If you've ever encountered problems with your sink's drain, you've probably heard the term "P-trap" thrown around here and there. While the P-trap is a simple device, few homeowners understand how it works and why it matters. Here's a quick overview of P-traps that you can reference when sink-related plumbing issues arise.
What Is a P-Trap in Plain English?
In a nutshell, a P-trap is a U-shaped bend in the waste pipe that connects a sink's drain to a home's septic tank or to a municipal sewer system. Under normal circumstances, P-traps always contain a certain amount of water much like the trapway of a toilet.
Why Are P-Traps So Important?
The most critical task of the P-trap is to prevent noxious gases such as methane from making their way into a home. P-traps also allow homeowners to quickly and easily recover small items that fall down the drain. Long story short, P-traps are an integral part of responsible modern plumbing design.
P-Trap Problems You're Likely to Encounter
By far the most common issue associated with P-traps is the accumulation of debris in the bend. Over time, things like hair, food, grease and mineral deposits build up and reduce the diameter of the drain pipe. Eventually, the drain will clog up and have to be thoroughly cleaned out.
The other big problem with P-traps is that they can eventually vent sewer gases into a living area. This usually occurs because the water in the P-trap evaporates over the course of several weeks and isn't around to capture expanding gases. Fortunately, this problem can be remedied by periodically running water through drains that are seldom used.
3 P-Trap Cleaning Techniques
If you have a sink that's draining slowly, the simplest way to deal with the problem is by running a drain cleaner through the pipes. Drain cleaners attack and destroy grease or mineral deposits on the walls of a pipe to increase water flow through the P-trap assembly.
Another great way to deal with a fully or partially clogged drain is running a "snake" through the conduit to dislodge obstructions. Snakes are simply flexible cables that are inserted into drains for the purposes of scraping pipe walls. Good snakes have a handle on them that allow users to rotate the cable to grind off deposits.
If a chemical cleaner or a snake won't clear a clogged pipe, physically removing the P-trap and cleaning it by hand is the only solution. Once removed, P-traps should be scoured thoroughly to ensure that waste water flows through efficiently. Care must be taken when reinstalling the P-trap to guarantee that no seals or PVC welds leak.
What to Do When P-Trap Problems Arise
When drainage issues plague a sink in your home, it's likely that a P-trap problem is to blame. Bringing in an a local Denver plumber to assess and rectify the situation is highly recommended. Doing so will save you time and money when all is said and done.