FAQ'S - Drains
As a plumber, I see plugged drains when *Liquid Plumber* type products don’t work – care should be taken when using these around kitchen and dishwasher drains, they can cause pressure and backup in these drains which can damage finishes. If chemicals don’t work, call a plumber. By the way, I have seen damaged pipes caused by liquid drain cleaners, overheated gaskets on the connections and adapters. As well, we have had to completely remove sections of pipe when crystal drain cleaners have not cleared the plug. They form a solid blockage almost as hard as concrete. These crystal drain cleaners should never be used.
Yes and no. A toilet with no vent may not flush the contents out of the bowl, but any other drain will work without a vent. (NOTE: the code is that all fixtures shall be vented). Only twice in 15 years have the vents been the cause of a drain backup. In one case it was roofers who stuffed the old roofing material down the vents and the other was just a stray piece of wood. In both cases the material made its way down into the drain pipe and had to be removed. No amount of *vent cleaning* would have done any good.
I see this all the time and nine times out of ten it’s the grout or a bad pan under the shower. Before anything else I try to determine if the leak is constant or if it is periodic. If it is constant there is a good chance the leak is in the pressurized water lines. Usually the leak is periodic so I have a series of tests that I perform to track it down. Sometimes a quick visual inspection of the tile will show that the grout is shot and is the most likely cause of the leak but I will often complete the rest of my tests to be sure.
What I do is first fill the tub half way and drain it. This will tell me if it’s in the drain pipe. For a shower with a lead or vinyl pan I block the drain and fill the base with water. This will tell me if the pan leaks. Then I remove the shower head and put a 1/2″ cap on the shower arm and turn on the pressure. This will tell me if there is a leak in the pipe between the shower valve and the shower arm. If no leak has shown up by then I tend to think the leak is water bleeding through the tile due to bad grouting or that water is escaping the shower and going down through flaws in the bathroom floor. I can check this by taping up a plastic drop cloth inside the shower covering all the tile work and having the customer use the shower normally for a day or two. If the leak has suddenly disappeared then we know it coming through the tile. A few cups of water on the floor will show a leak through bad tile or a cracked floor base. If none of this works, it’s time to open the walls.