Giving you a fair view of your home

Ask The Inspectress – Plumbing

Q. I just purchased a house and I think I have a plumbing problem. How can I inspect a pipe? What if the pipe is clogged? What is the best way to clean it?

A. I hope your plumbing problem is something I can help with. Plumbing can be very involved. But here are some simple things you can do for clogged waste lines:

Check the garbage disposal under the sink. There is usually a turn key that you can put into the bottom hole. Turn the key to turn the blade. Any further tinkering with a disposal should be done by a plumber.

To prevent a clogged sink do not pour food or scraps down the sink, and regularly take out bathroom strainers and stoppers to clean them. If you have a clogged or partially clogged sink and the pipes are made of some sort of metal, you can flush the drain with boiling water to attempt to restore free flow. If this does

not work or you have plastic waste lines, try to use a plunger.

First bail out most of the water and clog up the overflow drain with a rag. Seat the plunger over the drain and pump vigorously up and down for 1 to 2 minutes. If this does not work, then try using a liquid drain opener. These chemicals can cause serious injury, so use rubber gloves and safety glasses for any work after the chemicals have been poured in the drain.

If the chemicals do not work, you can try using an auger. You should be able to purchase an auger at your local hardware store. Insert the auger into the drain opening until it hits the trap (a “U” shaped pipe which is called a “P trap”). Then slowly crank auger handle clockwise to move end of cable past trap. If auger hook catches debris, carefully withdraw auger while still turning it. If you cannot get the auger past trap, you will have to remove the trap.

With a bucket under the trap, unscrew the coupling nuts with a wrench while bracing trap with your other hand. There will be water inside the trap, so empty it out into the bucket and check the trap for clogs. If it is clogged, you can clean it out with a straightened wire coat hanger. You can then put the auger in through the opening going into the wall. Feed auger cable directly into drain line, rotating it slowly until it hits blockage. Churn auger back and forth to break up clog. Wipe auger clean as you remove it. Put the trap back on the way it was taken off. Remember to tighten the coupling nuts but not so hard you can’t get it off next time.

If these methods do not work, there may be a clog in your main waste line and you would probably want to call a plumber.


Do you have any questions about your home or about home inspections? Just send your question to and a reply may posted in the next column.

Comments are closed.