Lesson 6- 8875

Residential Plumbing How To Secrets

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Today’s Lesson:
Part 6 of 7

Making Sure Everything Drains Like It Should

Hopefully you’ve been paying attention so far as we’ve learned about tools, toilets and water heaters.   Today we’re going to find out what to do when things don’t drain like they should.

We already discovered what to do when you have a toilet bowl plugged, but this lesson will deal with other drainage problems.   What about a bathtub or even the whole house being stopped up?

Let’s start with something fairly simple.   If your tub isn’t draining well it’s likely the result of hair around the stopper.   Plunging probably won’t help this.   You will need to remove the stopper and clear the hair out.

There are two common types of tub stoppers, the “trip lever” type and the “lift and turn” or “tip toe” type.   The “trip lever” ones have been in use for at least 50 years and the others for at least 20.   They both accomplish the same thing but do so very differently.

toilet bowl plugged trip levertoilet bowl plugged lift and turn toilet bowl plugged tip toe
Trip Lever Drain                           Lift & Turn                             Tip Toe Drain

The “trip lever” has a lever on the overflow plate near the top of the tub.   There is a linkage rod inside the overflow pipe which connects to the stopper.   To clean this type you remove the overflow plate and pull the linkage and stopper out through the hole.

The “lift and turn” and “tip toe” type are very similar and use a stopper that is connected at the tub drain itself.   These have to be unscrewed from the tub drain to clean them out.   A pair of needle nose pliers is very helpful for removing the hair that is usually clogging the drain.

Having one slow draining or stopped up fixture is bad enough.   When your whole house won’t drain it is a real emergency!   While you may not be equipped to fix the problem yourself, there are some things you can do save yourself some serious money if ou have to call a plumber.

The first thing you need to know, if you don’t already, is whether you are connected to the public sewer system or have a septic tank.   If you don’t already know this thee are several ways to find out.   Your water bill will usually have a sewer charge if you are connected.   Ask your neighbors if they know, usually you’ll have whatever they do.   Check your street for manoles, a sign of a sewer system.

Something else you should do before you have a problem is look around outside your home for a clean out   This is a pipe with a plug that can be unscrewed to access your sewer pipe.   Thet are usually close to the house and may be buried in a flower bed.   If you are connected to a sewer you probaly have a clean out so poke around and find it.

toilet bowl plugged clean out
Clean Out

If you know where your clean out is and your house is stopped up you can remove the cap and, if the blockage is in the yard, you can prevent your house being flooded with sewage.   Just take your channel locks (remember lesson 2) and SLOWLY remove the clean out plug.   If the line is full it might spray out of the cap as you unscrew the last few turns.

If you get the cleanout cap off and the line is full of waste water that means that the blockage is downstream of the cleanout.   It also relieves some of the urgency of the situation as you can now usually use your plumbing sparingly and it will drain into your yard.   While not great it’s better than in your house.  

You may need to call a plumber to correct this but now you can wait until regular hours and avoid those high after hours rates.   You may have also prevented a lot of costly (and disgusting) damages.   Pat yourself on the back.

So far in this mini course we have learned what to do if you have a toilet bowl plugged, a tub stopped up or the whole house not draining.   Next we will talk about what is potentially one of the most damaging plumbing problems you can have, a water leak.   And we’ll learn what to do to prevent or minimize those damages.

Until next time,

Bryan Stevens


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