Let’s start with the kitchen. There is not a lot of difference between kitchen and bathroom drains, so many of the steps you must take are the same. However, there are some common sense points you should keep in mind.
First, if you are dealing with a double sink, you will need to plug one of the sinks while you plunge the other to avoid simply moving the water back and forth between sinks. Also, keep in mind that kitchen sinks move and hold a lot more water than bathroom ones.
Make sure you have a large receptacle underneath the trap to catch water. Last, remove the trap very slowly, moving it the smallest distance possible. This will allow you to re-tighten it and stop the flow of water when your bucket or bowl beneath it gets full. It may take several rounds of loosening, tightening, and emptying before you lose all of the standing water. Once the water has been removed, remove the p-trap and look for clogs.
A clogged garbage disposal will most likely be stuck fast and immovable. If your disposal has a reset button (most do) you can reset the motor. See if that will get things moving again. If that does not help, or if there is no reset key, you should try moving the disposal manually. You will need an allen wrench: an L shaped tool with a hexagonal shaped end, sometimes called a hex key. There is a shaft on the bottom of the unit; you can fit the wrench into the shaft and move it back and forth a couple of times. That is often enough to get things moving again. After removing the wrench, try the disposal to see if it is working again.
If it still won’t move, you can actually look for debris in the disposal. Always remember to turn off the breaker to avoid accidents, then grab a flashlight and look for any foreign objects. The needle nose pliers are the perfect tool to remove anything that does not belong.
If it is still jammed, it is time for the help of a professional. Let them know what you have done, so they don’t repeat those steps. It will save them time, and hopefully it will save you precious labor fees.
The thought of an entire home that is not draining is daunting. This is most likely an urgent situation that calls for a local plumber. There are some preliminary steps you can take and hopefully shave off some of the formidable costs.
You need to determine if you are connected to a sewer system. You can look at your latest water bill to see if there is a charge for the sewer; you can ask your neighbor- odds are they will have the same system that you do; or you could look in your yard or street for a manhole- a sign of a sewer system. A clean out can be another sign that you are connected to a sewer system. Search the perimeter of your home for one. A clean out is an exterior pipe with a large plug. The plug can be removed and provide a way in to the sewer pipe. Look carefully, they can be difficult to spot.
A Temporary Solution
You can possibly remove the cap of a clean out and circumvent a disastrous flood in the house. If you choose to do this, proceed with caution. There may be a houseful of backed up pressure beneath that cap. Move slowly, a full line could cause a spray of backup when you make the last few twists while removing the cap.
Once the cap is removed, assess your situation. A clog beyond the clean out will allow you minimal use of your plumbing. Keep in mind that, without the plug, your waste water will be draining into your yard. This could help you avoid the damage that could occur with the buildup of pressure in the pipes of the home. It is not an ideal solution, but may buy you some time while you wait for help, perhaps until regular business hours to avoid the high fees associated with emergency calls.
Armed with a little knowledge, you may be able to solve some of the minor plumbing troubles associated with clogged drains. At the very least, you may eliminate a few of the first steps for a professional and save yourself at least a portion of the $100 plus fees a plumber could charge.
If the problem has gone beyond the simple issues discussed here then you might want to read a little more about the dangers of allowing the drainage to get out of hand. A flooded basement is usually a serious problem that must be dealt with immediately. At the very least make an effort to find out what plumbing companies in the area are considered trustworthy by friends and neighbors.