Angie’s List: Avoiding drain clogs and costly plumber bills

The holidays usually mean family, friends and lots of gatherings at your home, however, it can also mean with all those extra people, the possibility of plumbing problems.

While you want your home to look good, you also want to make sure it's prepared for the crush of holiday guests.

Most people don't think about clogged sinks or overflowing toilets, until they have a clogged sink or overflowing toilet.

The last thing you want with a house full of guests is to run for the plunger, Drano, or having to call a plumber.

People often forget that more food, more guests and more water usage can sink a happy holiday if you're not careful.

We all tend to overindulge during the holidays and that can have an impact on your pipes and the pipes in your home.

"During the holidays the drains take a lot of beating with the extra guests and cooking we're doing around the house. Consumers should be prepared that there might be an emergency. A typical plumber costs anywhere from $70 to $150 per hour. You can count on time and a half if you're calling a plumber after hours or on the holiday. Your best bet defense is to have a relationship with a plumber before you need one in an emergency situation because there might be deals for regular customers, “says Angie Hicks of Angie’s List.

Bathroom sinks and shower clogs are typically the result of hair buildup, by running hot water through your drains each week will help them clear.

You can also try bleach and water, or a combination of baking soda and vinegar.

Kitchen drain clogs are often the result of food, grease or overstuffed garbage disposals.

Laura Ciriello of Benedict Plumbing Company says, “Always run water when you run your garbage disposal. Run cold water though when you're running the disposal and afterwards run a lot of hot water to really wash it down."

Avoiding pouring grease and oil down the garbage disposal, and keep in mind only small amounts of table scraps should go down the disposal.

"The key to keep your toilet from getting clogged is one: try to keep your kids from putting things in it. I think some of the best stories plumbers have are from finding toys in the toilet. It's very tempting. Additionally, just be cautious of any other type of materials. Just stick to toilet paper. You might find you put wipes or paper towels or things like that. Even if the packaging says they could potentially be flushed, you just want to be cautious because too much of anything can cause problems,” says Hicks.

Use a plunger as your first line of defense with a clogged toilet. It can also fix clogs in bathtubs or shower, but be sure to fill the base with an inch of water to help the plunger seal before plunging.

If a plunger doesn't work, a drain auger, commonly called a "snake", is a flexible cable that can be pushed in the drain to break up the clog.

Augers will not harm your pipes, but they might scratch porcelain or ceramics, so use them carefully.

Acid-based drain cleaners should only be used as a last resort, especially if you live in an older home that has cast iron or copper piping.

Drain clogs often require the assistance of a professional to clear the blockage, but there are plenty of steps homeowners can take on their own to remove a clog - and to prevent one from happening.

Toilets:
• Use a plunger as your first line of defense with a clogged toilet. It can also fix clogs in bathtubs or shower, but be sure to fill the base with an inch of water to help the plunger seal before plunging.
• If a plunger doesn't work, a drain auger - commonly called a "snake" - is a flexible cable that can be pushed in the drain to break up the clog. Augers will not harm your pipes, but they might scratch porcelain or ceramics, so use them carefully.
• Toilets often endure items being flushed that should instead by thrown away, like paper towels and baby wipes, and those can quickly back up; especially in homes where tree roots reach into the main sewer lines. Clogged sewer lines caused by tree roots are a common problem in older neighborhoods - where tree roots grow in and around underground plumbing and sewers. Highly-rated drain companies recommend an annual or semiannual drain cleaning, followed by a video inspection.

Sinks: • Bathroom sinks and shower clogs are typically the result of hair buildup. Running hot water through your drains each week will help them clear. You could also try bleach and water, or a combination of baking soda and vinegar.
• Acid-based drain cleaners should only be used as a last defense, especially if you live in an older home that has cast iron or copper piping.
• Kitchen drain clogs are often the result of food, grease or overstuffed garbage disposals. The key to proper disposal use is to always run plenty of cold water the entire time you're using the disposal, and then run plenty of warm water after the disposal is used. Avoiding pouring grease and oil down the garbage disposal. And only small amounts of table scraps should go down the disposal.

Angie's List tips for hiring a professional drain cleaning company or plumber:
• The best thing you can do is find a plumber or a drain cleaning company before you need one. Research one ahead of time so you know what charges to expect.
• Indiana requires plumbers to be licensed. Check that the license is current and ask for proof of insurance before you hire.
• If you need a plumber, they can charge either by the hour or job. For basic plumbing services, plumbers tell us that the average hourly service charge ranges from $70 to $150, depending on the area you live in. For emergency, calls you can expect to pay time and a half.


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