If you have a clogged pipe, a drain snake is a simple and cheap tool you can use to fix it. These are advertised as devices that anyone can use to unclog a drain.
But if used improperly, drain augers could make the clog worse. You could jam the obstruction in there tighter, or worse, do damage to your pipes.
There are a few things you should know before snaking a drain yourself. Here are some things to consider, including how to know when to call a professional plumber.
Snaking a Drain
Snaking a drain involves twisting a plastic or wire coil into the clog and either pulling the obstruction out or breaking it up so that it flows down the drain. These drain snakes usually have some type of claw or hook on the end to help grab the blockage.
There are a wide variety of sizes and features available for drain augers. Here are some basic components that impact their effectiveness and comfort of operation.
You will want to make sure you get the right size auger for snaking your drain. Using the incorrect one could cause the snake to loop back on itself and scrape the insides of the drain. This could lead to coercion, leaks, and could end up causing damage to an extent that requires replacement of the piping.
The main types of drain snakes by size are:
- Top snakes
- Toilet augers
- Large drain machines
Top snakes are small, handheld plumbing augers used for cleaning minor clogs. They are often plastic and compact–usually no more than 25 feet in length.
When attempting to unclog a toilet drain, it is imperative to use the right device. A toilet auger is specifically made for this purpose. They are designed to slip down the porcelain surface and protective coating of the toilet drain.
Since toilet pipes are larger, these augers are usually metal and must be large enough to push through a significant clog. They also have a specialized mechanism to keep from damaging the porcelain surface of the toilet drain.
Mini-rooters are medium-sized drain augers that are slightly larger than top snakes. They are typically made of metal and may use motors to propel the snaking mechanism into the drain.
Large augers are the most “heavy-duty” of the options and can clean almost any clog. But they are the most expensive. Even some plumbers do not carry them, or at least reserve them for industrial uses.
Other Auger Features
The length of the snake is one feature to think about when determining if you can handle the clog on your own. Twenty-five feet is a standard length for most basic snakes. Although you can find consumer models that reach 50 feet.
If you cannot reach the clog with a 25-foot snake, you may want to hold off and call a plumber. The reason is that greater distance requires special machinery to provide the torque necessary to dislodge the clog.
That brings us to power source. Many hand-powered augers are sufficient for minor impactions. And battery-powered snakes can provide extra torque beyond what you can produce by hand.
If these types of snakes aren’t powerful enough to unclog the drain, then it may require a professional. Most heavy-duty augers that rely on electrical power are much more likely to damage your pipes if not used properly.
You should be aware that drain snakes could cause injury, especially with users who are unfamiliar with their functions. The more powerful the electric drain snake, the greater expertise they demand.
Losing control of one of these machines could be dangerous. If you are on the fence about your comfort level in using them, leave it up to a professional who understands their capabilities.
The Age of Your Pipes
Finally, how old your pipes are is a major consideration when thinking about how aggressive to be with DIY pipe unclogging. Older drainage systems may have drains coated in zinc to prevent galvanized pipes from rusting. Damaging this coating could lead to corrosion down the road.
Also, chips from the insides of your pipes could break off and add to the blockage. You could end up making the situation worse.
It is worth noting that this can happen with newer pipes as well. But it is something to be mindful of especially in older homes.
And it is not merely the coating that is in danger. Some augers are powerful enough to break pipes apart completely.
Advantages of Hiring a Professional
Sometimes blockages can occur deep in piping systems. You may not be able to reach them with a simple snake you pick up at the hardware store. Professionals can use techniques like high-pressure water streams, or hydrojetting, to cut through obstacles.
These also have the advantage of completely clearing your pipes of buildup so that they are flowing at full capacity. And they are much safer than augers because high-pressure water will not damage your pipes.
Your clog could be the result of a more serious obstruction, like tree roots. A professional plumber can use special devices to clear these major obstructions.
Another advantage of hiring a professional is that, besides removing the clog, they can ensure that your piping is intact. If they spot potential trouble spots, they can recommend reconstruction of your pipes. Or, if the drains are severely corroded, plumbing specialists may suggest you replace or reline them.
A professional also can assess why the blockage happened in the first place. For instance, an insufficient amount of water flowing through pipes could have something to do with frequent clogs.
Decide on the Best Course of Action
Now that you have a better sense of what snaking a drain entails, and the tools needed, you can assess whether you want to DIY it or call a professional to clean your drain. Many minor clogs can be dislodged with simple augers. But be sure you have the right tools for the job and careful not to get in over your head.
At Eyman Plumbing, we have been serving the Omaha metropolitan area for more than 60 years. We can assist in unclogging a drain while ensuring the integrity of your pipes. Our team has the experience to tackle any plumbing challenge you can throw at us.
If you are uncertain about any aspect of unclogging a drain, we are here to help. It is never a bad idea to err on the side of caution and let a trained professional handle the task. Call Eyman Plumbing Heating and Air today at (402) 731-2727.