A modern-day convenience intrinsic to our lifestyle is fresh water delivered directly to homes via water pipelines, and sewage collected directly from homes via sewage lines. The intricate potable water delivery and sewage collection system is something each of us has to be grateful for.

What many take for granted is actually the lifeline of cities carrying millions of liters of wastewater, effluents, chemicals and sewage from homes, businesses and industries. It is the responsibility of individuals to maintain the system that has been so carefully put into place. Often the responsibility of maintenance is relegated to workers who take care of the sewage system, but it is conveniently forgotten that what exits the homes and businesses is what enters the sewage system.

Pipe Blockages in Homes

Pipe blockages are a common occurrence. While many blockages can be attributed to old and dilapidated pipelines, quite a few happen because of careless use of the drainage system. Thanks to trenchless techniques it is now easier and cheaper to detect and clear blockages and rehabilitate damaged pipelines. Here, we will take a look at the common reasons why drains and toilet plumbing get blocked and how we can avoid them.

Drain Clogs in Bathrooms

Bathroom drain clogs occur over time when skin flakes, body oil and dirt combine with soap and start building up on the walls of the drain pipe. This blockage can get aggravated when hair from humans or pets is allowed to flow into the drain.

The best way to prevent this is to use a drain strainer to stop hair and soap pieces from flowing into the drain. The drain stopper and the elbow joint should be cleaned regularly to remove any dirt accumulation. Dumping hot water down the drain may help.

Toilet Drain Blockages

Toilet drain blockages occur when non-flushable items such as sanitary napkins, coarse toilet paper, baby wipes, paper towel, cotton ear swabs and dental floss etc. are flushed down the toilet. This can clog not just the home drain but can enter the main sewer and clog an entire line.

To prevent such blockages clear instructions in the packaging of disposable sanitary napkins and towels should be followed and a dustbin should be placed inside the toilet for disposal of such items. A plunger that shoots water jets and a hand-powered drain auger can be used to eliminate small blockages. For sensitive toilets, do not flush flushable wipes down the toilet even though the packaging says it is safe.

Kitchen Drain Clogs

Kitchen drain clogs occur when cooking oil, leftover baking butter, and other greasy food particles are drained down the kitchen sink. While it is easy to eliminate the grease from the dish by using hot water and soap, the grease will harden again somewhere in the drain pipe and settle down as it cools.

This hardened grease will pick up other food particles sent down the sink and clog it over time. Best way to prevent this is to let the grease harden and scrape it out and dispose of it. For food waste, a food strainer in the sink will catch all the big particles and prevent it from flowing into the drain. Other causes of drain blockages are old and broken pipes, improper pipe slope, improper venting, tree root intrusion, etc.

Problems in water pipelines can be detected by assessing the flow of water such as a high flow of water that becomes slow after a few seconds, low flow pressure. Banging or whistling noises in the pipe, discolored rusty colored water that flows out for a few seconds when the tap is turned on can also be indicators of a problem. Outside, patches of grass that are greener than the surrounding grass on the lawn is another sign. (Learn more in "How to Tell When a Water Line Needs Repair: Trenchless for Water Lines.")

Trenchless Rehabilitation for Pipe Blockages

Trenchless methods are a great way to get rid of blockages, install new water or sewer pipelines or rehabilitate old pipes. Not only are they time and cost-effective, it does not damage the floor tiles, yards, lawns or driveways, which is, in fact, the number one concern of homeowners. Usually, only a small exit and entry pit are needed to carry out repairs.

While in some isolated cases a minimal excavation may be needed, almost all such complaints can be dealt with without excavation. The best part about trenchless rehabilitation is the use of video cameras that can be sent into the drain to assess the condition of the pipe and locate trouble spots. This can help reduce the cost of unnecessary replacement of good pipes along with the bad ones. Some trenchless methods of rehabilitating pipes are root and drain cleaning, hydro-jetting, cured-in-place pipe (CIPP), sliplining, and pipe bursting. (See more in "Sliplining or Pipe Bursting for Pipe Repair?")

Root and drain cleaning and hydro-jetting are temporary solutions but can get the drain open and flowing again. If the problem is just build-up of grease and soap, this may suffice but tree root intrusion will happen again because roots keep growing towards the water source. A permanent solution can be achieved by using the following methods:

Cured-in-Place Pipe (CIPP)

Cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) is a lining method that involves the insertion of a resin soaked polyethylene (PE) or high-density polyethylene (HDPE) liner into the damaged pipe section. The pipe is then expanded to fit the host pipe and filled with warm water or air and allowed to cure. These liners extend the life of the pipe considerably because of the high-strength of the materials used.

Sliplining

Sliplining is a method by which a new pipe section is inserted into the host pipe to form a new pipe and is suitable for straight pipe sections. The diameter of the new pipe is slightly smaller than the diameter of the host pipe so that it can be inserted. The annular space between the pipes and the ends are filled with grout and or another filler and sealed. There is not much difference in the flow coefficient due to the reduced diameter because the flow properties of materials such as HDPE, PE and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are superior compared to older pipe materials such as cast iron.

Pipe Bursting

Pipe bursting is yet another method that can be used to replace pipes that have outdone their service life. The method involves the use of a conical bursting head with a diameter at the widest point about 50-mm to 100-mm larger than the host pipe. As the conical head is pulled through the pipe, it causes radial expansion of the host pipe that results in fragmentation. The broken pieces are pushed into the surrounding soil while the new pipe is pulled in simultaneously replacing the old pipe.

The space between the new pipe and the adjacent pipe is sealed with a suitable material. This method can be used to improve the flow capacity where small diameter pipes are installed.

Overall, the best method for preventing costly repairs is to not dispose of oil and greases through drains and sewage systems, watch for hair buildup in drains and occasionally run hot water through drains to help removed built-up soap.