Practical Tips on Unclogging Outdoor Drain Pipes

Article by Emily Kahn

Every time it rains or snow melts, some properties have a tendency to flood. This can potentially cause a lot of damage that is expensive to remedy. Many homeowners have outside drains that are designed to effectively drain excess water away from the house and outside concrete structures towards the community’s storm or sewer system openings typically found on the nearby street.

The Dangers of a Clogged Outdoor Drainage Pipe or System

Sometimes, these drains become clogged and the property could be flooded with the excess water that could damage the yard, driveway or even the home itself. There are a number of reasons why this situation could occur. There are some practical tips on unclogging outdoor drain pipes that homeowners should read before attempting to fix this property issue.

How to Find Your Home’s Outside Drain Pipes

If the yard becomes flooded or your basement or lower level of your home has backed up sewer or water seeping in, it is imperative to quickly locate the outside drainage system inspection and clean-out portals. These entryway drain ports are often found somewhere near the house or garage. There could also be one or more of these portals farther out in the yard either near the driveway or out towards where the main storm system drains are located.

Practical Tips on Unclogging Outdoor Drain Pipes & Portals

To unclog an outdoor drain pipe, take along a plastic trash bag to put any found debris that is likely to be the source of the clog. Put on protective gloves, and search for the outdoor drainage pipes that may have clogged due to some sort of outside debris. This debris could be fallen leaves, excess dirt or mud, pebbles or discarded trash. If a grate or screen is found over the drain entryway portal, carefully remove it and clean the item.

Then, it is necessary to carefully scoop out and clear any noticeable debris blocking the portal. It may be dark and hard to see, so use a flashlight to properly see inside the drain.

If the drain portals are not easily located, it may be possible to get this information from a plumber or by calling your local water/sewage company that could have a record of these portals.

Flush Out the Drains with Clear Water Using a Garden Hose

After any debris found at the entrance to an outside drain pipe is cleared away, it will be necessary to flush out the drains with clear water. The homeowner should use a garden hose, and the hose should be situated at the entrance of the drain or slightly inside if possible. Run the water and watch to see if it runs clear at the end portal location. Any debris, dirt or other items should be pushed through the drain as well. If clear water is quickly running through the drain and out the other end, the problem is likely resolved. If not, there could be another issue that is affecting the drain that will need further investigation.

Investigate Other Common Reasons for Clogged Outside Drain Pipes

If the outside drain pipe is not cleared after flushing water through it, there may be another reason for the blockage. There are a number of common reasons for clogged outdoor drainage pipes and systems that should be investigated. A common culprit is a root invasion from nearby trees or other living shrubs or large plants.

As a tree or shrub grows, it will send its roots farther down into the ground in search of a water source. These roots often extend towards this type of drain in order to get access to the necessary water that is needed for life. These roots can wrap around a drain pipe in the ground, and this could damage the pipe itself by causing it to break. If there are trees on your property anywhere in the vicinity of your outside drainage pipes, this could be the cause.

Remember that these roots could cause a problem anywhere that the drain is located in its path towards the runoff water location or storm system portal points. This type of problem is usually a more serious situation that often requires the assistance of a trained plumber or sewer contractor that is familiar with this type of issue and will have the necessary tools and equipment to fix the problem.

Other Methods to Clear an Outdoor Drainage Pipe

It might be possible to fix an outdoor drainage pipe clog with the proper equipment. If there are no obvious trees or larger shrubs present anywhere close to your outdoor drain entryway portals and flushing the system doesn’t work, there are other methods to clear these pipes.

Plumbers will have the necessary drain snakes, clog detecting equipment, powerful hydro-jet hoses and other plumbing equipment or tools sometimes necessary to clear a particularly stubborn or larger clog somewhere in the line. Hydro-jet hoses use high-pressure water to help break loose the clog material and push it either backward or forward through the storm system, water or sewer lines.

These items are sometimes available to rent at local hardware stores if a homeowner has some experience with this equipment. Otherwise, an experienced plumber should be called to perform this advanced type of work. Other reasons for this type of clog could include a breakage somewhere in the drainage system pipes.

Often, there is a combination of debris buildup, a pipe breakage and possible tree root involvement. If a tree was cut down and removed from the property at some point, there could be roots still present underground. If the pipe has been damaged or broken, it will be necessary to repair or replace the damaged item.

Final Tips When Dealing with an Outside Drain Problem

Expert plumbing tips to consider when dealing with any kind of outside drain or sprinkler system problem include:

  • Avoid Using Powerful Drain Chemicals as These Pipes Often Run Directly Into a Public Storm Drainage System
  • Great Caution Should be Used When Inserting Anything Into a Possibly Broken or Fragile Drain Pipe – Older Systems Are Often Made with Clay Pipes or Other Material Easier to Damage
  • Consider the Possibility of Frozen Pipes
  • Replace Drain Covers & Screens with Better Ones
  • It May be Necessary to Put in a Larger Pipe to Eliminate Drain Problems in the Future

Outdoor drain pipes need the proper maintenance and sometimes professional plumbing services to ensure proper outside water drainage.

Thanks to Emily Kahn for writing this helpful article!


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About the Author:

Amanda has lived in the Des Moines area since 1999, where she and her husband have bought and sold a handful of homes over the years, including a recent flip. Amanda enjoys writing, obsesses about personal finance and is fond of looking at houses. She loves sharing useful tips and info to make life easier for anyone wanting to buy or sell a home. In her spare time, Amanda cherishes time with her family, volunteers with IHYC, gardens, hikes, and practices TaeKwonDo. You can read more of her writing at whywemoney.com