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Getting to the Bottom of Overflowing Plumbing Drains

Certain plumbing issues in the home can serve as both an annoyance and a possible sign of larger concerns, and one great example here is the realm of overflowing drains. Some overflowing drains are just annoying and will be relatively easy to remedy; others, however, may be caused by or indicative of a more severe issue, one that needs professional attention in some cases.

At My Buddy the Plumber, we’re here to help with all your drain cleaning, sewer line cleaning and related needs that may come up if drain overflows are taking place. Whether on your own or with the help of our plumbers, how can you get to the bottom of what’s causing overflowing drains, plus remedy the issue so it’s not a concern? Here’s a basic primer.

Drain Indoors or Outdoors?

The first question to ask here, and one that will often start you off on the right path to a solution, is whether the overflowing drain is one that’s located indoors or outdoors. Many different factors can come into play with this distinction.

For example, an indoor drain that’s overflowing may sometimes be caused by a stoppage in the P-trap – the “U” shaped curve of piping under most sinks that holds water and keeps sewer gas from coming back up the drain. This is a relatively easy fix in many cases, but only if you can reach and remove the P-trap to clear it out; if you can’t do this (or if trying to do so doesn’t work), then you may have a clog further down the line that will require professional attention.

On the other side of this coin, an outdoor drain that’s overflowing may sometimes be caused by a build-up of leaves and other debris in the drain. This is especially common in fall and winter months when leaves are falling from trees, but it can happen at any time of year. In most cases, you’ll be able to fix this yourself by simply clearing out the drain, but if the build-up is particularly bad you may need to call in a professional.

Indoor Location

If the drain in question is outdoors, we’ve essentially already covered the solutions you can manage — if leaves and debris are in fact not the problem, you’ll likely have a clog further down the line that needs addressing.

But what if the overflowing drain is located indoors? If you’ve ruled out an outdoor drain overflow issue and confirmed it’s happening indoors only, the next step is to isolate the area(s) it’s taking place in.

If the drains in question are in a toilet, you’ll want to check the following:

  • Is the water level in the toilet bowl rising too high? If so, this is likely due to a clog in the line and will require professional attention.
  • Is the water level in the toilet bowl not rising at all? If so, this may be due to a malfunctioning fill valve and is a relatively easy fix.
  • Is the overflow happening around the base of the toilet? If so, this may be due to a clog in the floor drain and will require professional attention.

If the drains in question are in a sink (kitchen or bathroom), you’ll want to check the following:

  • Are there any leaks around the sink? If so, this may be due to a loose washer or drain nut and is a relatively easy fix.
  • Is there water on the floor around the sink? If so, this may be due to a clog in the P-trap (as mentioned earlier) or further down the line, and will require professional attention.

Drain Overflow Prevention Tips

Now, this conversation isn’t complete without a discussion of how to avoid these issues in the first place. You don’t always have to wait for a new clog or overflowing issue to show up before you protect your drains from this risk — here are some tips for doing so:

  • Avoiding foreign objects down drains: This is easier said than done in some cases, especially if you have small children or pets in the home. But it’s important to do what you can to keep objects like hair, food scraps, and toys out of drains, as these are common culprits when it comes to clogs.
  • Regularly scheduled drain cleaning: Especially if you have a lot of people using your drains on a daily basis, it’s a good idea to schedule regular cleanings (perhaps once every few months) to prevent clogs from forming in the first place. This is something you can do yourself or hire a professional to do for you.
  • Avoid chemicals: Some people are naturally inclined to reach for store-bought drain cleaners the first time they notice a slow drain. But these chemicals can actually do more harm than good, eating away at your pipes and potentially causing corrosion. If you must use a cleaner, opt for a natural one instead.

The next time you find yourself dealing with an overflowing drain, keep these tips in mind — they may just help you avoid a major headache (and a hefty repair bill).

As you can see, there are a few different things that can cause an overflowing drain, and the solution will vary depending on the root cause of the issue. In some cases, you’ll be able to fix the problem yourself, but in others you may need to call in a professional.

For more on this important subject, or to learn about any of our plumbing or HVAC services, speak to the team at My Buddy the Plumber today.

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