If your sink is draining into your yard, you have a major plumbing problem. But, don’t panic! You might be able to fix it yourself.
If your kitchen sink is draining into the yard, the culprit is likely a clogged pipe. Using a plumbing snake or chemical drain opener will likely fix the issue. But, your problem might be a bigger issue. It’s crucial to check your plumbing problem before it gets worse.
Here’s Why Your Kitchen Sink Drains into Yard
Your kitchen sink might drain into your yard for a variety of reasons. For example, if you have clogs or drains backing up. But, other problems could result in an improperly draining sink as well.
First, fixing your kitchen sink drainage problems might not be your responsibility. If the issue is a clogged lateral connection to city water, your local water company likely wants to know about it. A lateral is a connection between your home and the city main. So, if it’s draining near the street, call your wastewater management company.
Second, you might have drainage issues relating to a number of different but very real plumbing problems.
- Clogged Pipes – Pipe clogs from fat buildup, objects flushed down the toilet, or hair or food buildup can stop your entire plumbing system. If water can’t go one way, it might go another. And, often, that’s through vents in plumbing designed to allow proper airflow. As a result, your sewage will flood into your yard. Or your neighbor’s yard.
- Damaged Pipes – If cleaning the pipes doesn’t solve the issue, you likely have a problem with damaged pipes. These can occur because of rapid temperature shifts. Tree roots can also cause pipes to crack. If your foundation shifts, pipes crack and seams burst. And, if you have very high-water pressure, you’re very likely to burst pipes and have water issues.
Finally, you should consider if you should fix your plumbing issue yourself. If your budget is tight or you like DIY work, you can certainly try. Most states also require you to have a plumbing license to work on plumbing, even in your own home. So, you can clean your plumbing yourself. But, if your fix involves taking the plumbing apart or replacing it – especially if it’s connected to city lines – replacing it yourself might result in a fine.
Check with your local state and city regulation and ordinances to decide if you’re legally allowed to work on your own plumbing. And, keep in mind that if you do choose to work on your own plumbing, you could be making things worse.
However, simple cleaning jobs are low risk, so feel free to go ahead.
DIY: How to Fix a Kitchen Sink with Drainage Issues
Fixing your sink with drainage issues should mostly involve cleaning, checking for clogs, and looking for leaks. If that doesn’t work, you can always escalate the problem to a plumber or even replace pipes yourself.
Things You Will Need
Fixing your plumbing means using the right equipment. Luckily, pipe cleaning tools are normally very affordable at your local hardware store.
- Plumbing snake
- Drain opener / declogger
If you decide to replace broken or damaged pipes, you’ll need:
- Digging equipment (e.g., shovel, rake, bucket to move dirt)
- Pipes in the same size and material as existing pipes. Normally 4” PVC. However, many local areas have specific codes and requirements for material and size. These vary significantly by location. Check your local regulation for guidance. If your sewage connects directly to a lateral line, do not attempt to repair it. Instead, you should contact local wastewater management. Making the repairs yourself could result in a fine.
- Pipe Cement. Nearly any brand will do. However, if you’re uncertain, ask your local hardware store what they recommend.
- Hacksaw with a fine blade, suitable for plastic
- Measuring tape
- Pipe joints in the same size as the ones you are replacing, with the same bends you are replacing
- A marker
Finding the Problem
It’s probably easy enough to figure out where water is draining into your yard. Whether you have a stagnating pool, an awful smell, or bright green grass, it’s easy enough to notice. But, where is the problem coming from? In most cases, the lowest lying drain in your home is the culprit. Often, in the case of old houses, that’s actually sewage ventilation in the yard.
- Inspect where the water is coming from. Is it from a drain? Is it coming from underground? Is it a storm drain?
- If your home is old, it might have a combined rainwater and wastewater drainage system. This means problems might exacerbate when it rains.
- If you have a septic tank installed on your property, connections and ventilation could be flooding. That’s the case even if it’s also connected to the city sewer.
Eventually, if your yard is flooding, it will point you to where to look. From there, you can use your knowledge of your home’s plumbing to determine what the issue is coming from. Most importantly, if you have clogged drains and don’t have any overflows, you might still need repairs anyway.
Try a Drain Cleaner
There are plenty of drain cleaners on the market. The most effective are enzyme cleaners. These use enzyme reactions to eat away at anything clogging the pipes, such as fat, hair, or food. Here, you want to apply drain cleaner to all your drains and then wait. Afterwards, you can flush your drains.
However, drain cleaner availability varies per area. Your best option is to go to your local hardware store and see what they have. If you aren’t sure, ask the staff what they would recommend for your specific issue. Chances are, they have something in stock for you.
Use a Plumbing Snake
Plumbing snakes are long coils of metal, much like a tightly wound spring, which you insert into your drain. You can purchase a handheld one which will typically extend up to 90 feet. You may also be able to rent an electric one for a more thorough clean.
To use a plumbing snake, simply insert the tip into the drain and twist it down all the way. Keep going until the snake either stops or you run out of space. If you get stuck, work the snake with a twisting back and forth motion to try to un-do a clog or to get the snake around a corner.
Use a Plunger
Taking a plunger to your drains is a good way to see if the problem is local to a single drain. Here, it’s always a good idea to start with the sink drain. Plungers create backwards vacuum pressure on a clog to force it to break up. However, normally by the time your sink is draining into the yard and not into the kitchen, the clog is much further down the line. However, it’s likely very helpful if your sink is not completely clogged, but water is draining very slowly.
Flush with Hot Water
Flushing drains with boiling water and dish soap can be a great way to remove clogs, especially if they are fat related. Here, you can try turning your boiler or water heater up to maximum temperature and running your tap. You can also dump pans of boiling water down the drain. However, it is crucial that you do so as safely as possible to prevent burns.
Many people use baking soda to flush their drains. This can be effective, but a professional drain cleaner is always more so. Additionally, you should never flush your drains with vinegar or a bleach. This can greatly damage the bacteria in your sewage and may cause it to smell.
Replacing Broken Pipes
If cleaning your plumbing doesn’t work, it doesn’t necessitate damaged pipes. Your cleaning efforts might not go deep enough. That’s why it may be a good idea to call a plumber anyway to have your plumbing professionally cleaned. If you’re sure you cleaned well enough, you can go ahead and uncover plumbing to try to find the leak.
- Locate the source of the leak outside
- Dig up the plumbing, being careful not to further damage the pipes
- Check the pipes and joints for leaks.
- When you find the issue, make sure you’re allowed to fix it. If it connects to your own sewage tank, you normally can. If it connects to a lateral line, you may not. In this case, call local wastewater management.
- Buy replacement pipe fittings, acquire proper tools, and make sure you have glue on hand
- Cut the damaged section out of the pipe using a hacksaw
- Measure the new pipe and use a marker to indicate where cuts need to go
- Make the new cuts using a hacksaw
- Clean the inside and outside of the edges of the old and new pipe with acetone
- Apply pipe cement and follow the instructions on the can
- Fit the pipes together and allow the pipe cement to dry
- Check that your leak is stopped
In some cases, stopping a leak of this nature might require replacing your entire outdoor plumbing. This can require considerable time, especially if you’re not sure where the leak is coming from.
Never Again: 3 Preventive Measures To Avoid Clogged Sink Drains
The best way to fix your flooding kitchen sewage is to practice preventive maintenance. In most cases, even professional preventive maintenance is a lot cheaper than professional repair.
Regularly Flush Your Drains
Regularly flushing your drains can do a lot to prevent problems from occurring. Here, you want to use hot water, soap, and possibly a drain cleaner. In most cases, flushing your drains every 6-12 months is more than enough. That’s especially true if you’re using harsh chemical cleaners. For example, if you use these too often, they will corrode your pipes.
Avoid Flushing or Draining Fat and Foodstuffs
Fat and foodstuffs are the fastest way to clog your plumbing. To avoid this, make sure you dump food into the trash can. Use paper towels to wipe up oil from pans before washing them. And, always make sure you’re using enough dish soap to break up grease when you wash pans. If you use a dishwasher, you can prevent some of this by simply using a filter. If you’re using a sink, it’s always a good idea to practice scraping food into the trash, to never dump oil down the sink, and to avoid flushing foodstuffs.
Keeping large materials out of the drain can be hard if you have kids. For example, they might flush washcloths or large handfuls of paper towels. In this case, you should react quickly, use a plunger, and prevent the problem from moving further down the line.
Pay for Yearly Inspections
If you have an old home, you likely need regular inspections. Most plumbing companies recommend paying for an inspection every 12-18 months. In most cases, inspections align with winter or spring months to check for cold damage. They also often include a regular clean – which solves two birds with one stone. If a regular inspection isn’t in your budget, you can always check the pipes and drainage yourself.
For example, if you notice damp spots, notice slow drainage, or see things shifting in the foundation, you may have a plumbing problem.
If you’re trying your hand at plumbing, you probably have a lot of questions. We’ll add to this list of queries as readers ask us more questions.
How Does a Kitchen Sink Drain Work?
Kitchen sink drains feature plumbing connecting from the sink to the main sewer line – usually combining all sewage from your home. The kitchen sink drain itself features a strainer over a gasket and washer. The goal is to trap large objects and foodstuffs, which might cause clogs. These elements are locked into the pipe below by means of a gasket, a washer, and a locknut. Tightening these prevents water from leaking out under the sink.
Below that, most sinks immediately feature a trap. This is a U-bend or double U-bend pipe. While it looks like it allows the sink to connect to the wall, the trap has a different purpose. In fact, it’s to trap sewer gas that might rise back up into the house – causing a smell.
From there, your kitchen sewage runs through the house to connect with the sewage mains. This may run into your own sewage tank or directly to the city mains via a lateral connection.
How far can a Sink be From a Drain?
The closer your sink is to the drain, the better. However, the more important thing is that your trap is close enough to the vent.
According to the International Residential Code, which is in use or adopted in 49 states, drain length is mandated by fall and by vertical distance between the sink drain and the trap.
- The maximum vertical distance between the sink drain and the trap is 24 inches
- The drain line must have a minimum fall of 1/8-inch per foot and a maximum of a ¼-inch per foot
If you have followed those regulations; your sink can normally be any distance from the drain. However, with a minimum fall of 1/8th inch per foot, the distance is determined by how far the drain is installed off the floor and how tall the sink is.
If your plumbing is having issues, it may be important to call in a professional. But, if you can inspect and find an easily solvable issue, you can save a lot of money. Plus, it never hurts to quickly clean your drains to see if it resolves the problem. If not, you can always call a plumber later.