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Your drainlines in your home work on a very simple principle — gravity. Basically, all your drainlines slope downward, through all their connections, joints, and fittings until the whole system connects with the city sewer, usually under the street in front of your home. I like to compare it to a tree, with a fixture at the end of each branch, and the whole connected to a trunk.

Your drainlines in your home work on a very simple principle — gravity. Basically, all your drainlines slope downward, through all their connections, joints, and fittings until the whole system connects with the city sewer, usually under the street in front of your home. I like to compare it to a tree, with a fixture at the end of each branch, and the whole connected to a trunk.

When the system works, as it usually does, it works invisibly. Most people never give a thought to their drainlines. They take it for granted that their toilets will flush away their waste, that their showers will drain, that their kitchen sinks will make the remains of their meals disappear. It is only when these conveniences stop that the drains are given any thought at all.

Every drainline in your home has limitations. Toilets can accommodate only so much paper and waste at one time; garbage disposers cannot handle everything and anything you may try to put down them; tub drainage will be restricted by shampoo bottle caps and hair, and children’s toys.

CLEANOUTS

It is because drainlines tend to get pushed to their limits, and beyond, that most drains have cleanouts, which are extra branches on the drainline “tree.” These extra branches are there only to allow drain-cleaning machines to run through and clear out blockages. This way, if your kitchen sink is stopped, we can run a larger, longer and stronger snake through the cleanout instead of through the sink drain. Also, it allows you to open up the cleanout outside, and allow the water to drain out outside, where you can clean up with a hose instead of a mop.

Likewise, if your mainline is stopped up, a mainline cleanout allows us to put our largest, heavy-duty machine to use. Plumbers used to go on the roof, and run a snake down one of the vent pipes which poke up. This would clear the drain, but because the vent pipes are smaller than the drainlines, the job was less effective. For this reason, and also because we don’t want to damage your roof or our technicians, we will always recommend installing a cleanout if one is not present.

SLUDGE

Besides foreign objects blocking drains, over the years a thick coating of organic sludge forms on the inside of the pipes, decreasing the drains’ inside diameters, obstructing their flows, and diminishing their performance. Consider that the older kitchen sink drain line is about one and a half inches across: when this gooey sludge builds up, and the surface is rougher, the waste flows slower, so that the disposal output and the grease don’t flow as far or as fast, and end up making more sludge.

Often, the laundry line is also putting lint and detergent into the same line, because the kitchen and laundry often connect to each other. And now the washer manufacturers have increased the pump outputs on their newer machines, so laundry lines which used to work fine now overflow. Nobody worries about this when buying a new washer, because, as I said earlier, people take their drainlines for granted.

Traditionally, plumbers have run their snakes down these lines, and punched holes through the sludge, which allow the lines to drain again. The problem is that, even though the line is draining, it’s at only about one-third of its capacity, because most of that sludge is still there.

For this we offer three solutions. The first two you can do yourself, as routine maintenance in your home, and they’re as simple as pouring water down your sink. The first product, called Bio-Clean, is a formula of microbes and enzymes that eat up grease, protein, and vegetable waste. It’s also entirely harmless to people and pets, and a typical one-year supply is less than a dollar a week; much less than a plumber’s visit, and without the panic attacks. We also offer a de-greasing product which smells like Pine-Sol, which melts the grease in your drainlines.

Finally, we offer hydro-jetting, in which an intense jet of water, under high pressure, scours the inside of your pipe to make it run at full efficiency again.

If only it were so easy to do this with our arteries!

ROOTS

What else can go wrong? Older drain systems in the home were made from cast iron and steel. Outside the house, the cast iron connected to clay. The problem is, the older joints in the clay sewer line could not flex, so when tree roots, earth movement, or earthquakes shifted things, the lines broke. Now, when a sewer line five feet underground breaks, you don’t have a problem immediately. The small amount of water that seeps out is, after all, five feet down, and you’re not likely even to know about it.

The problem isn’t what gets out, it’s what gets in ­ roots. And even roots don’t become apparent immediately; after all, the sewer outside your home is four inches across its inside, and even half-blocked it will allow you some drainage, until you have company or a party and the sinks and toilets work overtime. And then you have an emergency. Again, this situation didn’t develop overnight. It usually takes many months, or years, for the roots to get so bad that they stop up the line, and even more time until the line is rendered useless.

VIDEOS OF YOUR SEWER

So how can you tell what’s going on underground? Peet Plumbing now offers a video inspection service, that will show you the condition of your sewer line, what the problems are, where they are, and allow us (or anybody else) to make an informed bid to correct the problem and allow you to forget about your sewer again.

A snake will not restore a drainline to its original performance. It can remove some sludge, some hair, some roots; but it cannot restore your drain to 100%. So, sooner or later, a drainline may need replacing. It may leak sewage under your home, or be hopelessly blocked, or need to be snaked too frequently. These services, too, we offer, and we will try to help you make an intelligent and informed decision if you have a problem line (see Videotaping Your Sewer: America’s Grossest Home Videos on this site).

TRENCHLESS SEWER REPLACEMENT

It used to be that, if you had to replace your sewer, a trench had to be cut from your house to your street. Besides making your lawn look like a battleground, it can also do harm to your driveway, your landscaping, or that ancient oak tree.

Peet Plumbing now offers trenchless sewer replacement. Basically, we make two holes, one at your house and the other near the street. Then, with a powerful motor, we pull new pipe through the ground, and connect to the places where your old pipe was attached. The new pipe is flexible, strong, and virtually unbreakable. This can all usually be done in one day, and for less money than the old way. All around, a great deal (see The Ins and Outs of Trenchless Sewer Replacement on this site).

RELY ON OUR EXPERIENCE

Because your drain system caused few headaches, you may have taken it for granted. However, maybe now you have a problem. Ask our technician what caused it, and what can be done to prevent its recurrence. He can give you valuable help here. You may have to make small changes in your approach to drainlines, such as running more water when your disposal is on, or taking better care to prevent toothpaste caps from falling down the drain, or putting a strainer on a basin or tub to prevent hair from going down the drain. He may recommend that we perform routine maintenance snaking of your drain, so that a problem doesn’t flare up at an awkward time — say, when your house is full of company on a holiday weekend.

If you do have a problem, though, it’s good to know that our technicians are available to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays. Do we charge extra for emergency service? Of course; our people want to spend time with their families too.

All of this free guidance is to help you, so you don’t have to call us out again for your drainlines. As your neighborhood plumber since 1920, we have kept our neighbors’ interests close to our hearts, believing that educating our customers to help them make wise decisions is the best policy of all.

We hope you understand all this, and understand the impossibility of our offering our normal warranty for stoppage work.