the blockage can itself be difficult though. The best and most certain way is to put a CCTV camera into the drainage system to see what is actually down there – and where it is. A reputable drain clearance company will give you a detailed report. 

Less serious blockages – in U-bends beneath sinks and baths, for example – require less serious treatment and you can often deal with these yourself. 

There are a number of drain clearing products sold in supermarkets and DIY stores. Most will clear the initial problem – but few will stop it coming back. 

Rather than using a chemical-based product, take a tip from the professionals and consider using biology to shift the blockage. The UK’s largest emergency plumbing and drain clearance business Drain Doctor Plumbing, for example, uses an enzyme cleaner which digests organic wastes in drains, breaking down fat and grease build ups which lead to odours and blockages. The company recommends using the product on a regular basis to keep drains free-flowing and clean-smelling. 

Using enzymes rather than chemicals is much better for the environment – and, in the long run, much more effective at keeping drains clear. 

Prevention is of course, better than cure and Drain Doctor has a number of tips to avoid summer drainage and plumbing problems. 

  • Install a strainer in plug holes to catch hair and other objects that could block drains. 
  • Don’t pour fat and grease from cooking down the drain – allow it to cool and put it in the bin. 
  • Don’t dispose of old oil, paint or other substances down the drain.   
  • Have an established plumber inspect drains for leaks, damage and corrosion and get problems sorted out while they are small, rather than waiting for a disaster! By using a CCTV camera in the pipes, plumbers can inspect and pinpoint exactly where drains are cracked, damaged or misaligned. Ask the plumber to give a diagnosis of the work needed and provide a written estimate up front. The ones who don’t probably have something to hide such as VAT costs or other ‘extras’.

 If you do have a drainage problem and simple DIY techniques don’t solve it, call in the professionals – but make sure they are professionals. Drainage is becoming increasingly technical and you should always seek a qualified drainage technician such as Drain Doctor Plumbing. Call them 24 hours a day on 0800 068 1850.

Robin Banks, operations manager, Drain Doctor

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Avoiding blocked drains

You are most likely to call a drainage technician because you have blocked drains or traps.  Blockages can cause bad smells and in the worst cases flooding.  There are a few things that you can do to avoid them. 

The kitchen sink is the most heavily used sink in the house, so it is the most likely to get blocked.  

  • Watch what you empty into the sink.  Don’t throw food waste, fats or cooking oils down the drain.  Fats solidify in warm water and get deposited on the pipes.  Layers of fat will build up over time and block the pipe.
  • Wipe out greasy pans with kitchen towel before you wash them.
  • Take food waste out of the sink rather than poking it down the plughole.  Use an empty milk carton or similar to store used fat in until you can throw it in the bin.
  • Remove hairs that get caught in the bath plughole each time you bathe.  Leaving hair to build up will clog the drain.  You can get strainers which fit in the plug hole that will catch and collect loose hair.  Clear soapy residue from plugholes by pouring disinfectant down them every once in a while.
  • Only use the recommended amounts of detergent in washing machines and dishwashers.  A build up of soapy residue over time will cause a blockage.
  • Don’t flush bulky disposable items like nappies, sanitary towels or bags of animal waste down the toilet.
  • Check your drains.  Lift covers and inspect for blockages regularly and make sure drain grids are free of leaves, moss and residue from the washing machine or other material that could cause a blockage.
  • Make sure that all the drains and gullies are covered and replace damaged covers to prevent blockages.
  • Keep an eye on guttering and down pipes (which take water from the gutters to the drains) and make sure that they are not blocked with leaves and debris. 

If the kitchen sink is blocked or slow to empty there is probably a build up of grease or debris in the trap and waste pipe.

To clear the blockage, rub petroleum jelly around the plug hole to protect the chrome and sink from damage, then use caustic soda, an enzyme or chemical cleaner according to its manufacturer’s instructions.  Hook any debris (such as hair or kitchen paper) clinging to the plug hole grid with a hook made from a piece of wire. 

If the sink is completely blocked, and water will not run away at all, place a sink plunger over the plug hole, block the overflow then firmly pump the plunger up and down for a few minutes to clear the blockage.  If this doesn’t clear the blockage, place a bucket under the sink, remove and clean the trap. If none of this works then it is time to call Drain Doctor for specialist assistance.

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American magic

Drain Doctor in the USA is called Mr Rooter. Mrs Rooter (actually Mary Kennedy Thompson, President of Mr Rooter Corporation) has a blog at http://mrsrooter.com/.

There is a nice story posted there this week about the magic of plumbing. Honest – take a look!

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Being kind to your bum can block your drains

Using wet wipes can lead to blocked drains.

Impregnated toilet papers, ‘wet wipes’ and similar innovations are leading to increasing numbers of blocked drains.  At Drain Doctor we are receiving an increasing number of calls from householders who may have happy bottoms but are unable to flush their toilets. 

The problem is particularly significant in towns and cities with large areas of Victorian housing served by Victorian drains and sewers.  These new papers and wipes are not broken down by the flushing action in the same way as conventional toilet papers – they do not shear as easily. They therefore remain as whole sheets which can cause blockages if the flush does not clear them out of the drain and into the sewer. 

There is a particular problem in older houses because the Victorians over-engineered everything. They put in 6 inch diameter drains where 4 inch diameter would have been quite large enough. This was OK when used with Victorian toilets because they were over-engineered as well – they released huge quantities of water when they were flushed.

Modern cisterns use much less water. This is not usually a problem because it is still enough to shear normal toilet paper and flush all the detritus through to the sewer. With some of these new wipes and papers, though, material is left in the pipes and gradually builds up to create a blockage.

I guess it is good for our business because we are getting an increasing number of calls but it would save householders money and inconvenience if they gave more thought to what they are flushing down the toilet.

Robin Banks, operations manager.

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Getting started

We promised you that we would provide some hints and tips on plumbing. So here is the first in our series of articles on this topic.

Your plumbing system is like most other technical systems though – before you start ‘fixing’ it, you need to know a little about how it works and understand some of the technical terms and jargon. Even if you decide not to do DIY plumbing, knowing some of these things will help you to deal with a professional plumber.

So, let’s start with how the water gets into your house in the first place.

If you are on the UK mainland your home probably has a mains water supply provided by one of the regional water companies. Water travels from the mains pipe via a communication pipe to the water company’s stopcock and water meter (if fitted) on the boundary of your property. The stopcock is usually housed in a ceramic guard pipe under a small metal cover and can be reached using a long turnkey.

Your water service pipe begins here, carrying water into your home. It often enters the home under the kitchen sink. From here it is called the rising main.

Water in the rising main is let into the home (or not) by another ‘stopcock’ – a valve that turns the supply on or off.

It is important that you make sure you know where the stopcock is in your house because if you have a leak in your water system, or you need to do some work on the system, you will need to turn the water off at the stopcock. It is a good idea to take time to find it now if you don’t know where it is – it is much easier to do this now, when you are not in any hurry, than in the middle of the night sometime when there is water pouring through the ceiling from a burst pipe!

Once you have found the stopcock, ensure that it works properly by ‘exercising’  it fully (ie, turning it all the way off and then all the way on) a couple of times a year. Don’t leave it fully on when you have finished exercising – close it by half a turn or so.

If the stopcock won’t turn, or if it leaks, you will need to get it replaced. That is not something you can easily do for yourself. Call Drain Doctor and we will come and do this for you.

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Plumbing tips from Drain Doctor

Got a problem with your home plumbing? Well, help is at hand.

We are going to start adding plumbing tips and advice to our blog. We aim to help you keep your plumbing and drainage system in ‘tip top’ condition (sorry – dreadful pun – ‘tip’ – geddit?). So over the next few weeks, look out for our ideas to help you avoid some of the most common household catastrophes.

We will also guide you through what to do if things do go wrong.

But, for the best advice give your local Drain Doctor a call.

At Drain Doctor Plumbing our aim is to always offer our customers a ‘dazzling’ level of service.

There are no call out charges and we give fixed-price, no obligation quotes; all work is guaranteed; and our technicians are fully trained in the latest techniques, such as closed circuit camera surveys and no-dig drain repairs.

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