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DIY roof drain cleaning and unclogging

Properly installed roof drains protect your property from rain, melting snow, and other weather conditions Mother Nature sends in your direction. But like most installations, it requires regular maintenance to get the job done.

The most common fix you’ll likely have to perform is unclogging. Over time, leaves and other debris can collect in the drain, causing water to back up on the roof, leading to damaging leakage. In the most extreme cases, standing water can even cause a roof collapse. So, it’s best to keep the drain debris-free. We’ll show you how using three different methods.

3 Ways to Unclog Your Roof Drain

1. Do an Inspection

After clearing away any debris from the outside of the drain, you’ll want to take a look inside to be sure there’s not another underlying problem (you’re already up there, so you may as well). Carefully unscrew the cover and shine your flashlight inside.

There could be one large obstruction hindering water flow that can be removed with a gloved hand; or, there may be an accumulation of leaves and gunk you may be able to remove with a wet vac or pipe brush. If that doesn’t do the trick, move on to step two.

It’s possible that small critters or birds could be the culprit. Your drain may be an ideal home as it’s secluded and free from many predators—plus, accumulated leaves make a nice nest. For health and safety reasons, it’s not recommended that you try to remove them yourself; call in a professional who can remove them safely and humanely.

2. Snake the Drain

Most debris accumulation should be able to be cleared with a simple drain snake. Just feed the snake into the drain until you feel the resistance from the clog. Begin rotating the snake to break it up, continuing to feed the snake down to force the clog toward the outlet pipe. If the clog is particularly thick, you may need to repeat this process a few times.

If you have a power auger (or intend to rent one from a hardware store), you can also try that at this step. One word of caution: keep the pressure setting low otherwise you could cause a crack in the pipe, turning a simple clog into a costly repair.

3. Hose it Down

Water pressure is a powerful thing! Another method is to feed your garden hose down the drain, again until you feel the resistance from the clog. Then, turn the hose on full power to push the clog to the drainage outlet.

If the clog is particularly thick, the water you’re putting into the drain may build up and come back out the top; however, it shouldn’t take long for the pressure of the water, and the buildup of water on top of the clog, to force it out.

For an even more thorough clearing, hydro-jetting is a worthwhile cost if you have difficulty reaching a hose to your roof.

Seek Professional Help

There are other removal methods, from blow bags to sewer jetters. However, due to the likelihood of cracking the pipes and causing further damage, we recommend bringing in the professionals—they have seen and done it all when it comes to clogged drains.

Plus, if you’ve attempted the method above to no avail, it’s possible that the problem is not a clog at all, but rather improperly installed or cracked pipes. This can weaken water pressure and reduces drainage speeds. Since you will not be able to locate cracks on your own, that’s when it’s time to call in a professional.

One last suggestion: Unclogging a roof drain is not a chore for the kids. Not only does it involve climbing a ladder, there could be electrical wires near the roof or danger from nesting animals. Instead, make cleaning the drain a regular part of your routine, especially in the autumn when most leaf accumulation happens.

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Topics: Home Plumbing, Drain Cleaning and Repair