Contents (Click To Jump)
- 1 What Is a Clogged Drain?
- 2 What Do You Need To Know About Snaking a Drain?
- 3 What Are The Different Ways to Snake a Drain?
- 4 When Should You Hire A Professional To Snake a Clogged Drain?
- 5 How Much Does Snaking a Drain Cost?
- 6 What Should You Look For In A Drain Cleaning Specialist?
What Is a Clogged Drain?
All of the plumbing fixtures in your home are connected to your water supply lines to provide water, and they’re also equipped with a drain to eliminate the used water and move it toward your main sewer line.
Each fixture’s drain has a trap to prevent dangerous sewer gases from entering your home, after which the drainpipe leads directly to the waste line. The large, cast iron waste line moves waste and used water to your public sewer system or to your private septic tank or cesspool.
A clogged drain refers to a blockage in any part of your home’s plumbing pipes that causes water from a faucet or showerhead to back up in the piping. As the backup gets worse, your fixture will drain more and more slowly until a total blockage prevents any draining.
What Do You Need To Know About Snaking a Drain?
Many homeowners believe that drain snaking is a simple process that can fix any clogged drain.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and it’s essential to understand the benefits of a plumbing snake, when it should and shouldn’t be used, and how to use one properly for the most effective solution possible.
How Can Drain Snaking Help?
A drain snake is a long, flexible piece of metal with a coil wrapped around it. The coil and the rod can be turned using the handle to create a screw-like movement. Some snakes have a motor attached to them for a more rapid and efficient turning mechanism. Motorized snakes are typically called augers.
Snaking helps clear drains because the coil naturally catches material stuck in your clogged pipes and pulls it outward as you spin the handle. In bathroom sinks and showers that typically get clogged because of hair, the hair gets snagged on the coil and can easily be pulled out of the piping.
Snakes used in toilets can catch toilet paper, feminine products, cotton balls, cotton swabs, dental floss, and other materials homeowners flush.
Using a snake is also sometimes effective in kitchen sinks, as stringy vegetables and other food particles can get caught on the snake’s coil and pulled out of the drain line.
When Is Snaking a Drain Useful?
Snaking your drain is typically most beneficial when you have a partial clog that doesn’t cause a total blockage. If the water in your fixture drains but does so slowly, snaking is likely to help.
Complete blockages that prevent the snake from breaking up the clog often necessitate other drain cleaning methods, like hydro-jetting, which uses high pressure to push stuck material through the piping.
Kitchen sinks can get clogged with solidified grease, which won’t catch on the coils. As such, drain snaking often isn’t effective on severe blockages in kitchen sinks.
Most DIYers and professional plumbers will first clear the trap beneath a clogged plumbing fixture before resorting to snaking. The P-trap or S-trap is useful for protecting your home from hazardous gases, but their shape makes them the most problematic part of your plumbing system. If clearing the trap doesn’t fix the issue, snaking is often the next best solution.
Snaking is particularly useful if clearing the trap and using boiling water, baking soda, and vinegar don’t work to clear the clog. A plumbing snake will be able to remove material that these household items cannot.
Some homeowners resort to using chemical drain cleaners to clear blockages, but snaking is often a better option. Drain cleaner can weaken and damage your piping, and it’s very dangerous to use, given how caustic it is.
Similarly, a plunger can be used to clear blockages in your drain lines, but these can create enough pressure to damage your piping. As such, snaking is typically a more appropriate solution.
How Do You Snake a Drain Properly?
The proper way to snake your clogged drain will depend mainly on the type of drain and whether or not a professional plumber has used a video camera to complete a visual inspection of the material causing the blockage.
If a video camera inspection has been completed and your plumber has confirmed that the backup isn’t caused by solidified grease, they will insert the snake into your plumbing through the drain on your clogged fixture until it hits the blockage. The plumber will then manually crank the snake or use the motor to spin the auger and dislodge the caught material.
Once the snake is pulled out of the drainpipe and the material is believed to have been removed, the plumber will test that the pipe is cleared by using the fixture and waiting to see if the water drains as intended. If the clog remains, additional snaking will be required to remove more material.
If you’re snaking your clogged drain as a DIY home improvement project, it’s important not to push the snake too far into the clogged material or to spin the snake too rapidly.
This kind of movement can damage the PVC piping, especially where the couplings are located to provide easy access to your trap. If the couplings break or become damaged, you’ll have a leaking trap on top of your clogged drain.
In addition to sinks and showers, toilets can be snaked, but great care must be taken not to damage the ceramic bowl. The drainpipe for your toilet is typically thinner than that on your sinks and bathtubs, so smaller manual snakes are better for clearing a clogged toilet.
What Are The Different Ways to Snake a Drain?
There are several different methods and augers you can use to snake your clogged drain, depending on the experience level of the person performing the service and the fixture to which the drain is attached.
Snaking a Sink Drain
Many homeowners experience slowly draining sinks in their bathrooms and kitchens. A bathroom sink drain clogs most often with hair, which then traps soap and other debris to cause a significant buildup.
Hair can easily snag on the drain itself or accumulate in the trap beneath the sink. Hair quickly gets tangled in the coils around a plumber’s snake, so bathroom sinks are among the easiest drains to snake properly.
It’s dangerous to use electric snakes in thin drainpipes, and most bathroom sinks have 1-¼” piping that can easily get damaged from the force of motorized augers. As such, a manual plumber’s snake is the best option for bathroom sinks.
Kitchen sinks tend to have larger drainpipes that are suitable for electric augers. Kitchen sinks typically clog with food particles, which can be more challenging to remove with a snake than hair. Kitchen drains that are clogged with solidified cooking grease cannot be snaked successfully even by a professional plumber, so other methods need to be used.
Snaking a Shower or Bathtub Drain
Like bathroom sink drains, bathtub and shower drains typically get clogged with hair, which can also trap soap fat. A standard sink snake or a slightly larger one explicitly made for bathtubs is best for clearing the drain in your tub.
A plumber may opt to use an electric auger to remove matted hair from your shower drain. The mechanism for plugging the tub drain typically gets in the way and can get damaged by an auger, so most plumbers will opt to go through the overflow or expose the trap and snake directly through the drainpipe.
For more information on snaking a shower drain safely, check out the video below:
Snaking a Toilet
Toilets tend to be a catch-all for many homeowners, so they can get clogged by a variety of materials. Toilet paper tends not to cause severe clogs, but cotton balls, cotton swabs, feminine products, dental floss, and other materials commonly disposed of in toilets can create a blockage.
Standard manual snakes and electric augers should never be used to clear a toilet clog. The force created can cause the metal to crack the porcelain and require you to purchase and install a new toilet.
Toilets and toilet traps are designed to allow large material to pass through, so clogs that cause a backup are usually significant. A plumber may resort to removing the toilet and snaking directly into the floor mount to clear the drainpipe.
Snaking a Laundry or Other Basement Drain
Many homeowners have drains in their basements, either acting as floor drains or as a drainpipe for their laundry machines. Luckily, basement floor drains tend not to clog, as material seldom makes its way in through the grate.
On the other hand, laundry drains clog relatively easily from lint or fabric materials from clothing. The material can easily compact and become challenging to remove.
Plumbers typically use a bathroom sink snake or other thin alternatives, given the small width of the drainpipe. A slender electric auger may be necessary to clear the compacted material.
Snaking a Driveway Drain
Driveway drains can be very challenging to snake because they get clogged with a variety of hard-to-remove materials. Tree roots can grow into the pipe and cause a severe backup, and gravel and dirt can fall in through crushed or broken sections and create total blockages. As you can imagine, these materials are very challenging to snake.
Professional plumbers can use large snakes designed for sewer line clogs to clear your driveway drain. Most have special heads for the augers that can chew through tree roots and mud without damaging your piping and requiring line repair.
When Should You Hire A Professional To Snake a Clogged Drain?
Handy homeowners and DIYers can often snake drains in their homes without any issues, as long as they have the right tools. However, there are some circumstances where you’ll want to leave the work to a professional.
Snaking a driveway drain can be dangerous, as the wrong head attached to your auger may get lodged in the material and become challenging to remove. Some heads can cause damage to your drainpipe, necessitating an expensive replacement.
Laundry drains are also challenging to perform a DIY snaking on because the lint and fabric can become matted and make removal very difficult and time-consuming, even for a professional.
Toilet drains require special tools and some experience to remove the clog efficiently without breaking the porcelain. Replacing the toilet can be an expensive mistake if you use the wrong tool or too much force when attempting to remove the clogged material.
Most toilet clogs are caused by large debris and may require you to remove your toilet entirely before snaking. This work should be left to a professional plumber who can do it safely and limit the sewer gas that enters your home.
Finally, any drain that is entirely stopped up – especially kitchen sink drains that may be clogged with solidified grease – should be left to a professional. Attempting to remove complete blockages can be dangerous and cause costly damage to your plumbing lines.
How Much Does Snaking a Drain Cost?
As you can probably imagine, the plumbing repair cost to have your drain snaked can vary quite a bit. The biggest cost factors involved are the type of drain you need cleared and the severity of the clog. The national average cost of drain snaking is around $225, but we’ll include some more specific per-project costs below.
If you need to have a kitchen sink or bathroom sink snaked, you can expect to pay between $150 and $250. Some minor snaking jobs may total as little as $100. Tub drains will be a bit more costly because additional work is required to get to the drainpipe. Most homeowners pay between $225 and $300 to have a shower drain snaked.
Most plumbers charge slightly more to snake a toilet because special equipment is needed, the clogged material is likely larger and more challenging to remove, and the job is less pleasant. The average drain cleaning cost for a toilet is around $275, but severe clogs can be as high as $350.
Driveway drains and laundry drains usually run around $325, and more severe clogs in these plumbing lines can reach up to about $500.
If you’re unlucky enough to have a clog in a main sewer line, you’ll likely pay between $500 and $1,000 for professional snaking.
The pricing for this unclogging service varies depending on how easy it is to access your sewer line, how far into the pipe the clog is, and how severe the blockage is. If the blockage is very severe and requires sewer line replacement, you can pay anywhere between $4,000 and $20,000 for the service.
What Should You Look For In A Drain Cleaning Specialist?
When you’re choosing a professional to snake your drain, you should always opt for one with years of experience, extensive training, and proper plumbing certification. Handymen and general contractors can snake drains for you, but they’re far less proficient than a master plumber would be.
A master plumber will typically cost more upfront, but they’re more likely to have the appropriate equipment, correct the problem permanently, and reduce the chance of needing additional snaking down the line.
Many plumbers offer flat rates rather than hourly rates for drain snaking. Flat rates may seem more convenient, but they don’t always guarantee that the issue will be corrected as sufficiently as it should be. Even if a plumber conducts a video inspection to view the clogged material first, it can be challenging to charge an appropriate flat rate because the blockage may take a long time to clear.
As such, we recommend opting for a plumber who charges an hourly rate or one who will charge for a service call and has options for hourly rates if the job takes longer than expected. Clogged drains are often recurring issues, so hiring a plumber who will do a comprehensive snaking to ensure your drain is clear is crucial.
Finally, we recommend choosing a plumber who provides a satisfaction guarantee. As we’ve mentioned already, snaking a drain can be difficult, cause damage to your drainpipe, and can lead to additional necessary work if not done correctly the first time around.
Opting for a plumbing company that promises your satisfaction will increase your chances of getting five-star service and a permanent solution to your plumbing problem.