What are area drains?

According to the Uniform Plumbing Code; A receptor designed to collect surface or storm water from an open area.

These drains are usually found around swimming pools, in planter areas and other areas where there is a concern of rain water accumulating to cause possible flooding.

Typical outdoor area drain and drain line

The piping used for area drains is usually PVC plastic, however not all PVC pipe is the same wall thickness and is identified by what is referred to as schedules. For example schedule 20 is very thin and can be easily crushed with just your hand strength, schedule 40 is much thicker and cannot be crushed by just your hand strength, this type of PVC pipe is what you normally see used in sprinkler systems. The last common schedule is 80 which is very thick and used with pressurized water systems and can be threaded. 

Unfortunately, most area drains that I have seen over the past 30 years in southern California are made with schedule 20, not only is the pipe very thin but normally landscapers don’t glue the pipes together. This is not a good practice because it allows water leakage and makes it easy for root intrusion which enters the piping through connections and microscopic pours looking for water.

Roots growing into drain pipe

Once the tap root is inside it will send feeder roots to grab water back to the main tap root. Over time as the root grows it can become quite a mess by breaking pipes and completely blocking drains. 

Broken sewer pipe from root intrusion

Unlike your house drain system, which uses fittings to connect the piping allowing it to flow in one direction, area drain systems use non-directional fittings. This is a challenge for drain cleaning professionals because the cable or water jetter used to remove the roots can go in various directions and may never reach the blockage, making it impossible to clear the stoppage. The only option left is to use a camera to locate the stoppage and excavate the line and replace the bad section.  

Unfortunately we don’t think of our outside drains until we get a lot of rain and things begin to back up or even worse flood.

Area Drain Tips:

  • Keep roots and debris clean from the drain lines at the inlets
  • Frequently flush drain with a high pressure hose nozzle or pressure washer
  • Have drains on a yearly maintenance by a professional drain cleaning company like Complete Plumbing
  • If roots are present treat with a foaming root destroyer, it will kill the roots but not the tree.