All You Need to Know about Basement Drain Problems

The basement is the most useful room in the house if maintained well and flood-free. It can also be the darkest, dampest and scariest without proper plumbing care. However, with proper maintenance, it can be the perfect area for study, exercise, recreation, storage or laundry. The most common appliances found in the basement are washing machines, the water heating system, air-conditioning system, and boiler, all of which involve water, pipes and tubes, which all contribute to the fact that the basement is the most frequently flooded part of the house.

No thanks to faulty plumbing, leaky washers, damaged pipes, cracks in the wall, excess moisture, rainy weather and melting snow, basements are almost always damp, moist and moldy. A moist or flooded basement does not only cause headache, it also reduces the value of a home and puts to risk the health of the people living in the house.


basement drain
By ActiveSteve under CC BY-ND 2.0

Problem #1: Clogging

Leaks and flooding can be avoided by regular plumbing maintenance work and reliable basement waterproofing. But if the basement gets flooded anyway, it is extremely important that the floor drain is unclogged so that floodwater moves into it and onto the sewer system.

Clogging is the leading basement drain problem that families contend with. This, however, is easy to avoid. Here are just three steps to make sure floor drains are working properly.


Steps to avoid clogging:

One, keep the strainer in place. Since the basement drain is located on the floor, it is often trampled on, causing dirt, dust and debris to accumulate. The strainer catches debris to make sure they don’t go down the drain.

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Two, don’t use the drain as garbage pit. For some reason people seem to love throwing pieces of trash into any hole they see on the floor.

Three, clean as you go. Human hair, animal fur and clothing materials often accumulate over the drain. It is important that families be mindful of this and make sure to clean the drain after using the basement.


Steps to unclog the basement floor drain:

To unclog the floor drain here are three things you can do:

One, open the plug or clean-out access port. See if you can pull out the clog from there or cause it to drip out.

Two, if the clog appears to be located deeper into the drainage system, use a plumbers snake to pull it out. Slowly push the snake into the pipes as far as you can, and then retract as carefully to hopefully pull out what’s causing the clog. You might need to repeat this process more than once.

Three, don’t try to flush the clog deeper into the drainage. But it could help if you pour boiling water or a mixture of vinegar and baking soda into the drain pipe.

Meanwhile, if all systems (pipes and basement waterproofing) are good, a flooded basement may not be a problem at all. But this does not mean the basement floor drain is good for nothing. It has one other function that is as important as draining away floodwater.


The floor drain’s other purpose

The basement floor drain prevents harmful sewer fumes from escaping the sewers and getting into the home. Here’s how.

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Just below the strainer is the drain pipe. The drain pipe has a curved section that is known as the S-trap or P-trap. The curved portion is never without stored water. It is this water that serves as a seal that blocks sewer gas and fumes from drifting away from the sewer, into the basement and eventually into the house.  Not only are the fumes noxious, they are also poisonous and highly toxic. Keeping them sealed at the other end of the P-trap is a must.


Problem #2: A dried up P-trap

There is a problem when it never rains and the stored water inside the P-trap dries up completely. If this happens, you should quickly fill it with water to block the fumes from escaping. Pour half a bucket of water directly into the drain. If this doesn’t work, there could be a problem with the P-trap and calling a plumber becomes necessary. The plumber might need to do some siphoning or pipe repairs.