How do you unblock a pipe filled with concrete or tiler’s grout?

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Last week I received a call from a client to unblock a shower waste. I thought it would be a simple job for a drain machine but unfortunately it wasn’t.

The plumber I organized to unblock the shower waste couldn’t unblock it with his jet rod machine because the 40mm waste was blocked with what seemed to be concrete or tiler’s grout.

The house had just been purchased and the new owners had moved in to find that their ensuite shower would fill up like a pool when used.

My plumber advised that he had got his machine through the blockage but the orifice in the pipe was only 10mm wide when it should have been 40mm. If any hair was sucked down the pipe, it would block the waste up because it was only a small hole through the concrete. His advice to get the pipe fully clear was to use hydrochloric acid and allow it to sit in the pipe to soften the concrete so it could be flushed through the pipes.

Last Monday, dad used an inflatable balloon to cut off the shower waste entering the floor waste. He then poured 6 litres of hydrochloric acid down the shower waste and then we left to do another job and hoped that by the time we arrived back at the house the acid would have done its job. The pictures are a little blurry because that’s what happens when you are on the job being asked to pass tools and get things done.

Used a compressor to inflate a balloon in the 40mm waste connected into the 100mm shower waste
Used a compressor to inflate a balloon in the 40mm waste connected into the 100mm shower waste
Used a funnel to pour the hydrochloric acid down the drain
Used a funnel to pour the hydrochloric acid down the drain

When we returned, dad deflated the balloon and then used the sanisnake tool to make sure the pipe was clear. I saw one big piece of mortar fall into the floor waste.

Feeding the sanisnake into the floor waste and trying to get it into the 40mm waste
Feeding the sanisnake into the floor waste and trying to get it into the 40mm waste

We used two sanisnake tools to ensure that the 40mm waste was clear. We fed one sanisnake through the floor waste (which was difficult for dad to get his arm in to feed it into the shower waste) and the other sanisnake through the top of the shower waste. When both sanisnakes met and joined together, we did a seasaw motion to grind away anything in the pipe to make sure it was clear. Unfortunately doing this meant we broke one of our tools to get both tools out.

At the same time dad unscrewed the shower rose and installed a long flexi hose to feed water down the shower waste to ensure the blockage had been cleared.

Installed a flexi hose where the shower rose was...
Installed a flexi hose where the shower rose was…
Spraying the water down the shower waste to ensure the blockage was gone
Spraying the water down the shower waste to ensure the blockage was gone

The water flowed faster out of the shower waste and didn’t back up out of the waste after this exercise which meant the hydrochloric acid did its job.

Who knows how the concrete got in there in the first place. The most common cause of concrete in drains is when a bathroom is renovated and a new floor bedding is installed and the concrete bedding falls through the shower grate. The other cause can also be tiler’s grout which sits like concrete in the pipes. Tilers are meant to dispose of their grout in the bin but sometimes they can be lazy and let it fall down the floor waste or allow it to fall through the grated drain and this can cause major blockages to the plumbing system. To avoid such occurrences, duct tape needs to be applied to the floor grates so nothing can fall through.

It is difficult to unblock a pipe filled with tiler’s grout or concrete and it is very costly too because it takes a lot of labour time to unblock it. As we found on this job.

NOTE: This post isn’t a plug for Reece… dad wears these shirts when we are on jobs like this because he has heaps of them to change into. Also if we had a jet rodding machine, we wouldn’t have had to feed two sanisnake tools into the wastes but we used what we had on the truck. 😉