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Thread: Looking for tips on using a powered drain snake.

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member itguy's Avatar
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    Default Looking for tips on using a powered drain snake.

    Good Day,

    I’m looking for some tips on using a drain snake. We have a 4” clean out on the outside of the building that a local plumber has used to clear some roots about 60’ down the 4” PVC line. The plumber believes that roots are entering into the line at the city tap junction (since the line is PVC all the way and trees are out by the street near the tap). We have been having a clog about every 4-6 weeks with debris getting hung up at the growing roots. The city of Atlanta may take months to investigate the tap, so my employer plans to purchase a 75’x1/2” powered snake to deal with the clog on an ongoing basis.

    The posts on powered snake use have proved informative and though all evidence points to the fact that it should be left to the pros, my employer is going to “damn the torpedoes”.

    I plan to measure off and mark the snake with a sharpie before starting to help understand where the clog is located and to know where I am in the line.

    Our machine will have multiple cutters (2" Side Cutter Blade, 1-1/2" U-Cutter) but not a power feed. I think the plumber only used a 1-1/2” U cutter during his work. Logic tells me that starting small, removing what you can, and then going to the larger cutter for a second snake pass, attempting to open the line up as much as possible, may be prudent and lessen the chance of a larger cutter getting hung up.

    I think I need to be really concerned with keeping the end of the snake from entering the main line at the street. I would think that it would be really easy to get it hung up at that junction. The entire run of the line is under concrete and brick and a stuck snake would be a nightmare. Not being a professional, is this a valid concern and are there any tips that I can undertake to lessen the chance of having a snake get hung up?

    I plan to take it slow, position the machine right next to the clean out to lessen exposed cable, and to let the machine do its’ job by not forcing things. If I’m lucky, after doing it three dozen times I may move beyond the incompetent stage.

    Thank you in advance for any words of wisdom.

    (any wisdom on getting a municipality to inspect a tap that a professional deems the problem would be appreciated as well.)

    Thanks,
    ed

  2. #2
    Plumber krow's Avatar
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    In my area, once you hit city property, the drain line changes to 6". I suspect Atlanta has the same, but its good to know for sure.I usually use the largest cutter that will fit the cleanout, but I suppose starting out small and increasing it may lessen the chance of binding. In all probability, if a 4" cutter can't get through, then you probably have bigger issues (usually a partial collapse of the drain line)

  3. #3
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    You can HURT yourself using a large machine without experience. You have to "sense" when the cable may be snagged and starting to kink, because the momentum of the drum with 100 pounds of cable on it will turn several more revoutions even after you let off the pedal. You can end up with cable wound around your arm or your neck!!!

  4. #4
    Plumber Winslow's Avatar
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    Exactly what in your present job description gives your employer the idea you can safely do this, other than the fact he is saving money. A snake is a serious tool that requires training and experience. It's not a "damn the torpedoes" type of tool, it is a very serious hazard you are undertaking. If your employer is that determined to have you do it then you need to demand he sends you to a professional training course. Even then I would advise against it. Personally I would let him fire me for refusing such a fool hardy task, it would show you're future employer how much good sense you have. Good luck.

  5. #5
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default snake

    There is NO good 1/2" snake that will clear a 3" or larger drain. The smallest I would use would be a 3/4" and they can be very hazardous if not used carefully. Using an undersized snake can create more problems than it solves, including a broken finger or wrist. I use the LARGEST cutter first, and then downsize if it cannot get through the line to clear it. Even the worst root intrusion will usually last several months between snakings if it is done correctly. A 2" cutter, in anything other than a 2" line, is NOT a "correct" snaking of the line.

  6. #6
    In the Trades ilya's Avatar
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    hj is right, as usual. I rented one for my house, and it was like wrestling a steel python. Twice it partialy wrapped around my wrist, and that momentum is NOT easy to stop. It's easy to read this and think you know what I mean, but finding out the hard way could maim you for life. It's hard to say "no" to your boss, but easier than losing a limb.
    not a licensed plumber

  7. #7
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Besides damage to your body, you can damage the machine. The cables/snakes for these machines are expensive and I have seen "expert" plumbers destroy them the first time they are used, (and in one case before he even got it into the machine's drum). It is like the company back in Chicago which needed many, many holes drilled in the concrete floors of a building. They decided it would be cheaper to buy the drill and do it themselves. After discovering that their workers were only getting a couple of holes per $600.00 drill bit, they sold the machine and hired a professional driller to finish the job.

  8. #8
    In the Trades dave36's Avatar
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    Do not start the power drain snake until you actually need to power to move the snake further down the drain. Once you have cleared the clog, you will be able to hear it, turn off machine immediately after this.

  9. #9
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Since he posted this about 2 years ago, he has either become proficient in using it, or it maimed and/or killed him.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

  10. #10
    In the Trades dave36's Avatar
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    Consider using a manual snake, it is much less dangerous. Another option is using a power snake that hooks up the a drill. Make sure that the snake is off before inserting it into the drain.

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