Helpful Information: Area Drain Maintenance, Repair, And New Installations

New Sewer & Water Mains, Opinion & Expertise
October 25, 2018

by David Balkan

area drain

Virtually every home will have at least one area drain or yard drain. In most cases, where a home is surrounded by paved or cemented surfaces, there will be multiple drains. That is because paved surfaces cannot absorb rainwater. An area drain will be most  helpful and important for you to have outside the entrance to a basement, or at the bottom of any stairwell. That is where the most rainwater can accumulate during a heavy rain, or a snow melt.

Like many secondary plumbing fixtures or drains, a drain located outside your home working properly may be an after-thought. That may be the situation in your case, until that drain failure results in you getting flooded. Take relief in that most area drain issues are easy to address, but even complicated ones can be addressed within one work day.

clogged area drain
When areas drain are covered or clogged, basement landings can be an entry point for flooding from rainwater

The 5 most common area drain problems

The most common area drain issues can be broken down into 5 categories. Note that none of them is difficult to fix in relation to typical underground drain repair work. What follows is a quick overview of what you may encounter when an area drain does not function properly:

  1. The most common area drain problems stem from a lack of maintenance. That is, simply cleaning off the grating and removing leaves, dirt, and the like. You should consider putting a drain strainer over your existing grating; it will give added protection.
  2. Over time your grating can crack, break, or corrode altogether. A new drain grating costs less than $20.00, a small expenditure. Just make sure to measure 1st for proper sizing, as area drain gratings vary is size and shape.
  3. The sump under the grating can get filled with dirt. This will block off the drain pipe from working properly. Your sump can be cleaned by hand. If the pipe itself is clogged, it can sometimes be washed out using a garden hose. If that fails, call a professional drain cleaner.
  4. The drain sump itself may crack or fall apart. Rebuilding a drain sump is an easy task for a cement mason, maybe taking only a couple of hours.
  5. The drain pipe itself cracks or fails. Because area drain piping is shallow, and has a short run, replacing it is fairly easy for a skilled plumber. A key is to also ensure the original installation was done to code, and worked properly to begin with; yet another reason to hire a licensed plumber.

    area drain
    Simple maintenance and repairs can save you from water damage

What if no area drain exists or is not functioning?

In some areas outside your property, a lack of an area drain can just result in the minor inconvenience of pooling water. This case may apply to paved areas on the side of your home, or in your driveway for instance. However, a non-functioning or non-existent area drain in front of an entrance can be another story altogether. In particular if that entrance is below grade, such as to your basement.

A large volume of water can be present after a heavy snow melt, or rainfall. When that water is flowing down your stairwell where no area drain is present, it can easily flood out your home. That is why a little bit of maintenance, or a low-cost repair can easily outweigh the price of correcting water damage after the fact. So, if you see you have a clogged, covered, or broken area drain, take action now. Call an area drain, yard drain, and trench drain specialist.

There may be locations around your home that should have an area drain, but none was ever installed. Likewise, your existing area drain may never have been installed properly in the first place. If you have recurring water issues, one or the other of these issues may apply to you.

area drain
All area drains should have a trap

Repairing an existing area drain

Repairing an existing a drain outside your home can run the gamut from simply rebuilding the sump under the grating, to replacing the drain pipe connecting it to the house drain. Either of these issues can be handled easily by a professional plumber. If you live in the NYC area, feel free to contact Balkan Sewer And Water Main Service for expert advice and repairs. Repairs to your outside drain can typically be accomplished in a couple of hours, and almost always within one work day.

Regardless of who you call to work on your drain, make sure to get up-front pricing, a written guarantee, and check for proper licensing. Anyone working on your drain line should understand plumbing, local code, and be insured. Why you may ask? As just one example, improper area drain line connections can result in noxious sewer gases escaping in and around your property. Hiring an unskilled, unlicensed, and possibly uninsured individual would leave you with little recourse. See below for some key points to make sure your repaired or new area drain will work properly for decades to come.

Installing a new area drain

When you think about installing a new area drain contact a licensed plumber first. Only a licensed plumber will know if an area drain is legal in your area, or on your existing drain system. Some drain systems are not allowed to take on rain water, these are sanitary only systems. In these cases you may have to install a dry well.

A new area drain requires 6 key components to be successful:

  1. A water tight pit, known as a sump.
  2. A P trap or single vent trap to catch debris and prevent sewer gases from escaping.
  3. Being legally connected to your main house drain.
  4. The use of approved piping materials.
  5. All piping installed must have proper pitch (also known as slope).

    area drain grating cover
    New area drain in a stairwell

Other key points for proper functioning of an area drain

While the above 6 points are vital, there are 3 other things to keep in mind as well:

  1. Every drain in your home must have a trap. An outside drain is no different. Without a trap debris can escape into your main house drain, and clog your whole system.
  2. If the trap on your outside drain is outdoors, if must be deep enough that it does not freeze. A trap virtually always holds water. If that water freezes the drain will not work, and the trap itself can crack and split (just like any pipe with frozen water inside of it).
  3. Install a screen over your area drain to catch leaves and debris from clogging your drain. Most outside drain problems result from a clogged drain grating.

The advantages of hiring a skilled and licensed plumber

All of the good information contained in this post comes from a NYC licensed and insured sewer and drain company. Balkan Sewer And Water Main Service has been in continuous operation for over 65 years. Do not expect a handyman, or unlicensed drain company, to have the same level of knowledge or skills as a dedicated tradesperson. Furthermore, an unlicensed and uninsured individual has no repercussions when they perform shoddy work on your home. But, maybe more importantly, a family run business in operation for many decades is putting something more on the line, their hard fought reputation.

Trust licensed and insured plumbers such as Balkan to take the utmost pride in their work. When you need good advice or expert repairs for an area drain, house sewer, or water service line, contact Team Balkan. The dedicated staff of Balkan are available 7 days a week, and up until 9pm for 7 days a week as well.area drains

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David Balkan

David Balkan is the CEO of Balkan Sewer And Water Main, the largest and most trusted service in New York City. David is extremely active in various NYC plumber organizations being the Chairman of the Subsurface Committee in the Master Plumbers Council, and Vice President of the Subsurface Plumbers Association. In addition David’s expertise is respected by officials of New York City agencies such as the NYC DEP, NYC DOB, and the NYC DOT. He frequently provides valuable input on a variety of industry related matters.

Dave Balkan

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