Blocked drains can create serious issues for homeowners and could lead to structural damage, flooding, foul smells, and a build-up of potentially harmful bacteria in areas surrounding the blockage.
If the drain is within the boundaries of your property, then it’s your responsibility and not that of your local water and drainage company to ensure that it’s properly maintained and repaired.
But what do you do when a drain outside your home or property gets blocked?
What’s outside drainage?
Before looking at how to solve a problem with a blocked outside drainage, it’s vital that you first understand more about the drainage infrastructure outside your property.
This is vital since the potential fixes for blocked drains will change depending on what system elements have been affected.
Let us have a look at some of the common elements of a structure’s exterior drainage system.
Also referred to as inspection chambers, manhole chambers are points of access to the underground drainage systems through which drains can be accessed for inspection and cleaning when and if required.
Utility holes are typically found in three locations of a drainage system:
- Where the main drainage meets branch off pipes
- Where drains change direction horizontally by over 30 degrees
- Where a pipe runs straight for over 22 meters
Downspouts or Rainwater Pipes
Downspouts or rainwater pipes are part of the general roof drainage system responsible for carrying rainwater from the rain gutter on a home or property.
A rain gutter is the half-pipe found under a property’s roofing and is designed to keep water from seeping into a property by channeling rainwater away from the property’s exterior walls into downpipes.
Gutters are generally connected to rainwater pipes, that are vertically installed and which run down a property’s length to ground level piping the water into surface water drains.
Surface Water Drains
A surface water drain is the part of a drainage system responsible for collecting surface water, that is melted ice and snow, rainwater, etc. from the different parts of a property and directs it to the sewer network – to be specific, surface water sewers. Surface water drains redirect water back into the sea and rivers.
These drains are usually covered by a grid and are generally located in paved areas like driveways and at the bottom of rainwater pipes.
Foul Water Drains
Foul water drains are responsible for handling foul sewage, also known as wastewater, from showers, sinks, baths, toilets, and different household appliances like washing machines and dishwashers.
These drains transport the sewage to the local wastewater treatment facility; this way, wastewater is separate and handled differently from surface water sewers.
Soil Vent Pipes
Also known as drain-waste-vents or soil stacks, soil vent pipes carry foul waste or sewage from homes or buildings to the underground sewer network. The pipes extend up to the roof level so that sewage smells are released into the atmosphere. Soil vent pipes are typically fitted on the outside of a structure but may also be installed within a wall cavity.
If you live in a home built around the Victorian era, chances are it has a combined drainage system which means that it has a single set of drains taking both foul water and surface water from your property into the sewer network.
However, since the 50s, combined drainage systems are no longer being used in new constructions as they tend to struggle when it comes to accommodating the amount of surface and foul water to be transported from most modern homes into the sewer network.
Furthermore, combined drainages could potentially increase the risk of surface water getting polluted by foul water.
Tips On Unblocking An Outside Drain
What you need to do when trying to solve a blocked drain problem on the outside of a property is first to perform a visual inspection of the part you suspect is blocked and try to figure out what’s causing the problem.
In most cases, the root cause of blockages in exterior drainage systems, especially around guttering, grids, and grates, is as minor as a buildup of leaves, debris, and silt. In sink discharge pipes, this reason could be the dreaded grease, oils, and fats.
However, the reason why your drainage is blocked could be way deep inside the drainage system and, because of this, it may not be instantly noticeable.
Consider lifting and removing manhole covers to take a closer look at your drains; however, just lifting the cover won’t be enough to see things so clearly. When lifting a utility hole cover, remember to exercise some caution as these covers tend to be very heavy.
Here are some tips on how to spot a blocked drain:
• Foul smell – this is the easiest and most recognizable symptom
• Sink drainage – it takes longer for water to drain from the sink
• Toilet drainage – water overflows or rises after flushing
• Noises – your plughole makes a gurgling sound
There are several things that you could do if you want to try a hand at unblocking an outer drain by yourself.
The important thing to do is to check for any blockages by assessing how water flows through your pipes. If you believe a foul water pipe is compromised, flush your toilet or run water in your sink and water to see what happens next. If you think your rainwater pipe is blocked, then try pouring some water into the pipe’s top and see how and if it flows.
If you are thinking of tackling a blockage yourself, then consider using a plumber’s auger (aka plumber’s snake) or a drain rod.
In case your blockage is due to leaves and debris, consider putting on some protective gloves and remove it manually.
If you can’t identify the location or cause of the blockage, or have identified the cause but can’t unblock it, consider getting an expert and have him take care of it for you.
The drainage specialists at Drainline Southern provide 24-hour emergency services and can handle any drainage-related challenge using the latest drainage equipment and technology to locate and eliminate any blockages.
We perform an in-depth CCTV drain survey of an exterior drainage system using 360-degree camera technology and video footage to find the cause of your drainage problem. Once we have seen the problem, we employ high-pressure jetting, vacuumation units and electro-mechanical to clear your blockage.
If the problem is more than a simple drainage blockage – like if there is a crack in the pipe – we still can help you by employing traditional excavation or CIPP repair methods.