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Your Area Drains and El Nino, What You Need to Know!
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Plumbing 10/31/15

Your Area Drains and El Nino, What You Need to Know!

Just like all San Diego plumbers are not created equal (this links to another blog post about plumbers vs. drain techs), not all drains in San Diego are the same either! If you have ever had a sewer back up, clogged shower, stopped up kitchen sink, you know drain problems are no fun. But one problem area we don’t often think of is outside area drains in San Diego. After all, we have near perfect weather and short rains that don’t do too much damage.

The main purpose of an area drain is to take away rain and irrigation water. It is not connected to your sanitary drain lines, nor does it have plumbing code dictating the drain configuration. With your main sewer line, it is specifically designed and installed to protect your home and ensure when it clogs, a snake will follow the correct directional construct so it can be properly cleaned. It is also meant to flow into the city connection and protect your home from contamination.

Area drains do not always follow a directional path and are not designed to be cleaned. They are also made from many different materials including corrugated steel, plastic, and more intricate French area drains have perforations. This makes cleaning them out, when they do clog, tricky at best.

So what causes backups in an area drain, and why do the impending El Nino rains play such a big role in maintaining your outside drains?

  • Area drains are open year-round (though having a cover helps), and exposed to debris, dirt, foreign objects. Etc.
  • In San Diego, our drains don’t have the benefit of regular rains creating continual flow through the drains to clear light debris.
  • If your area drain is set at a low point and gets clogged, it will create pudding and, Alternatively, if your area drain becomes clogged and is set at a high point on your property, it can cause overflow downstream, potentially into your home causing water damage.


It can be challenging to diagnose and clear clogged area drains. And, if they are not regularly maintained, a heavy rain, as we are being told to expect with the upcoming El Nino, can wreak havoc and cause damage. Especially with the drought conditions San Diego has experienced, many area drains will lily be filled with dirt and debris, and if they are not flowing properly when it does rain, it could flood your yard and your home!

The best cure, of course, is prevention. But whatever you do, take action before the heavy rains. If you are unsure of the condition of your area drains, call one of the professional San Diego plumbers in your area for recommendations. Make sure to ask questions, what steps will they take? Ask for a first-hour quote; area drains are not simple, and if you are being promised a quick fix for cheap, beware of an upsell down the road. A professional will let you know what to expect and not make promises they know they are unable to keep!

For more information, or to schedule one of Bill Howe’s expert San Diego plumbers to help you understand how to protect your home, call 1-800 Bill–Howe (245-5469) before the rains!













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