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PLUMBING SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
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DRAIN a WATER HEATER TANK
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
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FLOOR DRAIN / TRAP ODORS
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LEAD POISONING HAZARDS GUIDE
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Clogged building drain repair using a kinetic water ram or pneumatic drain cleaner: this article explains step by step how to use our favorite drain de-clogger: a kinetic water ram pneumatic tool (rent or buy) to un-block a clogged drain.
This is a section of CLOGGED DRAIN DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR, our complete article that explains explains how to investigate slow or blocked drains and septic system backups to distinguish between a probable septic system failure versus a probable blocked building drain. When a building drain is clogged or slow, or when there is a septic system backup, it's important to determine where the problem lies, since the repair steps can be quite different and costs can vary widely.
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How to use a kinetic water ram to clear a blocked drain: a kinetic water ram can be effective in clearing blocked drains and can be rented from your local "rent-all" store.
A "Kinetic Water Ram™" [link to buy at Amazon.com] pump uses compressed air to clear clogged building drains is also available. After renting a kinetic water ram drain cleaning tool to clear clogged drains several times we bought one and used it for many years. [You can buy a Kinetic Water Ram but you can also rent one at many tool rental centers.]
We were impressed with the quality and strength of our kinetic water ram drain cleaner. A simple mechanical pump compresses air in a cylinder. A rubber fitting is attached to an outlet end of the cylinder and held in place over a clogged drain. When the pump's trigger is pulled the ram releases its air in a bang that tries to blow loose obstructions in drain pipes.
The kinetic water ram drain clearing device can unblock some types of clogged drains even when the clog is distant provided you can assure that the drainpipe is full of water when the equipment is used.
We rented and eventually purchased this sine-qua-non of mechanical drain openers, the Kinetic Water Ram™ [available to buy on Amazon.com] - a pump device that will usually blow-out clogs, even remote clogs, in building drains. The Kinetic Water Ram includes a stainless steel air pump and rubber fittings that match the business end of the ram to a building sink, tub, toilet, or other drain.
Our kinetic water ram kit came in a steel orange box that included a collection of rubber fittings to let us use the tool with almost any drain opening size or shape. A few of these fittings are shown in our photos above. We have jammed our pony pump and washing machine hoses into this same carrier case but those have nothing to do with using a kinetic water ram to clear a drain. They just spend time together.
Steps in Using the Kinetic Water Ram to Clear a Blocked Drain
You can rent a Kinetic Water Ram at many consumer rental centers. To use the Kinetic Water Ram effectively you may need to
Inspect to be sure that the plumbing trap for the fixture is secure and not corroded so you won't blow it off of the fixture.
Our successful bathroom sink drain de-clog photo (below) shows that the sink is running free.
One quick shot at about 20 psi was sufficient. You can see the 20 psi shown on the water ram's pressure gauge, above-right.
We let the water run for a good 10 minutes longer to be sure we have flushed the blown-drain blocking material out through the building drain and sewer piping.
When deciding how much air pressure to pump-to we recommend starting gently, and never use higher air pressure than is needed to clear the drain. Below you'll read why this we give this advice.
Special Tips for Using a Kinetic Water Ram on a Bath Tub with an Overflow Drain
In this particular bathroom, because we were clearing a drain in a slow sink that was close to the bath tub and toilet, we figured that all of the fixture drains probably joined close by before descending in a common larger drain pipe to the building basement.
So we also ran the nearby tub water to help fill the nearby sluggish drain line as well as to keep the water ram's air charge from backing up backwards out of the tub drain instead of forcing the blockage through to the larger main drain line.
Since the tub drain was a bit slow too, after clearing the sink drain we gave the tub a few air shots to speed up that drain flow as well.
Block the bath tub overflow drain opening before firing the kinetic water ram
We had to hold a wet towel over the tub overflow / vent for this to work, and usually this approach is adequate even if we have to fire the water ram a couple of times.
Some plumbers actually remove the tub overflow drain cover and pull out the tub drain stopper that often is found at this opening too. That will expose the opening of the actual stand pipe that connects the tub overflow drain to the lower drain line under the tub. Working through the opening in the tub itself the plumber stuffs a wet rag into the opening of the vertical overflow drain pipe before firing the kinetic water ram.
Don't Use Higher Pressure than Needed with a Kinetic Water Ram
Watch out: be careful not to pump your kinetic water ram drain opener to a pressure higher than necessary. You can get quite a splash in the face when you fire off the ram if you're not careful.
Worse, in our dentist's office where a chronic clogged drain was later traced to mineral and rust-blocked galvanized drain piping, not only was the kinetic water ram drain clearer useless, in our enthusiasm we blew the trap right off of her bathroom sink. An elated moment of "we fixed the blockage" was followed by an "Oh S***" as the sink full of nasty water flowed out of the vanity base and across the floor of the dental office bathroom.
Keep in mind that the Kinetic Water Ram, nor any other product, plumbing snake, etc. is going to be effective if the cause of your slow or blocked drain is mineral or other hard build-up has lined the drain pipe interior.
How to Use a Kinetic Water Ram in a Double Sink or at a Bath Tub with an Overflow
Reader question: how do I use a kinetic water ram to clear a drain at a double sink? Water just geysers up from the second drain opening when I fire the water ram.
Very helpful and detailed information regarding clogged drains. I plan to rent the Kinetic Water Ram (if Home Depot carries it)you tried out successfully but one issue that was not mentioned in your report. I have the double sink in the kitchen and live alone. I have not been able to successfully plug the 2nd sink drain so I can get full pressure when plunging. Using a plunger, the water keeps coming up the 2nd drain no matter how much weight I put on the plug. The water pressure keeps forcing it to unplug
Any suggestions? Thank you in advance for your suggestions and quality information. - Lori
Reply: tips for plugging the second sink drain opening in a double sink when de-clogging a drain
You can rent a Kinetic Water Ram at typical tool rental centers and perhaps at some Home Depot stores.
Use an adjustable rubber sink drain opening plug: If the water ram tool set is complete, it includes a set of adjustable rubber plugs that can be used to plug nearby drain openings. These plugs work by using a pair of metal washers on the plug top and bottom and a wing nut. Insert the rubber plug into the drain opening of the higher of the two double sinks and tighten the wing nut to snug the plug in the opening.
If your kinetic water ram does not include a rubber plug that will fit and seal the second sink drain in your double sink, such plugs can be purchased at a plumbing supply store.
Then you can run water into the lower sink and fire the kinetic water ram to unblock the drain clog. You might want an assistant to help out by continually pressing down on this second drain plug when you fire the kinetic water ram declogger.
Try a wet rag as a drain plug: But before buying the rubber drain plug try having an assistant simply ball up a wet cloth and using their fist, lean down on the cloth in the second sink drain opening while you place water in the clogged sink and fire the kinetic water ram.
Watch out to hold the wet rag plug tightly, and don't try this operation while wearing dress clothes.
Watch out: for getting splashed (or splashing your assistant) when you fire the water ram. If you are not holding the water ramp and its end-fitting snugly into the drain opening, or if your accomplice is not holding the wet rag snugly in the second drain opening of the double sink, you both may be wet by splash-back. That's what happened to me the first time I tried using this tool.
Watch out: A splash-back from a clogged drain can be more than messy. If someone has previously tried pouring a drain de-clogging chemical down the drain, being splashed, especially in the face and eyes, with a chemical could be very dangerous.
At BLOCKED DRAIN REPAIR METHODS we discuss traditional blocked or slow plumbing drain methods: taking apart the plumbing trap, using a drain cleaner chemical, using a toilet plunger (old faithful works pretty well), and using a plumbing snake (sometimes).
Also see CLOGGED DRAIN DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR where we include blocked drain diagnosis, and see SEWER GAS ODORS and Sewer Line Replacement diagnosing a clogged drain leads to drain line replacement - step by step photo-illustrated guide to drain replacement.
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