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The Go-To FAQ for Unclogging Your Drain: An Interview with John Rios of Rios and Sons Plumbing

By John Rios

Please tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

At Rios and Sons we provide a full suite of plumbing services for your home or business. Rios and Sons Plumbing provides both residential and commercial services. Whether you have a leaky faucet, building a new house or business building, Rios and Sons Plumbing is here for you.

At Rios and Sons we put over 35 years of plumbing experience to work for you. With over 35 years of experience serving the Greater San Antonio area, we strive to continue to provide best in class customer service with professional and extremely knowledgeable plumbers to resolve any plumbing issue you may have as soon as possible.

What are some of the biggest pipe and drain issues for homes in Texas?

Over time, there are a few things that can go wrong even with the best of drainage systems. Trees can grow around your drain line, and the roots can lift, push, squeeze, and pull your drain line, causing a whole mess of problems. Parts of texas suffer from expansive soil. As rains come, or don't, the dirt in your yard is heaving up and down on a regular basis.

This can cause the intended fall that the pipe should have (we call it grade) to flatten out or even belly, leading almost inevitably to some sort of clog. That same expansive soil will also be moving your foundation. And as if that weren't bad enough, a few tons of concrete heaving up and down on your pipes certainly isn't doing them any favors. These pipes breaking under the foundation can certainly cause major issues. Nice, big, beautiful trees also cause broken lines for domestic water and sewer lines in your yard. Although they are beautiful to look at, they can cause some serious damage to underground pipes. At Rios and Sons Plumbing, our plumbing technicians have years of experience diagnosing and repairing all types of clogs, blockages and other piping problems.

Can you briefly explain the basics of what a professional does to solve residential drainage issues?

When diagnosing a drainage issue on a residential property, we first start by seeing where the problem is occurring. It could be issues at the plumbing fixture itself. It is important to try and find what fixtures are having the issues to get a better idea where the obstruction may be. Once we determine what fixtures are experiencing the issues, we can check immediate drain lines before going to the bigger main drain and sewer lines.

It is common for someone to think they need to Auger the main sewer lines when they have a slow draining sink or shower. Many times the issue is local and can be resolved relatively easily at the fixture.

If left untreated, what are some examples of how sewer and septic systems can be affected?

The purpose of a septic system is to remove pollutants from wastewater to protect the public health and the environment. Pollutants such as bacteria, viruses, and nitrate threaten the public health. Ammonia, organic matter (measured as BOD), suspended solids, and nutrients threaten streams, rivers, and lakes.

To protect public health and the environment, discharge limits are set and used to evaluate systems to make sure they stay in compliance with those standards.

    System malfunction is associated with improper maintenance or operation. Malfunctioning systems were initially properly designed and installed to match the soil and other conditions on the home lot. Some reasons for a malfunction are:
  • A household water leak or excess water use that overloads the system.
  • Changes in landscaping that paves over, crushes, or damages a portion of the system.
  • Changes in position of downspouts, rain gutters, and paved areas that drain excess water into the area of the yard with the septic system.
  • Failure to pump the septic tank to remove excess sludge and scum.
  • Failure to maintain or resolve any issues may cause drains to carry polluted water to ditches and streams threatening public health and the environment. The property owners may not even know that their system is failing and polluting public waterways.

What should homeowners be more aware of when it comes to their drains?

    Sewer back-ups are a problem facing every city's residents. It might be possible to avoid some of these problems if homeowners are made aware of basic points regarding sewer back-ups and the resulting damage:
  • The city is not automatically liable for resulting damages whenever a sewer backs up. The city is only liable for those damages if the back-up was caused by the city's negligence.
  • Many homeowners insurance policies exclude damage resulting from sewer back- ups. Thus, homeowners often end up looking to the city to pay their damages when their own homeowner's insurer denies their claim.
  • Some homeowners insurance companies do provide sewer backup coverage. Therefore, it is possible for homeowners to protect themselves against this risk.
  • The city doesn't and can't guarantee that its sewers will never back up. A sewer system is not a closed system. Any resident or business that is hooked up to the sewer, dumps waste in it and some of the things dumped into the sewer system can clog the system. Large amounts of grease from restaurants and disposable diapers are two common problems.

There are rules prohibiting dumping of these things into the sewers and cities and plumbers are trying to educate the public on how to avoid these problems. There is no way the city can absolutely prevent these things from happening and is up to the home owners and business owners to do their part to protect their sewer lines which will help to protect The entire system.

Is there anything people can do to help make sure their septic or sewer drainage system is working optimally?

For systems that are properly designed and constructed, it is easy to avoid malfunctions. simple steps should be followed.

Avoid excess water use. Using too much water is the single biggest reason for system malfunction on a septic system. The soil under the septic system must absorb all of the water used in the home, therefore it is important to limit the amount of discharged water. It is also important to space out water use by staggering loads of laundry to one per day and timing showers throughout the day.

Be careful when changing landscaping. The septic system is buried just beneath the ground surface and can be damaged if vehicles drive over or are parked on top of it. Paving over even a portion of the system can damage it, leading to a malfunction. Most importantly, be careful not to direct excess rain water to the area where the septic system is buried. Make sure downspouts and drainage off roofs and paved areas flow to other areas of the home lot.

Install risers and inspection ports. Because the system is buried, it is difficult to inspect to check for problems leading to a malfunction. To facilitate quick and frequent inspection, small inspection ports should be installed at the end of each lateral line.

By extending the inspection ports up to the ground surface they can be easily mowed over, while still providing easy access to check for ponding in a lateral, which is an early warning sign of a malfunction. Risers over the lid of a septic tank make it easy to inspect and pump the septic tank. This is true for city sewer lines as well. Cleanouts installed above the ground high enough not to be damaged by mowers are of great benefit to check main drain lines.

Regular professional inspection. Each year a quick inspection of the lateral lines and main drain lines reveals possible problems. If ponding is observed, first check for excess water use or changes in drainage of rainwater on the lot. Fixing a water leak or moving a downspout may correct the problem. If not, a portion of the field may have to be rested to restore its treatment capacity. Fortunately most counties require the construction of two lateral fields with a valve to switch them, which makes resting a lateral easy at no additional cost.

If this is not the case, additional lateral lines may need to be installed with a valve to allow for resting a portion of the system. Septic tanks should be checked for damage every three years and pumped when needed. Avoid throwing anything other than human waste and toilet paper down toilets can help to avoid major obstructions in sewer and drain lines.

What's the best way for people to contact your company?

The best way to contact Rios and Sons Plumbing is by phone at 210-260-9065 or via our website contact page at riosandsonsplumbing.com.

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About The Author

John Rios works together with his father to manage Rios and Sons Plumbing.

Phone: 210-260-9065

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