Although kitchen stack cleaning seems like an easy process to perform and manage, there are many ways it can be done wrong, without anybody knowing.
Back in my early apprentice days I was taught to open a lined cleanout which the builder must install at the bottom of every stack and send my power flusher down the drain from the cleanout, then attempt to go upwards as high up the stack as the nozzle will travel. I used to look at some of the senior plumbers who were taught this way and watch as chunks of grease would come crashing down from the vertical pipe, all while the plumber is trying to make a funnel with their sheets of plastic, while catching the dirty water in a container.
What? …….The first thing that came to mind when I see grease splashing on nearby cars, and basement building walls, is…… what kind of bacteria is now floating around this area? Or on the windshield of that nice car sitting a few feet from our cleanout?
I never understood why a service provider would put themselves in that kind of position, to the point where the greasy water would be embedded in their pours. I would also wonder what the homeowner would think if they knew all this kitchen grease was being splashed around their parking spot. Did they know that E.coli, salmonella and many other harmful bacteria’s are commonly found inside kitchen drain pipes?
As the years went by and I started to disapprove cleaning vertical pipes this way, I finally understood why it was easier for management and the plumbing company to do it this way. It all has to do with inconveniencing the homeowners. The cleanouts that the builder installs at the bottom of each stack is usually found in the common areas, garage, locker room, basement, etc…
Of course, it is easier to get approval to enter the common areas and flush the stacks, or do any work required, as no notice is needed for residence and if it was that easy to clean vertical stacks this way, well then this article would be pointless.
The reality is…..Nope! this is not a sufficient way to clean vertical pipes, especially in newer buildings!
The thought that someone can stick a nozzle upstream of a cleanout and expect it to travel 20 floors around bends and cut through grease is mind boggling, and if you are a property manager and are being told that your building stack system is being cleaned but you have never done a cleanout retrofit and your service provider is not entering units, well then this a serious discussion that you should be having with your vendor.
The Recommended Way
The only real tried, tested and proven process to properly flush kitchen stack pipes, is to install cleanouts inside the units, and flush downwards or downstream of the cleanout. This means coordinating with homeowners, educating them on the Kitchen Stack Cleaning process and ensuring they understand the importance of going about it the proper way. This is something your service vendor should have no problem doing.
Would your homeowners disapprove if they were the ones who’s car, or locker room were at risk of being contaminated with bacteria? I doubt it.
While many plumbers are trying to be the jack of all trades, it is important that a property manager investigate which company specializes in what service. Going back 30+ years ago, the “plumber” dealt with anything related to water within a building, however now a day’s, buildings are becoming too complex to believe that 1 company can deal with everything.
There are many more factors that go into a proper kitchen stack cleaning job, some examples are the nozzles being used, the equipment being used, the Gallons Per Minute (GPM) being used and many more. Stay tuned for more articles where I will go into detail about all of these, and more.