Your home is equipped with floor drains in the basement, laundry room, and bathroom shower. You might also find one in the garage, or on your patio or driveway. All of these drains are equipped with a trap that works to prevent dirt and debris from clogging them up.
Your floor drain is probably the most overlooked piece of plumbing in your home. When a blockage happens, we usually notice it in the kitchen sink or the toilet, but floor drains hide in plain sight. They don’t require much attention because we never use them. And the only time we notice them is if a toilet, sink or tub overflows.
Where Your Floor Drain is Located
Every home is equipped with a cast iron, stainless steel or PVC floor drain. Some were built into the home as the house was built, others are aftermarket floor drains, like the Sioux Chief adjustable floor drain. Either way, just like your shower floor drain is positioned at the slope of your shower, your home’s floor drain is positioned at the slope, or lowest point, of your basement so that excess water can flow into it with the help of gravity. In older homes, it was built into the basement so that the water flows go into the basement automatically. In newer homes, water goes into the drain through the floor drain.
If your home is equipped with an irrigation system, your drain pipes also have backflow preventers to keep water from flowing back in the opposite direction. This ensures that your drinking water can not be contaminated from backflow. Your drains might also be equipped with an air admittance valve, such as an oatey that allows for proper venting without connecting to a larger venting system and a stack vent.
Basements are the most likely space in your home to take on water because they are below grade (or located below the ground’s surface). Depending on where in Missouri you live, your home may or may not have been built with a basement. In St. Louis County and St. Louis City, just 28% of homes have a basement. In Springfield, Missouri, just 13% of homes have a basement. Clay County in Northeast Kansas City has the largest percentage (62%) of homes with a basement.
If you do have a basement, it might be used for storage, or you may use some or all of it as living quarters, with a playroom, home office, family room, bar, or bedroom. In either case, water damage can have a massive impact on your home and its belongings.
Homes that do not have a basement are called Slab Homes. In these types of homes, the main floor drain is usually located in a bathroom near the toilet, in a garage or in a utility area.
Water damage in homes is an expensive, stressful, and time-consuming endeavor and not something you want to experience if you can help it! The drains in your home’s concrete floor help prevent this from happening. You’ll usually find your basement drain in a utility area, close to your water heater, laundry room and/or furnace – this is the area where moisture is most prevalent in your basement.
How Your Floor Drain Works
Floods can be disastrous, but having an escape route is essential. In any other room of your home, aside from the basement, internal flood waters have somewhere to go – usually across or down with the help of gravity, and away from your home. In a basement, water has nowhere to go. The floor drain in your home captures the overflow from your shower floor drains, kitchen sinks, dishwasher and main or second floor sinks and toilets, tubs, washing machine and water heater. It’s designed to direct water out of your house and into the local sewer storm drain so that the floor of your home stays dry -and to keep standing water out of your home. Your floor drain is critical, because it captures all the water and drains it before it can build up and damage your home.
Just like all the other drains in your house, your floor drain has a P-trap. Water sits in this drain trap to prevent gaseous odors from entering your home. The left side of the trap connects to the plumbing, and the right connects to the sewer. This is the side the P-trap sits on. It’s also equipped with a cleanout plug that allows water to drain past the trap. This plug should always remain in place—without it, noxious sewer gas can enter your home.
If your cleanout plug is missing, it could mean that someone cleaned out the drain and forgot to replace it, or that the bottom of your trap is blocked and the plug was removed to allow water to drain directly into the sewer, instead of running through the P-trap.
You’ll see a protective grill, or drain grate, covering your floor drain. Underneath that grill is a circular drainpipe that contains the P-trap and a cleanout plug.
Odor in Your Basement Drain
Your basement floor drain usually always has a bit of water in it (sitting in the P-trap). If you do notice a bad odor coming from the drain, it’s likely that the drain is dry. Try pouring cool, clean water into the drain. It should be kept filled with water to prevent odors and sewer gas from escaping into your home.
Sometimes, debris from the basement floor can end up in your drainpipe, and over time this can create a buildup that prevents water from moving through and out. Adding water can help clear the clog. Fill a large bucket and slowly pour the water into the drain. Most of it will run through the drainpipe and away from your home, with enough remaining odor left in the trap to block odors from entering the basement.
DIY Tips to Unclog a Blocked Basement Floor Drain
A clogged floor drain can lead to flooding in your basement, so if you do have a buildup, time is of the essence. Here are three DIY tricks you can try to fix a drain clog:
Using a flat-head screwdriver or prybar, remove the floor drain cover. Next, put on a pair of rubber gloves and reach into the drain to remove any large pieces of debris or dirt that you can see. Discard anything you recover from the drain into a trash can (accidentally leaving it on the basement floor will cause it to get pulled right back down into the drain). If you do notice an excess of debris, you might want to purchase a floor drainstrainer to capture these elements that can clog your pipes. You can find them at your local store or here on Amazon.
Once you’ve cleared the debris from the drain, you can use a standard toilet plunger (you probably have in a bathroom), to help remove any additional debris you can’t see inside the drain. Place the cup of the plunger over the drain opening so that it’s completely covered. Give it several strong pumps, pulling up and out with each pump to loosen and free the clog.
If plunging your floor drain doesn’t do the trick, boil a pot of water, and slowly pour it down the basement drain. Let sit for 15-20 minutes to loosen any stuck-in debris and flush it from the drain system.
Soda + Vinegar Mixture
Still no dice? If plunging the drain doesn’t clear the blockage, try pouring about a half cup of baking soda down the drain. You can also use an old toothbrush to coat the sides of the drain with baking powder. Follow this up by pouring about a cup of white vinegar into the drain. The combination should be enough to break up minor clogs quickly (and don’t worry, it won’t create a science experiment in your drainpipe!). It will also help kill bacteria and neutralize any odors. Finally, wash out your floor drain by pouring another pot of boiling water into the drain.
Snake the Drain
If your drain is still backed up after trying the above solution, you can try using a drain snake or auger to pull out the gunk and debris. These can be rented or purchased from your local home improvement store.
NOTE: Overuse of drain cleaners can do more harm than good to your home’s plumbing. The chemicals work because they’re strong. But over time, their strength eats away at your pipes. If you do use them, do so sparingly, and remember to read all of the instructions – not all cleaners work on all types of pipes (i.e., PVCvs. Copper).
If these DIY tricks don’t work, you probably have a severe back up deep within the drainpipes under your home. Your best bet is to schedule a drain cleaning service with a professional plumber like Maplewood Plumbing and Sewer. Our team has been cleaning drains in St. Louis homes for more than 35 years. Our family-owned business prides itself on our solid reputation in the community. Give us a call and see for yourself why our loyal customers won’t use anyone else!
Floor Drain Maintenance
It’s easy to overlook maintaining your basement floor drain. Afterall, you probably don’t see it much, and even when you do, as long as it’s working correctly, you won’t notice it. But this drain provides a critical service to your home, keeping foul odors and contaminated water away from your home. Once a quarter, or at the beginning of each new season, flush your floor drains with clean, cool water, and have your drains inspected and cleaned by a professional plumber at least every 18 months.
If your home isn’t equipped with a sump pump, you may want to consider it, especially if you’ve had flooding or standing water in your basement in the past. Sump pumps detect and collect water that filters into the ground around your foundation and move it away from your home through a series of underground pipes. You can learn more about how sump pumps work and how to have one installed in your basement here. If you have recurring standing water troubles after rainfall, your plumber may also recommend installing area drains.
Maplewood Plumbing and Sewer has been inspecting unclogging floor drains in St. Louis city and county homes for more than 35 years. Our family-owned business prides itself on our solid reputation in the community. Give us a call and see for yourself why our loyal customers won’t use anyone else!
We offer a one-year warranty on all parts and labor excluding washers.
Give us a call at 314-310-4245 or fill out the contact form here to request a bid.