If it is autumn, it is more likely the time for a clog in the roof drain. Unlike other drains in your house, the roof drain has many elements which cause the clog. Since the drain is outside the house and is vulnerable to all sorts of pollutants, the drain gets easily clogged. Starting from leaves to nests of animals, several different items tend to get into the drain, leading to large gunk, which blocks or reduces the speed of water draining.
Before we dig deeper into this subject, we should learn about the anatomy of the roof drain. This drain is found on the roof and it connects the roof to an outlet pipe. The top portion of the drain has a strainer or a cover which prevents leaves and other debris from entering the drain to some extent. The waste accumulated around the strainer would lead to block in the drainage of water.
The down portion of the drain is open for drainage and this allows good access for the animals and birds to build nests or rest which would ultimately block the drain. This pipe is installed to drain water from the roof.
Since the drain is not inside the house, you might not notice till the roof is flooded with the water or till it causes reduced drainage in other drains in the house which leads to overflow and leakage around the house. Clog in this drain is not something simple.
It would cause caulking of the roofing cement, weakening the roofing material and safety hazards. Water stagnation can cause unwanted plants to root inside your roof and drain. This can create a hazardous living situation.
This may lead to an extensive repair of your roof and repainting, which would cost more than professional unclogging service. It also makes a good breeding spot for mosquitoes and other insects!
Identifying roof drain clog
First step is to identify whether the clog is in the roof drain or elsewhere. A clog anywhere in this drain will lead to reduced drainage in many other drains in the house. It is difficult to understand whether the clog is in the roof or in those drains.
The best identification trick is to look out for the sound, when the water drains. If you could hear a gurgling sound as the water drains, there are higher probabilities for a roof drain clog.
But, to be extra sure, try unclogging the drains inside the house, before fetching your ladder. This could save a trip to the roof. If the problem prevails, the drain on your roof should be your next target.
Identify if the problem is clog or something else
Now that you have identified that the blockage is in the roof drain, your next step is to make sure whether it is a clog or not.
Yes, apart from clog there are numerous other reasons to why water gets stagnated and for chronic reduced water drainage speed. The common reasons include cracks in the pipes and improper installation of pipes.
Small cracks or holes in the pipe would hinder the pressure and would reduce the speed of the water drainage. It is not possible to identify the cracks or location of cracks without the help of a professional.
If none of the below stated methods worked, then there are cracks in your pipe that are leading to these problems. Professionals can repair the cracks without burning a hole in your pocket. In the worst case, you may have to change the whole pipeline.
Safety first– Use gloves and have good friction shoes. Make sure that your ladder is not touching any power lines. Always have a helper down who can run around to do errands for you while you unclog the drain. Do not try something that you are not comfortable with. Remember that you are several feet above the ground and it is not safe out there. Unclogging a roof drain is not a chore for your teenage child.
Top 10 ways to unclog your roof drain:
- Basic method
- Drain Snake
- Water Hose
- Pipe brush
- Sewer jetter
- Blow bag
- Hot water
- Wet vacuum
- High power suction machine
- Professional help
The basic first step in unclogging the drain is to inspect the roof drain. Use a flashlight and check out what is blocking the water. Clear the drain of leaves and other debris. The roof drain has a small cover which can be unscrewed, using normal screwdriver.
Sometimes, it can be as simple as a basic block of the holes in the covers by leaves and other elements. Use a broom or a pipe brush to remove the leaves. If you have a leaf blower, you can use it too. Dry vacuum cleaner would also help you in this stage.
Check whether the water is draining. Otherwise, flash the light down the pipe to know what is causing the blockage. If you find any nesting animal, it is not safe and ethical to break down its nest. The mother animal would either attack you or, you would end up breaking eggs or killing the chicks. If you find any animal inside the pipe, seek professional help. They will help to remove the animal and the nest in the most ethical and safe way.
What if cleaning the cover did not help you with the water drainage? The roof drain clog may be inside the pipe. There are several other methods that would help you in those situations.
A normal plunger snake would be enough to clear most of the debris. You may have to repeat the snaking process numerous times, since it is very obvious that a drain outside the house will have a lot of debris, inside it.
Unscrew the cover and feed the snake into it. Once you feel the clog resisting the snake, start rotational movement so that you will be able to push the clog deep down the pipe till it is removed through the outlet pipe. You might not be able to pull out the clog out through the top drain.
You can use a simple snake or a power auger. Make sure to keep low pressure in a power auger as any forceful nudge might cause crack in the pipe which would lead to an extensive and expensive repair.
A long thin stick would also do the same work as that of a snake. If you are able to find such a long stick, you can use it too. If the stick breaks inside the pipe, it would be another serious problem for which would need professionals. Thus, if you are using a stick, make sure to pick a stronger one.
You can also buy heavy duty extension pole for this purpose. There are fiberglass extension poles available in the market too. Though there are a little expensive than a snake, they have a very high durability and can work on very heavy and hard clogs.
The best and easiest way to remove the clog in the drain in the roof is by using a hose. You can use your garden hose or the hose you use for cleaning your car. The main purpose of the hose here is to provide high pressure water.
- Unscrew the cap and feed the hose into the drain.
- Turn on the water and make it flow inside the drain, at a very high speed.
- This pressure will push the clog out through the outlet pipe.
Just because the outlet pipe or the spout is much closer to the ground, do not try to use the hose from down to push the debris up through the drain. The upward pressure of the water will be not very strong and you may end up pushing the clog to the middle of the pipe causing more blockage.
Initially, the water will back up in the drain and may flood the roof, a little. Eventually, the clog will break leading to a faster drainage. When the water stagnated around you in the roof drains immediately, your job is done. You can also use this method after any other method to remove any remaining gunk in the pipe.
Sometimes, this can be a tricky method. If you use the hose method when the drain is clogged with too much debris, it would easily overflow inside the house and lead to a clog in toilet and other drains. Have a helper to run around the house to check all the drains and toilets, every now and then.
Pipe brush is a long brush, which is designed for cleaning out the drain in the roof from top. It is a very simple process. Run the pipe brush down the drain, after unscrewing the cap. Keep pushing the brush till the clog and the stagnated water flushes down out of the outlet pipe.
This is very good maintenance method to remove any light debris every now and then. Especially, during autumn, try to use this brush at least once in a week to remove fallen leaves and other debris. During the other seasons, use this method, once in a month. Since this is a very simple method and does not harm the pipes, you can use this method as many times, as you want. Finally, use a hose to flush down any remaining gunk which did not meet with the brush.
This is very similar to that of a garden hose. It is a powerful pressure water machine which has special nozzles to fit into any odd looking drain.
The working is as similar to that of a hose. But, since it is a very powerful machine, use it with caution, so that you do not end up cracking your pipe. There are a lot of places where you can rent a sewer jetter too.
It is a very simple mechanism. It is a small balloon like device which can be attached to the garden hose. The balloon will expand in size inside the pipe and push the clog and water down the drain. It is a very thick balloon and it will not explode, when it comes in contact with sticks or other sharp items.
You need water backed up inside the pipe for this method to work. If there is no water, fill the pipe with water, before you start this method. This method is helpful in places where the snake cannot push the clog out. After removing the balloon, use water to flush any remaining gunk inside the pipe.
If your home is located in a very cold place, the stagnated water may get frozen and cause blockage. In such cases, add a few liters of hot water. You should make sure to be safe while transferring the hot water to the roof.
The best way is to connect the hose to a faucet which provides hot water and use the hose to run down the debris. Your washing machine faucet would be a good choice. Hot water is also effective in removing clog than cold water. You can use this method in addition to the brush method to completely unclog roof drain.
Do you have a wet vacuum in your house? You can always rent one from any hardware store near you or rental stores. Use a wet vacuum to clear out the debris and clogs, inside the pipe. The vacuum cannot reach to the end. Use the vacuum for debris under reach and try to hose down the remaining gunk out with water or use the pipe brush. Hot water would be a better option too.
You can also use a leaf blower if the pipeline length is smaller. Otherwise, you might end up accumulating all the wastes in one place causing more serious clog. You should repeat the same method of wet vacuuming from the ground to remove the debris, near the outlet pipe.
High power suction machine
There are high power wet vacuum machines or suction machines which are available with professionals. These are very similar to that of your normal wet vacuum machine but, are very powerful and have many features. These high power suction machines are usually available for rent. Before using this machine,
- Remove all loose accessories and items around you and from your clothing. It can suck anything small including keys, wires, nuts, screws and others.
- Learn how to use the foot switch, emergency stop button and other features.
- Measure the drain pipe diameter and choose a hose which would suit the size. Using a larger hose would damage the pipeline.
- Insert and remove the hose through the drain hole for a couple of times to get the knack of handling the hose.
- Ask a helper to stand close to the power switch to handle the machine if things go out of control.
- Using very high pressure would lead to cracks in the pipes. Cracks can reduce the pressure inside the pipe, which would lead to future problems.
Slowly push the hose into the drain hole and start the suction at a very low power, once you reach the clog. You can feel a small difference in the sound of the motor, when it starts to pull the clog in. When the suction sound stops, stop the machine. This indicates that the clog has been removed. Use hose with hot water to remove remaining gunk. If needed, repeat the same method from the outlet pipe too.
It is best to leave this machine to professionals. They have experience in choosing the pressure level, type of hose and others. They will be able to use this machine and unclog your drain, without damaging the pipelines.
Unclogging a roof drain is very tricky, due to the following reasons.
- The roof would be slippery during winter season or when the roof is flooded.
- Ineffective unclogging method would cause flooding from other drains and toilets
- Using ladders and other equipment might be tricky and can lead to serious hazards.
- Any nesting animal or bird, no regards to its size will attack if you try to damage its nest.
Sometimes, the balloon or the pipe brush may get stuck in the middle, causing more blocking. Though most of the debris is made of organic materials, it is not very effective to use chemical drain cleaners. You may have to pour liters and liters of chemical cleaners to create a considerable effect and it may not be cost effective. The same goes for bio cleaners and other methods too.
Thus, mechanical methods are proven effective with drains in the roof. There are numerous professional machines that can be used to unclog roof drain. Most of those machines are very powerful and might cause serious damage to the pipeline if not used with caution. To avoid personal hazard and damage to pipes, it is better to leave it to professionals if the above stated methods did not help you.
Moreover, sometimes small changes have to be done to you roof and to the strainer of the drain to avoid frequent clogging. They can also identify cracks which are causing these problems and would provide an optimal solution. These can be identified and solved only by professionals. There are many professional service providing companies and local servicemen who would cater to your needs immediately. Make sure to choose a reliable one to avoid any large or serious damage.