Slow Drains: Important Warning Signs

Slow drains may be a sign of bigger plumbing problems. Other symptoms are bubbling or gurgling sounds, a smell of sewage or signs of moisture around the drains. Paying attention to the warning signs can help the homeowner to avoid bigger future problems.


It is likely that the pipes are clogged with hair, grease, or other debris. It is easier to fix a slow drain than to fix one that has completely clogged and may flood your home. The simplest fix is to pour boiling water into the drain to breakup any grease in the plumbing. Most clogs can be treated by running a plumbing snake through the pipe and dislodging the clog. Another option is to use a chemical dissolver although it only works on smaller clogs. Be careful not to breathe in the fumes or mix more than one product. If more than one drain is slow or clogged then the problem is probably in the main drain.

Tree Roots

You plumbing pipes may have roots from trees that have gotten into the pipe and constricted the flow of water. A professional plumber can see this with a scope that goes down into the pipe. He will have a special tool to cut through the tree roots if they are not too large. If the roots are too tangled or large and cannot be cleared then that section of pipe may have to be cut out and replaced.

Foundation Problems

Another reason for clogged pipes is that the pipe is no longer connected at some point. Sometimes this is because the soil has shifted, pulling the pipe out of the joint or breaking it. It can flow into the ground for a while until the ground is saturated and then it backs up into the home.

Avoiding Future Problems

Preventative treatments can help to avoid slow drains and clogs from becoming an emergency. Grease should be left to cool after cooking and thrown away instead of being poured down the drain. Coffee grinds can also cause clogs. Clean hair and debris from the drains on a regular basis so they don’t build up.

Finding the Source

If there has been more than one blockage then it is worth finding out what the source of the problem is. Try to determine if the problem happens after a heavy rain, if so then it may be the design of the system that is causing a problem. If it only happens at Thanksgiving then it’s probably not a curse. It is more likely a combination of additional food going through the garbage disposal, more guests using sinks and bathrooms and cold weather. The more facts you can collect the easier it will be to diagnose the problem yourself or give the information to a professional plumber.

If you are alert to the signs of a drain that is slow or has a minor clog then you will be able to get the problem fixed before you end up with a backup in your house.