The Most Common Drain Problems and How to Fix Them

It’s always worrying and frustrating to suddenly find drain problems somewhere on your property, especially if you don’t know what could be causing them or where they could be coming from. At Coastal Drains, we want to help alleviate these concerns wherever possible, so we’ve created this guide to the most common drain problems, allowing you to narrow down what could be happening in your system.

Read on to discover what might be giving you cause for concern, or get in touch with us right away if you’d like us to carry out professional work on your drains as soon as possible.

Blocked Drains

The most common problem you’re likely to find with your drains is that they have become blocked or clogged up by something that has been washed into them. Depending on what has caused the blockage, this may happen over time or gradually. For instance, if something large (such as a child’s toy) gets washed into the drain, that will immediately cause a blockage. Meanwhile, cooking fats, oils and grease that get washed down kitchen sinks will stick together and build up over the course of months or even years.

On occasion, you may be able to hear a noise in your pipes, which may indicate a blockage.

Mud or Silt

If your problem is located in an outdoor drain, there’s a chance that the blockage has been caused by a buildup of mud, silt or leaves that have all been washed into the system. This is a common issue, especially after heavy rain, storms and in the later months around autumn and winter.

Cracked Drains

Drains will take a lot of damage over time and see a lot of general wear and tear. This can often lead to fractures and cracks in the drains, usually around joints but also further along pipe sections when the damage is great enough. These can often allow waste and sewer water to leak out into the grounds of your property, or even onto basement floors if you have one in your home or business.

Rust or Limescale

It is possible that limescale will also build up over time in your pipes, causing the diameter of the inside of your pipes to shrink and restricting the water flow. If you have cast iron pipework in your system, there is also a chance that the same may happen with rust.

Collapsed Drains

Over time, wear and tear in your pipes will begin to increase and get worse. If nothing is done to repair the system, this can lead to the drain collapsing. When this happens, the pipe will break open and allow wastewater to spill out onto your property, which can cause a large amount of damage and a host of health issues if left untreated. 

If your drain has collapsed and is leaking waste sewage, please report this to us right away so that it can be taken care of as quickly as possible.

Displaced or Open Joints

When ground movement takes place, either because of subsidence, ground instability or increased traffic levels, a pipe may open up at the joints as a result. The gaps created will allow wastewater to leak out into the surrounding areas.

Invasive Tree Roots

Tree roots grow in search of water and nourishment, both of which can be provided by pipes coming from your property. If one small root manages to find its way through a gap in your drains, it will continue to grow and get bigger, forcing the gap to become wider and allowing more roots into your drains. This can break open even cast iron pipes, and will block up your system.

Other Drain Problems You May Find

The problems listed above are just some of the most common you will find, but there are others that you may wish to look out for if you have other types of drainage system for your home. For example, if you have French drains surrounding your property to take care of rainwater, you may wish to watch out for settlement around the walls of your building. This is because French drains that have been installed close to walls often work too well, causing them to dry out. 

You may also find that if you have installed your French drains to help with venting and moisture prevention in your basement, they will not work as well as hoped if your damp problem is severe. 

Signs of Common Drain Problems

If you’re unsure whether or not you’ve got a problem with your drains, there are a few signs you can look for yourself to determine it:

  • Bad smells coming from sinks and other areas around your home
  • Any strange noise, such as gurgling, coming from sinks, toilets and other drains
  • Water backing up and overflowing from drains
  • Mould growing in your property
  • Lush, green vegetation randomly appearing in patches in your garden
  • Standing water in your home
  • Puddles not draining in your garden
  • Pipes draining slowly
  • Cracks in foundations or unexplained settlement
  • A sudden rodent or insect problem around your property

Who is Responsible for Fixing Drain Problems?

Depending on where the problem is in your drainage system, it may not even be your responsibility to fix. As of October 2011, a homeowner is only responsible for maintaining and repairing issues with drains and pipes found within the house and property boundary. So, if you have a blocked or damaged pipe that meets this criteria, the task of calling someone out to fix it will fall to you. 

If you are renting your property from a landlord, there may be a clause in your tenancy agreement about who needs to pay for this. We highly recommend checking up on this before you pay any money towards maintenance fees.

If the problem pipe or drain is located outside your boundary (i.e. a public sewer pipe), or is a lateral drain that’s shared between your property and a neighbouring one, it will be up to your local water company to make sure it gets repaired. All you will need to do is contact them and report your drainage issue.

Problems with Shared Supply Pipes

If the supply pipe that provides your home with fresh drinking water is shared, the responsibility for making sure it gets fixed is also shared. This means that you will have to split the costs of repair with every other household that uses the water supply whenever there is a problem with this part of your system.

Does Home Insurance Cover Drainage Problems?

Whether or not your drain problem will be covered by your home insurance depends on a number of different factors. Most providers will cover emergency issues, such as a burst pipe in your house, but they may not extend your coverage to problems that would have happened gradually and gotten worse over time. This is because you, as the property owner, are responsible for ensuring the drainage system is kept in its best working condition.

To make sure you are covered in the event of any problem with your drains, please speak to your home insurance provider, and carefully read any documents that you have from them. This should help you to feel a little bit more at ease, so that if an emergency does happen, you’ll then know exactly what is covered under your insurance plan.

If disaster strikes and you need help with your drains, we’ll also be happy to help you out with making a claim on your insurance. From getting started on finding the source of the problem with a fast, accurate CCTV drain survey, to completing a comprehensive report that we’ll send off to your provider, we will do everything we can to save you time and spare you stress.

Fixing Common Drain Problems

We understand that you may wish to take care of any drainage issues in your home by yourself. After all, it is your house or flat and you will naturally feel responsible for ensuring every part of it is working just as it should. If you’d like to tackle the task of getting your drain problems mended, there are a number of household methods we can recommend you try. These are often the ideal solution if you have a blocked drain, and are focused on that problem.

Before you carry out any of these methods, please ensure that you are wearing the appropriate gear for the task, such as thick rubber gloves and goggles.

The Boiling Water Method

This might be the simplest method of keeping your drains clear. All you will need to do is regularly pour hot boiling water down the drain, allowing it to break up and wash away any buildups of fats, oils or grease that may be starting to line the pipes. In some cases, this is more than enough to unclog a kitchen sink, or to help clear out your bathroom or an outdoor drain.

Baking Soda and White Vinegar

If your blockage is slightly more stubborn but you do not wish to do anything that might accidentally damage your drains, mixing together a solution of baking soda and white vinegar is often the best method. By pouring a cup of baking soda into the drain, then following it with a cup of white vinegar, you’ll be creating a chemical reaction that should break up a tougher clog. We’d recommend this method for a kitchen or outdoor drain.

Drain Rods

In some cases, you may need to use a drain rod (also called a “drain snake” or “plumbing snake”) to get a blockage in your pipes moving. Use the rod to gently feel around in the drain until you come across the blockage, then use it to break through. As you break up the clog, use hot boiling water to wash away the debris, until the pipe is clear.

If the blockage is in an outdoor drain, you may wish to see if the problem can be solved simply by removing any mud, silt or leaves from the top of the drain. Open or remove any cover you have and pull out the debris you can reach. If you are able to pour water down the drain without any issues after this, the problem will have been solved.

Drain Cleaners

If you’re looking for a quick, powerful method of clearing out your drains, then you may choose to use any number of chemical cleaners that you can find online or in shops. Following the instructions on the label, pour the chemical into the drain and leave it for at least fifteen minutes. After this time, flush the drain through with water to see if the cleaner has worked.

When carrying out this work, you should ensure you are properly venting the room before leaving the chemicals to work. This includes making sure all windows and doors are kept open while the chemicals are doing their job.

We would also recommend that you do not clean cast iron sewer pipes with drain cleaners, as this can cause corrosion if the wrong chemical is used.

Plungers

If you have a plunger, you may be able to pull blockages out of a bath, shower, or sink drain by placing it over the hole to create a firm seal. Then, push the plunger up and down for about 20 seconds. Repeat this process several times to see if the clog comes loose. If it doesn’t, you may need to try a slightly stronger method.

The “Coat Hanger” Method

One of the more old-fashioned methods you might try to remove clogs of hair from drains is a wire coat hanger. Simply untwist the hanger until you can fashion the end into something which resembles a fish hook, then send it carefully into your drains and use it to pull out the clog.

Contacting the Professionals

While it is possible to take care of drain issues such as blockages by yourself, we do recommend caution with many of the methods you have available. We would also suggest not trying them again if they don’t work the first time, just in case this accidentally damages your property. 

Similarly, if your drains are already damaged, or have a problem which is going to be more difficult to resolve, we would always suggest calling a professional service to carry out the work. This keeps your home, business and all your most valuable items safe from any kind of harm, ensures that the work is carried out properly and keeps costs as low as possible for you. The most experienced drainage firms will also have a range of methods, as well as the best equipment, to see your pipes unblocked and repaired as you need.

Get in Touch to Get Rid of Your Drain Problems

No matter what kind of drain problems you’ve been experiencing, Coastal Drains will have a solution to get it fixed. Whether you’re concerned about the noise coming from a pipe in your basement, think your kitchen drain might be blocked with cooking fat, or even if you think you might have a problem with venting in your bathroom, our expert drainage engineers can arrive to take a look whenever you need.

Our emergency drainage services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, too, so you’ll never have to wait for “ordinary business hours” if you need your problem taken care of right away. Contact us when you need your drain problem taken care of by dedicated specialists and we’ll be there in no time at all to get your drains flowing just as they should.

Author: Greg Child

Greg is an expert in drainage and has been in the business for over 30 years. He's the owner of Coastal Drains Ltd and a very, very friendly chap.