Basement drain problems?
I get this question often from worried customers about the condition of their homes’ plumbing and basement drains…most of us know drain replacement can be an expensive project. Additionally, work might include restoring the basement floors and/or work on outside landscaping if there are issues beyond the basement walls.
Given how important the drainage system in your home can be I normally give this example of its importance: When it comes to the roof, we normally don’t think twice and immediately have it fixed …otherwise as we all know there can be major costs and damage in the near future. You could say the same with home basement drains, and in my opinion it is very much worth the work to repair…not to mention sewage is full of bacteria and should be definitely be dealt with.
When done properly drain installation in your home should last for many decades. Believe it or not I’ve seen 100 year old basement drains in good working condition. However consider yourself lucky if you can get 40-60 years from your drainage system. Drain lifespan can depend on how well the installation was done, as well as the soil condition…this can play a big role. In softer, wet grounds drains are more likely to shift and develop cracks.
What basement drain material can mean
The material used to make basement drains is also very important. Over the last 30-40 years plastic drain pipes have become widely used in Toronto and surrounding areas. Plastic pipes are lighter, easier to install and work with, somewhat flexible, and do not easily crack and therefore have a long lifespan….and should last normally for 50 years. However since these are recent developments in pipe construction it is hard to say how they fare in the long run…time will tell! Drain pipes are traditionally made of clay, which is a quite good solid pipe but has its weaknesses.
If you find yourself asking the question “Should I replace the basement drain or just wait another couple years?“ …most likely you are probably having drainage backup, a smell in the basement or some other reason as you’ve probably called the plumber. The first step is to determine the condition of the pipe drain using a video camera (this can be a challenge if the pipe is collapsed and system is full of water; making it difficult to diagnose….the video camera is essential for finding and locating the exact location of problem area).
Check the condition of the basement drain
If the pipe is collapsed and the snake cannot be used, then normally we would recommend drain replacement…this is the only solution.
If there is ground shifting, etc.…this might mean that two pieces of the drain pipe are unaligned; this is normally visible by bumps in the piping/ground. It is very important to replace these pipes and systems in the near future as the drain can be clogged with solid waste can build up.
Trees and grease the enemy of basement drains, oh my!
We’ve noticed that tree and shrubbery roots growing in basement drains becoming an increasing issue for homeowners in Toronto and GTA. Often roots can be cleared with a snake, but the ongoing problem is that cracks and openings in the drain pipe can allow roots to cause major damage. Short term solutions like clearing the roots with an electrical snake are not recommended as they will just grow back within 3-4 months and you’ll be calling the plumber all over again, likely with even more irreparable damage….i.e. drain replacement!
Often the drain pipe can get clogged by what gets into a drain accidentally, like a toy, small ball or small towel or rag. This problem can be easily cleaned and there is no reason for this to happen again. In these cases no drain replacement is needed.
Another common issue is kitchen grease, this can be a real problem! Drain pipes are installed in the ground under the basement floor and normally are the same temperature as the soil. Because of this grease can cool down and harden on the pipe walls. This can cause slow running drains and sewer backups. The best solution for this problem is usually the electric snake and high pressure water jetting. For very difficult cases replacement might be the only solution….however this is rare.
Make sure to always get a second opinion!…or get it done right the first time…
So back the question: Should I replace my basement drains?…