Holiday kitchen drain disasters keep plumbers busy


Aside from the frozen pipes that keep plumbers and septic technicians busy this time of year, kitchen drain disasters associated with holiday feasts account for a bulk of the service calls.

"That's our biggest call this time of year over anything else," said Dave Teeter, co-owner of Action Drain Services.

Teeter has a good idea about the agent most responsible for the clogged kitchen sinks -- potato peelings. Leftovers in general, particularly "stuffings" also top Teeter's list of holiday drain-clogging culprits.

His backup theory is that more men take to the kitchen to help out during the holidays, committing blunders that stop the drain and require professional assistance. He offers the theory in jest, but admits that nine years of experience seem to back it up.

While the food may not present a problem for the a garbage disposal, which minces everything into a sludgy puree, it can stop up the 1-1/2 inch lines that lead from the sink to the three- or four-inch main line out of the residence. Older homes may have even smaller kitchen drains.

Billy Sansom is the office manager for Roto-Rooter, which made residential service calls on Thanksgiving and Christmas last year.

"Too much of anything will clog a disposal line," Sansom said. "Everything has to be sent down with enough water to flush it into the main line."

Teeter recommended water, too.

"Let water run for 30 seconds or a minute after the disposal," Teeter said. "If you don't, it will settle in the line. Periodically, it will harden up and start to cause a backup."

Sansom blames grease for many of the clogs.

"Grease is biggest thing that people put down the drain that they shouldn't," Sansom said.

Roto-Rooter technicians will first check the p-trap beneath the sink. If the blockage has moved beyond the trap, Sansom said he'd send down a small cable to scrape the walls of the pipe. Following that, the protocol is to "flush the system with hot water."

Sansom said customers can expect to pay between $120 and $160 for the repair, but those with a houseful of guests usually are happy just to get the drain fixed.

"It's nice to make a customer as happy as they are on a Christmas or a Thanksgiving," Sansom said, remembering customers who were glad to have the situation cleared up.

Action Drain Services and Roto-Rooter have drain experts on-call 24 hours a day all year long.

To avoid a costly holiday drain problem, it's best to "use your trash can," Teeter said. "Don't be afraid to take it to the curb or you'll be getting a visit from me or someone like me."

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or

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