Consult your plumber before using store-bought drain cleaner.

St Paul Pipeworks recently finished a rather difficult plumbing job that could easily have been prevented. The problem had been going on for years unnoticed until it finally emerged. The damage was caused by using improper store-bought drain cleaner. Here’s what happened…

Why did the customer end up calling St Paul Pipeworks for a plumbing job?

The problem the customer had was with the kitchen waste line under his basement concrete floor. This waste line had been an issue before, and another plumbing company had been out to fix it a couple of years earlier. It started clogging up again and water was actually seeping up through cracks in the basement concrete floor. The St Paul Pipeworks plumber, who was sent out to look at it, planned to go out fifteen feet from where the last repair had been made and hoped that would be the extent of the waste pipe replacement under the floor.

What steps do St Paul Pipeworks plumbers take upon arrival to access the waste system?

Usually, an outside company comes in first to locate the waste with a special camera. This was not necessary on this job because there had already been repair work done. At that point, the plumber could map it out on the floor. They use a jackhammer to break up the concrete floor, dig up the pipe and assess the condition of the pipe. The entire underside of this pipe was completely missing, which is most commonly due to the use of acid-based drain cleaners that over time eat at metallic pipes under the basement floor. In an older home, even if there are Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) pipes upstairs, at some point the waste goes into a metal pipe. Eventually the pipe will rot out and all the kitchen waste will run directly into the soil under the concrete floor.

drain cleaner problems in home plumbing

What are the dangers of having waste running under the floor?

Waste will not run under the floor forever. Eventually it will not have any place to go and will clog up the pipe. When the plumbers broke up the concrete, they immediately smelled kitchen waste without even excavating the dirt. The way that the job was priced out was to start with a first section of pipe, then plan for a second and third section if needed to locate the clogged pipe. The third section would go all of the way to the main pipe. In this case the first section was not far enough so they had to go another ten feet backwards to the kitchen stack. The plumbers found a unique old homemade repair, probably from a previous homeowner, which was completely clogged. They had to dig a very large hole to cut this full pipe out and ultimately had to replace almost twenty-five feet of piping on this project.

What happened when the pipe was cut open?

It was a geyser of gross! The plumber heard an air gurgle and immediately knew what he was dealing with, so he quickly jumped out of the hole in the floor. They ended up digging a much larger hole and filled it in with proper backfill so that once it was cemented any remaining odor would be contained.

drain cleaner destorying home pipes

What is the moral of the story?

The moral is to have your drains professionally cleaned rather than using ostore-bought caustic acid-based drain cleaners, which will rot away your cast iron pipes. Even if you have PVC piping, there is a high likelihood that you have cast iron piping under the floor and in the stack of your home. If you feel the need to use drain cleaning products, consult with your trusted plumber about products that can go down your drain. It can cause serious damage, cost a lot of money, and cause possible health concerns in the future. If you need any advice on drain cleaning or need a professional in the St. Paul or Minneapolis metro areas, I would not hesitate to contact St Paul Pipeworks today.

Yours Truly,
Matthew Dettwiler
Social Media Manager

Take Care of Your Pipes – Professional Drain Cleaning Tips