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How Much Does it Cost to Clear a Blocked Drain?

Last Updated Oct 30, 2013 · Written by

Plumbing|Renovation Costs

When you have a blocked drain and your plunger can't unblock it, it's time to call the plumber. Don't put it off because you're worried about the price or are hoping the problem will fix itself. It won't fix itself and the longer you put the job off, the more expensive having it fixed may be.

How Do Plumbers Fix Blocked Drains?

Plumbers today have a number of sophisticated devices they use to unblock drains, but first they often have to locate and identify the problem. In the past, if there were no visible signs of leakage, this could be a huge and very costly job. Today, plumbers use cctv cameras (sometimes called sewer drain cameras) that allow them to see what's inside the pipes and pinpoint the location of the blockage.

Plumbers report that in the majority of cases, tree roots are the cause of blocked drains at a distance from the house. Other causes may be:
  • Solid grease buildup. The grease also traps hair and other material.
  • Hygiene products that have been flushed down the toilet.
  • Children's toys.
  • Toilet paper can block a drain, particularly on sites where sewerage pipes do not have sufficient fall to allow the paper to be expelled.
Once the problem has been identified, the plumber can usually quickly unblock the drain using the appropriate tools. One time-tested piece of equipment most plumbers still use for routine jobs is the "electric eel." Eels are long flexible steel rods with cutters protruding from the ends that are capable of cutting through tree roots.

There are some drawbacks to electric eels. For one thing, they can sometimes damage pipes. For another, they have limited reach. For these reasons, plumbers today often use powerful hydro-jet devices that use water under high pressure to unblock drains. Hydro-jets are even powerful enough to clear tree roots. They are so much safer and more effective than electric eels, many plumbers now use them routinely to remove all kinds of blockages.

How Much Does it Cost to Clear a Blocked Drain?*

It typically costs anywhere between $100 and $400 or more to clear blocked drains, depending on the difficulty of the job. If tree roots are the problem or pipes have been broken or crushed by any other means, it will cost more to have them removed and replaced.

Plumbers are often criticised for charging $100 for a simple job that takes less than an hour to complete. What customers sometimes overlook is that aside from their on-site labour, they have to factor travel time and the cost of their equipment into their charges.

You'll probably find that for clearing blocked drains, you'll get the best prices from busy plumbers who have all the equipment they need on hand. A cctv camera, for instance, is a very expensive piece of equipment. A plumber who uses one every day will be able to compensate for the cost of the camera over time, while a local plumber who may be very good at his job will have to charge more or not have a camera to help him locate the problem.

As with any trade, make sure you hire only currently licensed and insured plumbers to clear your blocked drains. If you're getting quotes from plumbers online, insist that they list all their credentials along with their quotes.

*Cost and prices in this article are indicative and should only be used as a guide. They also vary locally and are subject to market forces.

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