Plumbing Not Always for the Pros
Home plumbing repair for some of us begins and ends with pouring
some de-clogging liquid down the drain. When a blocked drain, running
toilet, or leaking and frozen pipe rears its ugly head, we call
the plumber. But with the right equipment, there's no reason the
versatile do-it-yourselfer should fear these jobs, says Popular
The biggest clog known to plumbing comes when all the fixtures in
the house aren't draining properly. That's a main house drain or
sewer problem. The more fixtures affected, the farther down the
problem. However, the large majority of drain problems are not
as severe. When only one fixture is affected, the most common
culprit is a plugged trap, the curved section of pipe under the fixture.
A less likely but possible scenario is a clog in the waste line
between the trap and main drain.
What do you reach for first? The plumber's friend, a rubber
force cup or plunger. Make sure the pipe to be cleared is full
of water, plug any vents in the sink with a finger or rag, and
plunge away. If that doesn't work, gradually bring out the
Next is the snake or drain auger, either hand-operated or power,
the tool able to handle all but the most stubborn of clogs. Get
one with a one-quarter-inch auger cable, the right diameter for
most drains. Most have stiff wire spirals on the tip, while
toilet augers come with a hook to fish out unwanted household
items like a hair brush or toy. Another tool in your arsenal is
the drain pressurizer, an expandable item that plugs into the
garden hose and inserts into the drain, sending pulsating blasts
of water to break up the clog and wash it down the drain.
If all else fails, you may have to find a different route to the
clog. Following the drain stack, look for what is known as the
clean-out opening. You'll find one at the upper end of the
horizontal run of pipe, and at every turn or bend. If you're
lucky, it will be visible or accessible behind a wall panel. On
slab construction houses, cleanouts are near floor level behind
fixtures or low on outside walls near kitchens or bathrooms.
Houses with basements or crawlspaces have cleanouts under the
first floor, either inside or outside the foundation. If you're
really feeling adventurous, long sewer lines have cleanouts at or
just below ground level. You may want to look for them at your
leisure instead of in an emergency.