The Impact of Drain Blockages on Your Plumbing System

In an ideal world, your home’s plumbing system would work smoothly, with water and waste flowing unobstructed through the pipes. Unfortunately, drain blockages are an all-too-common reality for many homeowners.

However, blockages are more than a mere inconvenience; they can have immediate and long-term effects on your plumbing system. Read on to learn more about the impact of drain blockages and how to mitigate them.

Tired of your blocked drains and just want them fixed? Get professional drain cleaning and enjoy free flowing drains again!

What causes drain blockages?

There are many reasons why your drains get clogged. Some of the most common causes include buildup of hair or food debris, and foreign objects that inadvertently enter the plumbing system. Some less avoidable causes of clogged drains include root intrusion and mineral buildup – these situations often occur in older plumbing systems.

For those interested in a deep dive into this topic, we covered the top causes of drain blockages in detail in last month’s blog post.

Collage of different drain clogs

Immediate Effects of Blockages

To put it nicely, blocked drains are a pain in the butt. Slow-draining sinks and tubs are frustrating and disrupt daily activities like washing dishes and taking showers. We can’t speak for you – but none of us at Freedom Plumbing enjoy the feeling of the water slowly creeping up to our ankles as we shower! Even worse is when the drain pan begins to overflow and brings our shower to a premature end!

One of the more embarrassing effects of clogged pipes is that your toilet will struggle to accomplish its task, requiring multiple flushes or even the routine application of a plunger! To add insult to injury, blockages create stagnant water conditions which can cause unpleasant odors to permeate your home.

Long-Term Consequences for Your Plumbing

Ignoring the early signs of blocked drains can have meaningful long-term repercussions for your plumbing system. These issues go beyond mere inconvenience and can lead to significant water damage over time.

Increased Pressure and Leaks

When a blockage occurs, the pipe behind it fills with water and increases pressure on the upstream pipes. While you might think that pipes are designed to be filled with water, the reality is that your home’s drain pipes are only designed for intermittent flow of water.

Over time, this elevated water pressure can result in plumbing leaks, particularly along pipe joints. In extreme cases, clogs can even cause burst pipes. Both scenarios can cause water damage to your home and necessitate costly repairs.

Corrosion and Wear

Stagnant water in blocked pipes also contributes to the corrosion and wear of the pipe material. Especially in older homes with metal pipes, standing water can accelerate the aging process of your plumbing system.

The result? More frequent blockages and eventual pipe replacement.

Sewer Line Complications

One of the most severe consequences of ignoring blocked drains is the potential for sewer line blockages. If your main sewer line is ever fully clogged, then you may be unlucky enough to experience a sewage backup – where your home’s wastewater begins to flow into your home.

Usually this happens at the lowest point in your plumbing system – so imagine your basement slowly being turned into a swimming pool…filled with toilet water and dirty laundry discharge.

It should go without saying, but repairing damage caused by black water is extremely expensive and homeowners should take pains to avoid ever needing to do so.

Lake Murray with hexagon frame

Financial Implications

Ignoring or delaying proper repairs of blocked drains can be a costly mistake. Unfortunately, clogged drains simply don’t get better on their own. Quite the contrary, they actually will worsen with time and the clog will become more extensive. Eventually, when the drains are completely blocked, the repair will be more difficult – and thus more expensive to resolve.

A Cheap Fix Can Turn Into an Expensive Repair

A common DIY solution that homeowners turn to is using a chemical drain cleaner. For very minor clogs, these products can provide short-term relief. However, these cleaners contain harsh chemicals which can weaken the material of your pipes, making them more susceptible to cracks and leaks. This is especially true for older pipes made of materials like PVC or even metal, which can corrode under the influence of these chemicals.

If the cleaner fails to remove the blockage, you’re left with a pipe full of caustic substances, increasing the risk of corrosion and complicating further repair efforts.

Environmental Concerns

In some cases, a clogged drain can actually be caused by a sewage main that is both cracked and leaking. This seems counterintuitive – but if a pipe has become bent due to a settled foundation, it can actually result in a leaky pipe with reduced flow as the pipe has been constricted! The effect is that some of your home’s waste water is simply flowing directly into the soil around your home. Eventually this leakage will make it into local groundwater and waterways – posing a health risk to you and your family.

Another problem is that a slow drain causes us to use more water. The easiest example of this is a slow draining toilet may require two or three flushes to accomplish what a single flush would normally be able to take care of. These extra flushes can quickly add up to hundreds of even thousands of gallons of wasted water per year.

Lake Murray with hexagon frame

Preventative Measures and Solutions

Regular Drain Cleaning and Maintenance

The easiest way to prevent drain blockages is regular cleaning and maintenance. A well-maintained plumbing system is less likely to develop clogs and other issues. If your drains begin to flow slowly, it’s a good idea to have a professional plumber come out and address the situation early. By waiting you increase the likelihood of the problem becoming more severe.

Installing Drain Guards and Strainers

Drain guards and strainers can catch larger debris like hair and food scraps, making it easier to prevent drain clogs.

For the folks with beards: when you’re shaving over the bathroom sink try to avoid using the faucet to wash your hairs down the drain. Longer hairs tend to get stuck and will eventually cause a problem. Collect the hairs and toss them in the garbage!

And for y’all with long hair: after showering you usually can find a pretty good pinch of hair trying to make its way into your shower drain. Gather it up (use some toilet paper if you prefer) and toss it in the trash rather than trying to wash it down the drain.

Proper Disposal of Grease and Other Potential Blockage-Causing Substances

Being mindful of what goes down your drains can save you a lot of trouble. For instance, disposing of cooking oil and grease in a container instead of pouring it down the kitchen sink can prevent clogs. This is especially important for greases which are solid at room temperature like coconut oil or bacon grease.

You will also want to avoid rinsing large quantities of egg shells, rice or coffee grounds down the sink as these can form stubborn, concrete-like blockages.

Professional Intervention

There are situations when DIY remedies are insufficient, and it becomes necessary to call a professional. Persistent odors, repeated clogs, and water leakage are signs that you may need professional help. A professional plumber will have the tools to diagnose and repair severe blockages without risking damage to your plumbing system.

Avoid Major Plumbing Issues – Get Blockages Fixed Fast

As much as we’d like it to be otherwise, plumbing problems don’t get better on their own. Clogged drains simply become more blocked with time, and may even result in worse problems like damaged pipes and water leaks.

Instead of simply tolerating slow flowing drains until the problem has become serious, your best bet is to contact a licensed plumber and get your drains fixed early. This way you avoid major repairs and enjoy smooth flowing, hassle free drains!