Blocked showers or smelly sinks? How to tackle common drain problems and when to book an expert

Time to unclog that shower drain.

KEEPING UP WITH the maintenance of a home can be difficult.

Aside from smaller tasks like staying on top of the food shop or washing, there are also bigger (often messier) tasks that sometimes require a bit more expertise and knowledge – especially when it comes to drains.

According to Cork-based Local Hero and drainage expert engineer Sam Crowley, a lot of drain maintenance tasks are worth carrying out during the spring and summer months in order to save yourself more (often dirtier) work during autumn and winter: “Tackling these tasks in the nice summer weather is much easier than when the rain is pouring down on top of you the winter.” 

But which tasks should you tackle yourself, and which should you book in an expert for? Sam shares his advice below… 

The tasks to tackle yourself… 

1. Solve smelly drains

Many of us have experienced the frustration of an unidentified smell in the house, only to realise it’s coming from a drain. In order to avoid it getting worse, this is most certainly a problem that you’ll want to fix sooner rather than later. It’s an easy fix, however, according to Sam. “We tend to get a lot of people getting quotes for drain smells within their house, and normally a lot of them are due to sinks, showers or baths not being used regularly,” he says.

“When it’s not being used, the water evaporates from the traps and allows the drain smells to vent back up. In that case we’d advise you to run water in all of the sinks and showers for a couple of minutes and open the windows for half an hour, and then check it all again.

“After that, if the drain smell is still there, there might be a plumbing issue that we may want to investigate further.”

2. Keep gullies clear

If you’ve power washed your driveway, patio or decking area over the past few weeks, this task is for you to tick off now. “When you’re power washing, all of the dirt that comes off washes down into the gullies and fills them up with filth. So, to clean that out, use a screwdriver to pop open the grate on top of the gully. Put on the long gloves, reach in carefully and scoop out with your hand the filth and debris that might be in it from the power washing.”

Doing this now prevents problems during the colder months, explains Sam. “Do it now so that when the rain does come back, you don’t end up with a big puddle around the place.”

shutterstock_447304897 Shutterstock / Piyawat Nandeenopparit Shutterstock / Piyawat Nandeenopparit / Piyawat Nandeenopparit

3. Clean out your shower trap

It’s by no means a pleasant task, but regularly cleaning out your shower trap can stop you from having to book a professional for a bigger (and often more expensive) job down the line, says Sam. “On your shower drain, there’s a little grating that you can pop open and lift out with your fingers. There’ll be a little cup normally inside that, which is actually the water seal. Lift that out and clean it out.

“There might be some hairs and debris catching around the outlet of the trap, so you want to do that on a regular basis so hair doesn’t get down the drain and block off the waste pipe. Once you’re done, make sure that little cup then goes fully back down so it seals up again. It’s a simple thing to do.”

4. Remove leaf buildup

It can be easy to let foliage pile up in the garden or in your gutters – especially when the weather is good – but, again, Sam says that removing them regularly is a task that will pay off in the long run.

“Make sure that the gutters are cleaned regularly and check there aren’t nests or grass growing out of them, because that can cause water to spill out over the top when it rains.

“Also make sure that there are no leaves scattered around any patios, footpaths or decking coming up to winter so they don’t block up the drains.” 

When it’s time to book a Local Hero…

1. Under-sink issues 

As anyone who has attempted to disassemble and reassemble a pipe under the sink knows, it’s never as easy as it looks. Avoid the trouble and any long-term issues, says Sam, by booking an expert.

“When it comes to taking apart any pipe under a sink, it’s a good idea to use a professional so it goes back on and it doesn’t get damaged when they’re dismantling it.”

shutterstock_1419696002 Shutterstock / Andrey_Popov Shutterstock / Andrey_Popov / Andrey_Popov

2. Persistently clogged drains

If you’ve cleaned your shower trap and your shower drain still appears to be clogged, your next port of call might be to try a chemical cleaner. Sam recommends avoiding this and trying a natural solution instead before booking an expert if needed.

“We recommend that people avoid chemical drain cleaners because they can be a health and safety hazard. If any of it gets into your eye or onto your face, that can cause burns. But also if if it’s not successful in clearing the drain, it can go hard and make the problem worse.”

Try a mixture of baking soda and vinegar – or just hot water – says Sam, then book in a professional if the problem persists.

3. Problems with larger drains

While you might be able to maintain the drains that are inside and immediately outside your house, Sam advises contacting an expert for issues with “any drains outside the building,” like overflowing manhole covers. Again, if there are any issues with drains outside your house now, it’s likely they’ll get even worse if you leave dealing with them until the winter months.

“We regularly call out to people who’ve had a go of it themselves with rods. We spend a lot of time taking rods back out that people lose down the drain. So, rather than having a go at it yourself, it’s a good idea to get someone out who has the specialist equipment to get it done safely.”

Preparing your home for winter? With Local Heroes, you can get even more out of your home by easily finding and hiring reliable tradespeople in Cork and Dublin. All work comes with a 12 month guarantee backed by by Bord Gais Energy. Get a quote in a few clicks here here

Ready or not

How prepared are your drains for the autumn and winter months, where 1 is not at all ready and 10 is totally prepared?


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