Drain, Waste and Vent Plumbing
The waste system in your home consists of vents, drains and sewer line. Drains are larger diameter cast iron or plastic piping whose job it is to remove waste water to the sewage system once it has been used. Vents are connected to the drain lines at key locations to allow air to escape to the roof, and to prevent vacuums in the drain lines. The sewer lines will be discussed on another page.
PurposeThe waste system collects drain water from all the home’s sinks, showers, bathtubs, toilets, washing machines, dishwashers and bidets and through a series of connected piping. This drain piping then delivers it to the municipal sewer line or to a septic tank system located on your property.
How Drains WorkAlmost all waste system pipes and lines are designed to work on a gravity basis. A downward slope of the pipe is the only power needed to move the waste water out of the house. Since gravity is the main engine for moving waste water, sometimes heavy debris or a poorly sloped system can result in clogging. When this happens use a snake or water jet to get the system flowing again. Do not use chemical drain cleaners. Learn why here.
VentsVents are the mysterious little pipes that you see up on your roof. These pipes are counterintuitively exposed and uncovered to the elements. It is OK that these are open and exposed because they are connected to the house drain lines. Vents serve to allow air into and out of the drain system thus enabling smooth drainage and directing all kinds of foul sewer odors up and away from the house.
- Locate your main sewer line and find the clean outs along the route.
- If your home has a crawl space, have the main sewer line inspected to ensure it is strapped and sloped properly and there are no breaks or leaks in the line. Especially important to inspect are the connections of the sewer lines and the toilets which are visible at the underside of the subfloor. Any leaks or water damage in these locations are important to have repaired ASAP.
- Professional plumbers have advised me that in the case of a city sewer connection that it is good practice to leave an exterior clean out cap unscrewed somewhere, between the house and the street so that in the event sewage backs up from the main city sewer line it will blow out of the unscrewed cap rather than flow into your home. YES, this can happen, and I agree with the professionals on this one. Better yet, just leave the cap unscrewed and off the most obvious clean-out so that it will be noticed right away if there is an event like this.
- 1x per year: Run water through the sewer clean outs to ensure the free flow of material.
- 1x per 2 years: For those of you with septic tanks, every two years septic systems should have the leach fields rotated and every five years the tank should be pumped out and inspected.