If you have recently moved into an older house, you may notice that you have multiple drains that drain slowly. You may be tempted to believe that a slow drain is not a big problem. You might credit your still water to old pipes and you may even look on the bright side, telling yourself, "At least these drains are teaching me patience!" But slow drains are usually a sign of a bigger plumbing issue.
The good news is that if you get the problem checked and corrected now, you may save yourself the cost and headache of having to do a larger repair later. Here are the top three causes of slow drains and what you or your plumber can do about them.
Mineral Buildup Along Your Pipe
If you have hard water, then it is likely you will eventually suffer from mineral buildup in your pipes. This can be particularly bad because it is likely to hit your entire system at once. It will rarely completely stop your drain, but it can greatly reduce the flow of water and the temperature of your hot water.
To prevent mineral buildup, you should regularly clean your pipes. You can do this by turning off your water and pouring 2-3 cups of white vinegar down each of your drains. After waiting 5-10 minutes, you should thoroughly flush the vinegar from your pipes with warm water. Putting a tablespoon of baking powder into the drain before the vinegar can increase the cleaning power, but you should beware of bubbles coming back up your drain. If you have hard water, you may need to do this as often as every three months. A water softener can also help slow the process of build up.
Once your pipes have build up in them, they may need a more thorough cleaning. This will either be chemical or mechanical and should be done by a plumber. Although you can purchase drain cleaner yourself, many of the chemicals in them are toxic and you should only use them if you know for certain that they will clear your drain. Chemicals that stay in pipes can be hazardous to plumbers who have to use mechanical means to clear them.
The Beginning of a Clog
Similar to mineral buildup, a clog can be prevented with regular maintenance. Removing hair and food particles from your drains and learning how to clean your traps will help prevent clogs. However, if several of your drains become slow at the same time, you might have a clog further down your drainage line. These clogs are difficult to remove on your own and, until the clog fully blocks your pipe, chemicals may not work. However, a plumber can easily and quickly remove these clogs through mechanical means.
Improper Grading of Your Pipes
Several drains in your home may also drain slowly if your pipes have been installed improperly. This is a common problem in older houses that have already undergone DIY repairs from the previous owners. Sometimes owners install drainage pipes with no slope, or sloping in the wrong direction. If your pipes have to work against gravity, you will have issues with slow drainage and possible back flow. While this means that some of your piping needs to be replaced, an experienced plumber can assess your whole system to find the major problem areas and alter as little of it as possible.
Regular maintenance and a fast response to small signs of blockage will not only keep your water flowing, but it will extend the life of your plumbing system and reduce your overall maintenance cost. If the previous owner failed to maintain their pipes, you may need the help of a professional to get you off on the right foot.