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What you'll need:
- Plumber's snake
- Pipe wrench
- Wet/dry vacuum
- Plumber’s tape (optional)
Having a clogged basement floor drain can certainly put a damper on your day. This drain directs water away from your house toward the municipal drain or sewer system. It also helps keep your basement dry and free from standing water. Hair and household gunk commonly cause clogged basement drains that interrupt the drain-to-sewer connection, which can cause big problems for you and your home.
If you have an hour or so to spare, and don't mind getting your hands dirty, you can remove a clog or blockage from your basement floor drain yourself. We’ve got a complete guide on how to snake a basement floor drain to get things moving again.
Preparing to Snake a Basement Floor Drain
Before you begin, it’s helpful to get familiar with the basic parts of a floor drain. Here’s how a basement floor drain works.
In most newer homes, a floor drain guides water toward a collection area where it can be pumped to the outside of a property using a sump pump. But in some older homes, the floor drainage system connects directly to the main sewer system. A basement floor drain is typically made up of the following parts:
A narrow, downward hole; this is the opening of the drain.
A clean-out plug located on the right side. This helps stop debris and critters from entering your sewer system.
A P-trap, which is a U-shaped pipe that holds a small amount of water to keep unpleasant odors at bay.
Remove the Drain Cover
Photo: stigmatize / Adobe Stock
To start, remove the drain cover. This should be easy if the cover is loose. If it's on tight, you may need to use a chisel or screwdriver to pry it off gently. You can also consider finding emergency plumbers if you're working against the clock to prevent basement flooding.
Survey the Pipe
Next, take a peek at what's happening down the drain. Clogs in a basement floor drain can happen in two places: the trap or in the line that is downstream from the drain. Remember that seeing some water in the P-trap is normal—this helps stop sewer smells from entering your home.(Video) Basement Floor Drain Cleaning
Vacuum Out the P-Trap
Photo: Steve / Adobe Stock
Using your shop vacuum, clean out the P-trap. It’s important to only use a wet-dry vacuum as you’ll be sucking out a bit of water along with the clog. This suction will help pull any loose debris and gunk that is caught in the trap.
Remove the Clean-Out Plug
When you’re done vacuuming, reach down to take the cap off of the clean-out plug. If the cap is tight, you can use your chisel or wrench to loosen it.
Snake the Drain
Photo: Hanna Taniukevich / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images
Now, you'll use your snake or auger to clear out the whole area. It's okay if all you have is a manual snake or cable. However, you should know that an electric-powered snake can be more effective because this hands-free method means you'll have more freedom to help the cable down into the pipe for a straight shot. The next step is to guide the snake through your clean-out pipe gently. You should soon feel the resistance of any remaining clog.
Retrieve the Clog Debris
Carefully pull the cable or snake back up to bring up the debris. Deposit the lump into your bucket.
If you’re having trouble retrieving the clog with the snake, there are a few things you can do to help move the process along:
Ensure that you remove as much debris as possible before snaking the drain to allow a clear path for it to move.
Ensure that you have the right size snake for the job. Snakes come in many lengths and diameters. You can consult your local hardware store if you’re unsure of the right snake to purchase.
Verify that you know the proper way to use the snake. If it’s been a while or if it’s your first time, you might want to brush up on your snaking skills to master this clog.(Video) How to use a drain snake
Replace the Plug
Once you've recovered the clog debris, it's time to replace the clean-out-plug cap that you removed earlier. While not necessary, many plumbers recommend wrapping plumber’s or Teflon tape around the clean-out cap before replacing it. This will make it much easier to get the cap off if you need to repeat the process in the future.
Add Water Back
Then, pour some water into your drain to see if the clog is gone. This will also replenish the water reserve in your P-trap that stops sewer gas from seeping into your house.
Replace the Drain Cover
Once you're satisfied with a job well done, put the drain cover back in place. Use a hammer or rubber mallet to secure it to the basement floor if the fit isn't tight.
Tips for Keeping Your Basement Floor Drain Clear
It can be significantly easier (and definitely cleaner) to prevent basement floor drain clogs than to clear them. There are a few simple steps that you can take today to minimize the risk of clogging later. These tips include:
Use less soap when doing laundry: This minimizes the risk of soap scum buildup in your pipes.
Avoid pouring grease and oil down your drains: Oil and grease solidify in your drain pipes, causing stubborn blockages.
Install a drain cover: Drain covers prevent large objects and hair from traveling in your drain pipes.
Keep your basement clean: Keep your basement floor drain clear of any dirt and debris that could be swept into it.
Clean your drains regularly: You can take proactive steps to clear your drains regularly to avoid any potential clogs.
Taking these proactive steps will ensure that your basement floor drain doesn’t clog up and leave you standing in water.
DIY vs. Hiring a Pro
If you're trying to save a few bucks by snaking a basement drain clog on your own, consider everything that's needed to get the job done. The average professional drain cleaning cost lands at $220 if you hire a local drain cleaning service, but you might get away with paying as little as $5 for a snake at the hardware store if you already have all of the other materials in your home for a minor clog.
For more serious clogs, you'll need to get between the drain and the floor using an electric snake or auger. Renting an electric drain cleaner or auger will be a minimum of $100. If you want to purchase an auger, prices range from $250 to $3,250.
With so many affordable drain cleaning companies around, most people would rather just pay a pro to take care of the job the right way instead of playing guessing games with rented equipment they've never used before. The other benefit of hiring a professional drain cleaner is that they can provide insights into preventing future clogs using basement waterproofing methods and drain cleaning.
Scott Dylan Westerlund contributed to this piece.
Frequently Asked Questions
Water leaking through your basement floor is a good sign of a clogged drain, but another sign of a clogged basement floor drain can include unpleasant odors coming from the drain. Also, hearing gurgling noises when water drains from the basement or having other plumbing fixtures (like toilets or other drains) backing up is a good indicator.
There are a few reasons your snake won’t go down the floor drain. One common reason is a large obstruction in the drain that is causing a blockage. You can remove any debris you see in the drain before trying to snake it. In addition, the snake might not be long enough to reach the clog, or it might be the wrong diameter.
There are many things that could cause your basement floor drain to back up. One significant cause of a drainage backup is flushing non-flushable items, such as wipes, paper towels, and facial tissue. Other causes of a backed-up basement floor drain include tree roots impeding the drain pipe or an accumulation of hair, oil, and grease.
Try a Plunger: A minor clog should clear after a few strong pumps with a plunger. Place the plunger cup so it completely covers the drain opening, and then go for it! Baking Soda & Vinegar: Plunger didn't do the trick? Try pouring baking soda down the drain, then chase it with a healthy amount of white vinegar.How do you unclog a basement floor drain with a snake? ›
- Remove the cover from the drain. ...
- Look inside the drain. ...
- Use the shop vacuum to suck out dirt, gunk and and water from the P-trap.
- Remove the cap from the clean-out plug. ...
- Insert the tip of the snake or plumber's auger into the clean-out pipe. ...
- Drive the tip of the auger or snake down into the pipe.
Try a Plunger: A minor clog should clear after a few strong pumps with a plunger. Place the plunger cup so it completely covers the drain opening, and then go for it! Baking Soda & Vinegar: Plunger didn't do the trick? Try pouring baking soda down the drain, then chase it with a healthy amount of white vinegar.How do you snake a basement cleanout? ›
- Locate the main line clean out and remove the cap. ...
- Position the drain snake as close as possible to the cleanout. ...
- Put on a pair of leather gloves that will not get grabbed by the machine while it's turning. ...
- Pull the head of the cable out and put it into the cleanout.
If the water is coming up through floor drains or sink drains in the basement, then the problem is often water backing up from the municipal sanitary sewer system. During heavy rains, combined sewer systems can become overwhelmed with water. This can cause sewer water to back up in the system and sometimes into homes.Can I snake a basement floor drain? ›
Snake the Drain
It's okay if all you have is a manual snake or cable. However, you should know that an electric-powered snake can be more effective because this hands-free method means you'll have more freedom to help the cable down into the pipe for a straight shot.
Basement Floor Drain Backing up: Water
The cause of water backing up in your basement drain could be due to the backing up of a washtub basin or a washing machine, tree roots in the drain line, pipe deterioration, or the flushing of improper objects.
The floor drain is considered a sanitary fixture. That means it functions just like a toilet or sink or shower. It has a trap inside of it just as those items do, and it holds water to seal away any foul odors trying to get into your basement.How do I know if my basement floor drain is clogged? ›
The most telltale sign of a main line sewer drain clog is water backing up out of the basement floor. Gurgling and bubbling toilets are often a strong sign of a clog as well.How do you unclog a concrete drain? ›
Acid. It is also possible to dissolve concrete with acid, allowing the substance to soften and allow the backed-up water and debris to start to flow through. Pour hydrochloric acid (sometimes also known as muriatic acid) into the clogged drain and leaving it for between two and three hours.
What's the problem? Failure to tighten the thumbscrew is a common reason behind drain snakes that are not working. You must make sure that the thumbscrew that secures the cable inside the drum or handle is securely tightened. If it is not, the cable will not rotate at all when you twist the handle.Can I snake my own drain? ›
For smaller clogs, snaking your own drain is possible. Routine, minor sink clogs from hairballs or food remnants are typically located in the U-shaped trap directly below the sink or only a few feet deeper in the drainpipe. They may be cleared by using a light-gauge, hand-operated auger.Is it normal for a basement floor drain to have water in it? ›
Finding standing water in your basement floor drain might be a shocking experience. It's more common than people think, and many factors can cause the problem. The drain itself may be the prime cause, but problems that are not easily seen, such as cracks and condensation, can worsen the situation.How do you fix an overflowing floor drain? ›
Common Household Solution
Pour a combination of vinegar and baking soda down the drain line to break up the residue. After about 15 minutes, pour hot water down the drain line to remove the remaining mixture.
- Check the Ceiling for Leaks. ...
- Monitor the Water Meter. ...
- Leaking Underfloor Heating. ...
- Excess Groundwater or Rising Water Table. ...
- Excess Water Coming in From Doors and Windows. ...
- Clogged or Broken Drains. ...
- Clogged Gutters or Poor Drainage.
There are some clogs that are too dense for a hand drain snake. If this is the case, you'll have to either rent a power auger or get a professional plumber's help.Do basement floor drains have P traps? ›
You see, floor drains have one of those U-shaped P-trap pipes just like your bathroom sink drain. That U-shaped pipe is designed to hold water, which stands in the pipe and prevents sewer gases from coming up through the drain. If you smell sewer gas, grab a bucket of water and start pouring it into the floor drain.