Q My basement floor drain does not drain. The house is 100 years old and not in a flood plain. What can be done?

A Have your sewer line professionally cleaned. A plumber can run a special set of rotary cutters through your pipes. They'll scrape the sides clean and increase the line's capacity. If the line is partially blocked with roots, sand or sludge, drain cleaning can be quite effective.

Also, check the drains to see if they have a device called a ball-check valve. The purpose of this special fitting is to minimize water backup through the floor drain. Ask the person who cleans your floor drain if the ball check is there and working properly. If it's missing, install another one.

If you are on a septic system (on-site sewage system), a sluggish drain could indicate a problem with your septic tank or drain field, or both. Have it examined to determine if there's a problem.

Sometimes, drain problems are caused by improper drain or sewer-line installation or settling after installation. As a result, sewer pipes don't carry the amount of water originally intended.

If it turns out there's no blockage in your waste line, then a stopped drain is a symptom of a larger problem. Get bids from several licensed and bonded contractors with good references. Repairs of extensive problems can be expensive; make sure you are being treated fairly and honestly.

Includes information from Don Houlding, home maintenance specialist, Eagan

Send your questions to Fixit in care of the Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488, or call 612-673-9033, or e-mail fixit@startribune.com. Past columns are available at www.startribune.com/fixit. Sorry, Fixit cannot supply individual replies. Fixit appears daily in Source except on Friday.