This plumbing article was originally published October 16, 2013.
Today’s pipe cleaning methods address the traditional causes of drain clogs with new technology. Plumbing in houses more than 25 years old may be prone to blockages which are, at the same time, harder to clear without damaging the pipes. Traditional measures such as using a large-gauge snake can over-stress older plumbing and cause leaks that make even more extensive repair procedures necessary. What’s worse, while these old-school methods may punch a hole in a blockage and provide a short-term correction, the conditions inside the pipe that promote blockages in the first place often remain unchanged. The inevitable recurrent clogged plumbing eventually leave major dismantling or excavation as the last option.
Advances in pipe cleaning technology including power-rodding and hydro-jetting have added important options to your plumber’s weapons against slow or clogged drains. These alternatives require the services of a professional plumber who’s invested in this specialized equipment and the training to use it correctly.
How Blockages Happen
Usually, it’s not the last solid object that swirls down the drain that causes a clog. The fact is, the clog that’s causing the headache today actually began long ago with the gradual accumulation of sludge on the inside of the pipe, slowly constricting its internal diameter and restricting free flow of water. Sludge is a sticky concoction of soap scum, grease, hair, food particles and even the dissolved minerals in the water. Once a layer of sludge forms, more sludge tends to accumulate in that segment of the pipe, increasingly narrowing the size of the pipe until only a small channel allows free flow of water. At that point, any minor bit of solid matter flushed down the drain may instigate a total blockage.
When a common drain snake, such as those sometimes used by do-it-yourselfers, drills a hole in the clog or pushes it down, water flow may resume. However, the accumulation of sludge that formed the foundation for the blockage is still intact. In time, another clog will form at that site. The homeowner knows only that his plumbing keeps jamming up and assumes that each clog is an entirely new occurrence when actually it’s just a replay of the previous event. The usual result is a familiar scenario to anyone who’s ever had to deal with this problem: After the messy, unsuccessful experience of attempting to clear a recurrent clog by himself, the homeowner finally consults a professional plumber. When a reputable, experienced pro arrives, he’ll come equipped with two alternatives to restore the flow of waste water in addition to rectifying the conditions that promote the blockage.
Power-rodding is technology that takes the basic design of the plumbing snake, yet brings it into the 21st century to make it a precision device for pipe cleaning, not just clearing blockages. The equipment utilizes a thin metal cable which the plumber threads into the pipe to the location of the clog. At the end of the cable, the system incorporates razor-sharp cuttings blades that are sized to the measurements of the interior of the pipe. An electric motor rotates the cable at high speed and the sharp blades lacerate accumulation of sludge, scouring the walls of the pipe as it simultaneously liquidates the blockage. All this residual matter is reduced to tiny bits that are easily flushed away when a strong force of water is introduced into the pipe. Since the power-rodding equipment is sized to fit the pipe exactly and the cutting instrument is very efficient, the system is much less stressful to clogged plumbing than an old-school universal snake that relies on simple blunt force to push clogs down the pipe.
This method represents the current state of the art. Hydro-jetting employs the power of high-pressure water to both eliminate clogs in plumbing and clean internal pipe surfaces of sludge to prevent a repeat blockage. Instead of mechanical cutting blades, a hydro-jetting system uses a high-pressure water line threaded into the pipe. The cleaning head at the end of the line integrates precision nozzles that discharge jets of water at approximately 3,500 p.s.i. This ultra high-pressure stream acts like a knife to cut through obstructions and scour the pipe walls. The blast of water instantly turns sludge and clogs to a semi-solid state and flushes it away into the sewer. While the high-pressure water obliterates sludge and blockages including tree roots, it does not traumatize clogged plumbing pipes or joints like mechanical pipe cleaning equipment.
For professional pipe cleaning to clear blockages and reduce the likelihood of recurrent clogs, contact Aqua Plumbing & Air at (941) 306-3715.