Thursday, March 10, 2011

Garage Floor Drains - Clearing clogged ones

Garages are the best! In the snow country, garages are a must. Not only does it keep your car free of frost and snow, it is a place for your car to thaw out. Snow free also means a few extra minutes of sleep in the morning. A well thought out garage has a floor slab pour with a drain in it. Without a drain, garages tend to flood as your car shed the snow and ice it accumula ted from the roads. I have found that our subi can collect about 15 gallon of water, and my truck can accumulate over 20 gallons of liquid. This is alot of water which needs to be disposed of.

Most garages floor drains are directed to a gravel pit under the house. The ground under the house is warmer than the outside air and typically stays above freezing. Sometimes pits are located to the yard. These can be problematic as they tend to freeze. Garage drains sometimes are directed to the sewage system or septic tanks. This is also a bad idea, as it contributes a large volume of gravely water to the septic or the city sewage system.

Over the years a garage drain will being to clog. The snow which accumulates under your car is not simply snow. It is also chocked full of road grime. In areas that spread sand on the roads the problem is even worse. The first winter at this house after I had finally cleaned out the garage enough to park the cars in it, I discovered that I had a clogged garage drain. A flooded garage is no fun. I would attempt to clear or knock off as much snow as I could before I parked the car inside. Then spend the evening bailing water into a bucket to be hauled out and dumped. A drill pump made the job a little easier, but I was out to seek a solution.

I was not sure what I was up against. Did the drain freeze? Was the drain pit filled with debris. I fished a small plumbers snake into the drain, only to have it stop a foot or so down the pipe. I was up against something solid. Most likely a blockage of gravel. Clearing a clogged drain of gravel and sand is not going to be easy. In fact an Internet search yielded no solutions. I had to come up with something.
My Dad was an oil man. As a child I spent many hours pouring over the details of off shore drilling rigs. One thing that made a lasting impression was the use of "drilling mud'. The drilled hole was deliberately filled with a fluid. This fluid served many purposes, but the one which I was most interested was the use of mud to remove material which had been liberated when a hole was bored. This was how I was going to clear my clogged drain. To get this idea to work, I needed a way to introduce my fluid, and a way to remove the fluid with the drain clogging media suspended within it. My simplified setup would involve a wet and dry shop vac and a garden hose. However getting this worked out would require a trip to the hardware store and what would seem like an eternity in the plumbing isle.
The garage drain has an opening of about 1.5 inches. The Shop Vac had a 2 inch hose, and the garden hose was about 3/4 of an inch. The first thing I needed was to reduce the size of both hoses. I speced the input water line at 1/2 inch and outtake vacuum line to 3/4", after all you needed to remove more volume than was introduced. Combined these two hose would barely fit into the drain. The garden hose was easy: a thread on cap to a 1/2" barbed fitting. The vacuum neck down was a bit tougher. The heart of the system was a 2 inch rubber compression fitting with a 2 inch threaded female collar. It was a blessing that the shop vac had a common size hose end. Next was to find a variety of reducer to finally end up with a 3/4" hose. 2" threaded double male coupler, 2"threaded female to 2" glue in female coupler, 2" male glue in to 3/4" female threaded reducer (this was the piece which really reduced the number of reducers needed), 3/4" threaded to 3/4" barbed fitting, 3/4" I.D. hose. These sizes are what I remember off the top of my head. Be sure to measure and test fit for yourself.
Once at home, I assembled my contraption. No glue was necessary in any of the glue in joints. Next I taped the two line together with the water line protruding a couple of inches ahead of the vac line. I then attempted to stuff the two lines into the clogged drain. I was only able to get the device in about 6" before it would not feed any further. A 90 degree bend in the drain line prevented the tight fitting pair of hoses from advancing any further. I thus untaped the two hoses, pushed the water line in as fas as it would go then the vac line to the bend. Once I had everything in place I turned on the shop vac and then the water. Then adjusted the water flow till a steady state was reached with that of the vacuumes. With the clear vac hose I could see it sucking up clear water, another second or two passed and then output solution was brown. IT WAS WORKING! A five gallon shop vac can only suck about 2.5 gallons before it if full. I was cautious not to suck water into the pump. But even then I found out that there is a flap that blocks the flow before water is allowed in. Idot proof. After several dumpings of the shop vac, the output water in the vac line finally ran clear.
I now have a perfectly working garage floor drain. I kept my vacuum fitting in case I ever need to clear the drain again. On snowy days I now drive straight into the garage without clearing any snow off the car, knowing that the run off will now take care of itself.


  1. Kevin M. from Orange Mass....July 28, 2011 at 5:46 AM

    Pretty cool solution!! I am a facility manager and got a call yesterday about a clogged sink in the utility room.... I know that the waste line is full of sand because of the cleaning guy dumping his buckets in there. I will give this a shot! I had thought on similar lines but wouldn't have come up with the supply line with water.. I was going to try the snake thing... Hope to add my comments after tomorrow (Friday July 29th...)

  2. I never thought of doing this in my garage. Every time my drain clogged, I would always call a plumbing service provider to unclog the drain. This is a great solution! I will try this next time my drain clogs; it’s a money saver. I just hope I could get the same results.

    {Kurt Verdejo }

  3. I could never do such work all by myself either! I always leave this type of job to my trusted plumber. Also, he knows all the right materials needed and where to get supplies from. But you should definitely keep hold of the vacuum fitting in case there’s a need to clean the drain again.

    Althea Tumlin

  4. Good job on doing your very own DIY unclogging machine, Bill. I didn't know you could use your vacuum for such a problem. Good thing you knew something about drilling and using fluid to remove something solid. Have you had any inconvenience since then? Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Daryl Iorio

  5. Searching good blog is not an easy task because number of blogs with exaggeration is available but the information on this blog is completely based on research.

    Blocked Drain Sydney

  6. I've enjoyed reading the post. A garage can be a messy place, and keeping it clean is much less complicated if you can simply wash down the floor and allow the water to run into a floor drain.

  7. I like your post, very good information about Garage Floor Drains, thank you for sharing with us this experience.

  8. Update. About a year later I added a small grate to the grain to keep things from rolling down into the drain. This grate would require an occasional swapping to clear the mud and debris. This winter the drain was beginning to slow down. Sweeping of the debris would still yield a slow drain. I guess it is time for me to unearth that old fitting and do some drain cleaning. It has been 6 years so not bad!

  9. Hi Bill, I have a drain outside in the front of my garage that drains into a pit in the back yard. It is a pit that is filled up with rock. I have had it for about 10 years. When the drain works, it serves it purpose. I noticed this year it has not been draining all the way so I have to take my shop vac and clean it out. I had a plumber come over and he ran a snake through the corrugated pipe that runs into the drain and then he put his camera through and determined that the pit was full of mud. Roto Rooter came over tonight and said, yes, the pit is full of mud and they will charge me at least $2,000 to dig up the pit! No way! Does your drain run into a pit like the one that I described? The pit is about 20 feet away from my garage. Any input would be appreciated! Thanks!

  10. Thanks Bill in Tahoe. Do you know Tom and Khristy? I just finished cleaning out my garage floor drains with this method and it appears to have worked just fine. Thanks for the idea.