How We Resolve Your Blocked Toilet

First Signs of Blocked Toilet Trouble

Caroma bathrooom

Presenting Problem

The first sign of toilet trouble is that something unusual happens.

Gurgling Sound
You'll flush the toilet, you just might hear a little bit of gurgling coming out of it. You might not even be certain, "Did something just gurgle?  Maybe an unusual sound was coming out near the bath.

A Rise In Water Level
Sometimes you'll flush and the toilet might raise a bit more than normal, and then really suck out as well.

Bubbling In The Toilet When The Shower is On
Sometimes you can be showering and then you hear some bubbles coming out of the toilet.

The Real Issue

What Causes the Sound?

It's like the different fixtures will start interacting with each other and talking to each other. This happens because they're not working the way they're intended. Air is coming out where it's not meant to, or water is getting held up and then sucked out.

Why Does This Happen?

When water goes down a drain, it takes air with it. In a free flowing system everything is balanced. Usually the bottom 50% of a pipe will be water and the top 50% will be air, so the water moves along. When there's a blockage, the pipe completely fills with a mass of water that has nowhere to go.

It's like putting your finger on the end of a straw that's in water. You can lift the straw, and the suction holds the water in the straw. It is forces like this that can produce strange sounds and unusual smells. This alerts you that something is not working as it is meant to.

Why You Need To Act Immediately

By the time you start to notice strange noises or smells, you have probably had a problem for three days to a week already. Your bathroom might be in the middle of your house. The blockage might be in your backyard which can be 20m away in underground pipes. The problem may start at a distance and build up until you're aware of it in the house. When you're aware of it, the issue may already be significant.

For this reason, it is very important not to second guess yourself. Call in a plumber. Blocked toilet issues can be very stressful if you have people coming over. Avoid the drama and act as soon as you are aware that something is wrong.

How We Investigate The Cause of a Blocked Toilet?

Leaking sink pipe maintenance plumber Thornbury

Investigation Steps

Find The Boundary Trap

Our first step is to find what is called the Boundary Trap. This is the main shaft that drops down to connect to the council drain. Plumbers have special access  to the city plumbing maps. They show where all the pipes run in the streets and throughout the neighbourhood.

We check that point first, because if you think you've got a blocked basin or toilet, there's no point trying to unblock the basin when the problem may be way down the backyard. So we start from the lowest point and work upwards from there.

Blocked drains or sewers can be caused by the drains themselves being defective. They could have been installed incorrectly from the start. A quick check will tell us if the pipes leading to and from the Boundary Trap are clear.

Checking The Gully Traps
Once we are satisfied that the Boundary Trap is all good, we then move to the gully traps or overflow gullies.  This might be a grate under a garden tap, or there may be a concrete gully. We check whether the water levels in these are unusually high. They always contain water in much the same way as the U-bend under your kitchen sink.

A little bit of water normally sits in there, but if it's blocked that water level might come up towards the grate. Sometimes you go down the side of the house and it is already overflowing. There can be toilet paper already on the ground, and people are unaware because they never go down that side. A scene like that is evidence of a blockage.

It's a process of elimination. Step by step we work through the options to try to identify which section has the problem.

Blockage At The Fixture

Once you've ruled out the drainage system you get back to the fixture. It can be that a mass of paper is stuck in your toilet. That might simply need plunging with a commercial grade plunger. Generally though, if drains are all showing weird signs, it's a likely that there's a blockage further down the line.

All The Same Drainage
There is a common belief that different parts of the house drain into different systems. People don't pee in the shower because they think it doesn't go to the same place as the toilet, but it does. Everything is connected. Your dishwasher, washing machine, shower, basin, laundry trough, toilets and your kitchen sink are all part of the sewer system. Any drain in your house goes to the same council sewer system.

 

Tools & Techniques For Clearing A Blocked Toilet or Drain

blocked toilet clearing equipment

Once we've identified the problem we have specialist tools to clear the blockage.

Specialist Plumber Tools

Large Cutting Spinning Cable

We have a heavy duty cable, which is about 25 mm in diameter, with a cutting head on it. This cable spins as we feed it down a drain access point. It comes in four metre segments and we keep adding lengths as we need them. Maybe 10m or 15m down the drain, we start to feel a bit of resistance. This is where the cutting head starts to cut through a big paper mass, or maybe its a foreign object that a child has posted, or it could be tree roots that have grown into the drain. As the cable cuts through and the blockage clears, the water can absolutely let rip. It's like pulling a plug on a big bath full of water.

Smaller Unblocking Cable

Sometimes it could be the pipe from the sink to the main drain that becomes blocked. We've got a much smaller cutting cable we can send down the drain to clear any of those blockages. Perhaps the shower is slow to drain because it is blocked with hair, we use commercial grade plungers to give it a good push and clean it out.

Waterproof Camera

Seeing the problem
Once we've cleared a blockage, particularly in a drain, we want to know the cause. We send our camera down that drain. Its a high tech, self-levelling, colour camera that can record with audio. We can send that down about 60 metres. You will often see the pipes are dislodged. Instead of two circles lining up, they're a little bit offset. Maybe there's a bit of a lip at the bottom where things are getting caught. It has to be fixed because it will keep creating blockages over time.

Locating the problem
We can tell from the length of the cable which section of pipe needs to be dug up for repair. We can also turn on the camera's sensor function. It emits a sonar signal through the ground and so helps to narrow down exactly where the repair is needed. This saves a lot of time and money because we have precise information right from the start.

What Does It Cost To Unblock A Toilet?

Local-Expert-Plumbing-Northern-Suburbs

Getting A Quote

The rates vary depending on how long it takes and what equipment we'll need. Once the initial problem is addressed we can quote the repair if needed. You can think about it or get another quote or give us the go ahead. If the issue involves underground pipes that need repair, access will dictate how much time is needed and the cost of that repair.

Variables

Access for the excavator
The size of the quote depends on the volume of earth that needs to be moved and what the access is like for our excavator. Drains are pretty deep, generally somewhere between half to 2-3  metres. Imagine digging a trench, say three metres long, a metre and a half deep and a half metre wide. You'll be there a week, at best. It's just not efficient. An excavator could probably dig that in about two hours. Based on the quantity of earth to move, we decide if we will hand dig, or if we'll need to dig with a machine.

Awkward placement
Sometimes the position of a pipe needing repair can be too awkward to allow access for the excavator. In these cases, we have no alternative but to hand dig. We will carefully talk through these issues so you have a full understanding of the issues and the proposed solution.

Who Handles The Clean-up After A Block Toilet?

Gardening tools and garden gloves lying on brick paving

Resolving The Scene

The clean-up after a blocked toilet is handled case by case. Here's your options.

Cheapest Option
Professional plumbers are one of the most expensive trades. It doesn't make a lot of sense to be paying the plumber to clean up after a sewerage spill. If you can stomach it, you would put on gloves and a mask, get some bags and scrape it all up and dispose of it. This might only take a couple of minutes.

Plumber Assisted
We do assist with cleaning where it is appropriate and the job requires it. Other times, if the blockage is in the back corner of the property, the situation may be managed with a bit of hosing down and airing out. Perhaps turning over the soil will finish the task. It is usually pretty clear what needs to happen and who will be up for that job.

How To Avoid Having A Blocked Toilet

Modern toilet installation

Invest In Quality Appliances

A toilet is a piece of equipment that has a lot of use over many years. If you invest in quality, you can expect longer wear and less problems. Buy Australian made quality brands and avoid the cheaper brands. It is tempting to cut expenses in the middle of an expensive renovation but we recommend you don't do that when it comes to buying a toilet. The cheaper initial purchase can cause you maintenance problems and easily cost more money in the long term.