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By Thomas A. Westerkamp
Plumbing & Restrooms Article Use Policy
Preventive maintenance (PM) as a component of drain cleaning is most effective when technicians continually evaluate the results. Adjusting the frequency of maintenance tasks, methods, and products used is essential for balancing the ever-changing number of occupants and usage.
Managers can use PM to head off clogged drains with excellent results by applying three tools: familiarity with old and updated drain systems; use of camera and other non-destructive evaluation technology; and the system's history.
A technician's first line of defense is familiarity with piping-system layouts and location of traps and cleanout access points. A backed-up toilet or sink might be due to a blockage elsewhere in the system, so knowing the flow direction, as well as likely locations of blockages and cleanouts, can be invaluable when time is critical.
Also, knowing the sizes of various vertical and horizontal components — 4-inch drains are for toilets, 2-inch drains are for tubs and showers, 1 1/2-inch drains are sinks, long-radius elbows are drains, and regular elbows and tees are vents — helps technicians troubleshoot the problem.
Using video technology is a proven tactic for discovering whether a blockage exists and, if so, its exact location in a riser or lateral run. The locator system on the video camera's head shows on screen the distance into the pipeline and the depth of the head is when it reaches the blockage. The image also shows whether the culprit is roots, grease, or other solid objects.
If the piping is divided into segments and identified separately, the system's repair history will identify segments that have had the most blockages, as well as where the use of rodding or hydrojetting equipment is likely to have the best effect. By reviewing the saved video of previous camera inspections to determine the causes of previous blockages, a technician can bring the right rodding attachments to the job to clear the drain quickly.
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