Everything You Need to Know About Home Plumbing Traps
When you hear the word “trap,” it might make you think of a scene from an action movie or maybe even a method for catching unwanted animals. However, the trap also refers to an important part of your home’s plumbing system.
Unless you dig around under sinks or have done some DIY plumbing work, you may not be familiar with what a trap does. Like many areas in plumbing, it’s smart to have basic knowledge so you can identify and hopefully even avoid future issues. So with that, let’s learn about traps!
How does a trap work?
The trap is part of the drainage system of many plumbing fixtures such as bathroom sink, kitchen sinks, showers and tubs, and even toilets. The design is usually very simple yet effective.
Basically, the trap is a curved part of the drainpipe. There are a few different types (or shapes) including P-trap, U-trap, S-trap, or J-trap. But they all work in the same fashion. The bend of the pipe collects (or traps) a small amount of water as it flows down the drain. This water forms a barrier so that sewer gases or pests cannot come up through the drainpipe and enter your home. When a drain system is properly working, the liquid and solid contents flow down to the sewage system, while gases are directed out of the home through a vent pipe (usually found on the roof).
The next time the fixture is used, the water in the trap is pushed through to the sewer line, and then a new collection of water is left in the trap to do the same job. In this way, a trap is considered self-cleaning.
Common problems with traps
While traps are essential to your home’s plumbing system, there are still some potential problems for you to look out for.
- Clogs – Unfortunately, water isn’t the only thing that can get trapped in the curved pipe. The trap is a common place for hair, soap, oils, and solid objects to collect and form a blockage. There are a few methods for dealing with a clog. You can retrieve the blockage with a Zip-It or similar tool, you could use a snake to push the clog through the trap, or you could remove the trap (or use a cleanout) to get right to the source.
- Smells – If you notice a foul odor coming out of the drain, there’s a good chance it could relate to the trap. First, if that fixture has not been used for a while, the water in the trap may have evaporated and sewer gases are coming up. In this case, simply run the water for a few seconds and the trap will refill. It’s also possible that there’s a small clog of food or other organic matter that is rotting (this is more common in kitchen sinks). For this, follow the above steps for clearing a blockage, and also flush the drain with vinegar to kill bacteria that may be lurking below.
- Leaks – Old or damaged pipes are common causes of leaks. If there’s a crack or break in the trap, it can lead to significant water damage to your home or property. Sink traps are easy to locate and inspect but traps for tubs or showers are usually concealed. If you suspect a leak in the trap or any part of your plumbing system, call a licensed plumber right away. The good news about drain pipes is that they are not pressurized so if you avoid using water in the fixture you can limit the damage before the problem is fixed.
North Shore drain cleaning experts
Now that you’re a plumbing trap expert, you can be better prepared to identify potential issues with your home’s plumbing. If you have any questions or need professional help clearing a stubborn clogged drain, give Waldman Plumbing and Heating, Inc. a call. You can schedule an appointment at (781) 780-3184.