4 Methods for Unclogging Underground Drain Pipes

Every home has drains, and they often get blocked for a whole range of reasons. Indoor drains such as the kitchen sink, toilet, and bathtub often get blocked due to things like hair, food particles and grease. This can usually be handled with some baking soda, chemical drain cleaner, or if necessary, a professional drain cleaning. It is usually not hard to unclog drains indoors. However, with outdoor drain pipes, it may be a less simple job, and many people will find that a bit of hot water may no longer do the trick.

What is an underground drain pipe?

An underground drain pipe is a pipe nestled under the ground that connects to a home’s gutter downspout. They are designed to redirect all of the water collected by the gutter away from the home, whether that is by redirecting it out onto the main street, or even directly into the sewer line.

How do underground drain pipes clog? Advice from Rider Drains Cleaning & Repairs

Underground drains are constantly receiving rainwater and debris from the gutters. This can include debris such as leaves, feathers, and even twigs and berries. As these pieces of debris build up in the pipe, they can cause blockages. We recently covered a helpful product for this problem “gutter guards”.

Additionally, in the summer months, less rainfall means that the water travelling through the pipes moves slower and can leave sediment behind in the pipe, says Rider Drains Cleaning & Repairs. This can, over time, create a blockage too.

One of the more serious causes of underground drain blockages is tree roots. Often, small amounts of water escape from pipes and enter the surrounding soil. Tree roots will seek out this water, and this can often lead to them breaking the pipes or moving the pipes and creating a blockage.

How to tell if you have a blocked drainage system

There are 3 key signs that will show you if your underground drain is blocked. These will happen pretty quickly after the blockage forms, and will let you know that you need to get a professional plumber in or act yourself in order to get back your clean drain pipes.

The signs are:

  1. Water damage in the basement or lower ground floor of your home: when the pipes block, they can sometimes blow or crack, and the water may escape into the soil and around the walls of your home causing water ingress. Alternatively, the water might overflow and damage your home that way.
  2. Overflowing downspouts: if the hole that your gutter downspout goes into is overflowing or pooling, then it is entirely likely that you have a blockage within your drain pipe.
  3. Gutters overflowing: since the gutters are connected to your downspout and subsequently to your underground drain, they are likely to overflow if there is a blockage anywhere.

How to unclog underground drains

Should any of these symptoms arrive, it is important that you act quickly in order to prevent your gutters from falling or snapping, and your pipes from cracking or blowing underground. You can unclog underground drains by:

1. Using a drain bladder

A drain bladder, sometimes known as a blow bag, is a deflated rubber balloon that attaches at one end to a water supply and at the other end to the clogged drain. It then uses water pressure to clear the drain pipe, by filling up and then pushing the whole balloon’s worth of water through the pipework.

Drain bladders are efficient methods of unclogging drains, however they should be used with care as too much pressure can damage pipes, especially those with pre-existing cracks such as older pipes.

2. Use a drain snake

A drain snake is a specialist piece of metal that can be used to unclog both indoor and outdoor drains. The metal drain snake is simply pushed through the drain pipe and is used to poke and prod at any blockage with the aim of breaking it up and allowing water to pass through.

3. Hydro jetting

Hydro jetting is a newer technique when it comes to plumbing, and is usually only done by a plumber. It is essentially like using a pressure washer on a driveway or wall but within the confines of a drain pipe. Rather than relying on something like baking soda to bubble the blockage away, hydro jetting simply forces the blockage to move by using high water pressure.

4. Use a picote milling machine

A picote milling machine is similar in some ways to a drain snake. It also involves a long, specialist metal wire that you push through the drains, however, it is designed to tackle much bigger blockages than the usual drain snake is. The picote milling machine has specialised heads that you can attach to the equipment in order to better break up and move blockages caused by things such as sediment, solid debris, or even tree roots.

With all of these methods of unblocking an underground pipe, it is important to ensure that you take methods to protect yourself and your home in the process. This means making sure that you wear rubber gloves, and keep any pools of water away from the walls of your home in order to prevent water damage.

Are there other ways to clear a drainage pipe?

There are a few other things that you can try and unclog your drain if you don’t have the tools around to try these methods. There are some time-tested favourites, which are the most common ways of drain deblocking, and they include:

  • Using chemical cleaners and chemical solutions recommended by plumbers
  • Pouring boiling water or warm water down the drain pipe
  • Pouring baking soda and white vinegar down the drain

Can underground drain blockages be avoided?

There are a few things that you can do to avoid debris from entering your gutter downspout, which will subsequently help to limit blockages. You can purchase filters for gutter pipes, covers to prevent debris from entering, and even sieves that attach to the bottom of the downspout to separate the water from the debris within it.