Fix Basement Drain Problems

Most homeowners don't notice their basement drain until it fails to work. The floor drain is intended to be used as emergency flood control. It is a good idea to test them once a year or so to make sure they work.

Testing Floor Drains

Try pouring a small amount of water into the drain at first, so if there's a problem you won't have a big mess to clean up. If the drain takes small amounts of water, increase the flow. Do this till you see it pool water, or determine that it is fully open, and will not pool.

When basement drains are stopped or slow, they're usually plugged with debris or soil from sweeping the room. My favorite way to clear and maintain floor drains is to run a hose to them when I drain or flush the water heater. You may need to use a plunger to get them started.

If you're not working on the water heater, you can try clearing the drain with a Drain King or other drain cleaning tools. Easier still, you can add it to the to-do list you hand your plumber the next time you see him/her.

Unconnected Floor Drains

Not all floor drains are connected to the sewer or septic system that serves the house. Now and then you'll find that they're not plumbing-related drains at all. If you see terracotta pipe or loose stones when you look into the drain opening, it may be a non-plumbing drain.

If your sewer pipe exits the house through the wall, above the level of the floor drain, there is a fair chance they're not related. That's because the floor drain cannot gravity-drain to a point higher than it is.

Look for a floor drain trap primer pipe. If there is none it may be because it is not part of the plumbing system. A non-plumbing drain typically has no primer, not being a source of sewer gas.

You will want to know as much as you can readily find out about what your drain is connected to before you try to improve the flow for a couple of reasons.

First, if it's not on the plumbing system, you should have less expectations of improving it. Second, trying to snake a drain that's not on the plumbing system is a great way to snag a cable into a pile of rocks. That's hard on you and your equipment. So be careful.