Drains and Plumbing

Plumbing a Drain or Drainage Pipes Requires Only Basic Home Repair Skills

Most people are scared to death of plumbing — it's as mysterious to us as the workings of our own intestines and veins. Much of the time, drains and pipes are hidden in ductwork, under fixtures, buried in walls or running deeply into dark basements or septic tanks. We don't like to think about the things that run through pipes — from waste to rodents or even the occasional alligator! And from childhood, we've all been familiar with the fear that something could reach up from the depths of the toilet and grab us when we are least capable of running away. No wonder plumbers make so much money from simply home repairs!
But once you get to know them, drains aren't as frightening as they seem. They are simply pipes that move water and other things from one place to another. Most of the time, they work well, so we don't have to think about them, as we do with many other conveniences, we tend to ignore them until something goes wrong. With drains, the things that go wrong are also simple—they run slowly; they leak, or sometimes emit unpleasant smells. They plug up, back up, crack or break. Older drains pipes are more likely to leak or break, as they are made of weaker materials than the newer, PVC pipes.

Older pipes are also joined with older technology, which makes leaking a problem as joint compound glues break down or plastic or metal clamps fail over time. Newer pipes include not only threads but a built-in glue that forms a seal when you screw the pipes together. New, silicone caulks have more flexibility and seal better than older caulking. If you need to have a pipe repaired or replaced because of leaking, consider having it replaced with all new components to prevent failures down the road.

Drains usually consist of threaded pipes made of a strong, inert plastic called polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. PVC is one of the latest generations of plastics that work so much better than the metals used in years gone by that there's practically no call for metal drain pipes anymore: PVC outclasses them all. PVC doesn't corrode or rust: it doesn't pass on any metallic compounds, as the old, copper, hot water pipes once did. It's light and cheap and easy to work with: you can use a saw on PVC pipe, whereas metal pipes need soldering torches to cut through them. PVC's ease of use means lower labor costs and safer working conditions for plumbers.

PVC pipe is available in straight lengths or in a variety of angled pieces, since pipes invariably need to turn to get from under the sink into the wall and from the wall down to the ground floor, and from the back of the house around to the front where they either join the main sewer or lead to the septic tank. Drains come in a variety of widths, since pipes that deliver clean water from the well or city water supply are usually a quarter inch, and shower and toilet drains must be bigger to fulfill their duties of transporting waste from one place to another.

If you're doing any at-home plumbing, drain experts recommend never using a pipe with a 90 degree bend in it if it's going to be difficult to get to. When pipes are buried in the ground or running into a wall, a 90 degree turn is asking for trouble because drain snakes have a difficult time making the turn with sufficient power to clear the drain. Whenever possible, it's preferable to put in a 45 degree turn, then run it straight for a couple of feet, and then make another 45 degree turn. When there are clogs, it will be a lot easier to clear them than if you have to deal with a right angle.

One way to prevent drain problems in the first place is to keep them clean by respecting their purpose: don't pour bacon grease down the drain or into a toilet—let it cool and then pour or scrape it into the trash. If you're on a septic system rather than a city sewage system, tampons can cause clogged drains—they should be disposed of in the trash. All other feminine protection items and things like condoms should go into the trash rather than down the toilet. If you have young children, especially children at the potty-training stage, a plunger is a must-have. You can also prevent lots of toilet-related experimenting on the part of little kids by putting a grown-up height lock on the outside of the bathroom door and keeping it locked. There's something in every toddler's soul that delights in unrolling all the toilet paper into the toilet bowl. Many children also decide that toilets are a great place for bathing the puppy. Keeping kids out of the bathroom unless you're with them is the safest way to protect little children as well as your plumbing.

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Natural Drain Cleaner for Clogged Drains

The first thing you need to know before working on a clogged drain is that the drain cleaners you see advertised on TV or on the supermarket shelves are made of dangerous chemicals that will eat through rubber gloves, skin, certain kinds of pipe, wood and anything else they touch. If their fumes are inhaled, they can cause damage to the lungs, nose and mouth. If they are eaten, they will kill, even in small amounts. Even when they are used "properly", they can ruin septic systems, pollute groundwater, and destroy pipes.

For a more healthy and safe alternative, try a natural drain cleaner, such as Drainbo, that is made from natually occuring bacteria that will fix a clogged drain, but won't hurt your drain pipes or the environment.

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