Blocked drains can be a fearsome experience, especially if you’re currently experiencing high levels of rainfall. In these cases, blocked drains can rapidly overfill, causing water to build up and potentially even enter your home. It should come as no surprise therefore that fixing blocked drains should be done as soon as any issues are uncovered, rather than being left till another time.
In this way you will minimize the chances of major flooding, and serious damage occurring to your belongings. But let’s say you’ve discovered a blocked drain here in the UK; what should you do?
Common Causes of Blocked Drains
Whilst it’s unfortunate when it happens, drains rarely get blocked or clogged for no reason. Most commonly, drains block for one of two reasons.
Firstly, there may be some kind of physical obstruction. A matt of leaves and twigs is common in the winter; this plant matter may have been swept down a drain in the rain, before clogging up into an impenetrable blockage. Understandably, the water cannot travel through this blockage and so the drain ceases to function.
The other common cause of blocked drains is quite simply the volume of water trying to get down it. Drains have a specific diameter and so can only carry so much water. The volume carried is usually more than sufficient, but extremely heavy rainfall can flood these drains. In such cases, the drain is simply incapable of draining all the water away as quickly as necessary. This causes the water to back up and potential flooding.
Whatever the case may be there are two take-home points. Firstly, blocked drains should be resolved as swiftly as possible to reduce the chance of damage happening to your property, and secondly they often require professional help due to the difficulty in diagnosing – and accessing – the source of the blockage.
Whose Responsibility Is It To Clear Blocked Drains?
One common question we receive is just whose responsibility it is to actually clear blocked drains. There are those people who believe that it is always the council’s responsibility but that isn’t always the case.
Broadly speaking, drains in public areas – such as drains at the edge of roads or in parks – will be the responsibility of the local council. A phone call to them should log the problem and get someone out to fix the blocked drain.
That said, depending on the council in question, and how backlogged they are with other requests, it may take some time to clear such a drain. Therefore, if the drain in question is a public one, but you fear that your property may be affected then you have two options. The first of these is to inform the council and then start to keep a record. Note down when you rang the council, who you spoke to and so on. Take photos of the problem drain and monitor it carefully.
If the drain is not unblocked in time and damage occurs to your property you’ll want this evidence to hand not only for your insurer but also to approach the council. The notes you have been keeping will form vital evidence in resolving the issue and ensuring you are suitably compensated.
The alternative, of course, is to consider taking matters into your own hands, though we would caution you to only do this when a drain is on your own property. Generally speaking drains on your own property – such as those in courtyards, gardens, or even coming out of your bath – are your responsibility to resolve.
How To Unblock Your Drains
Unblocking drains yourself can be a challenge as it normally requires specialist information. These days, damp experts use either a physical ram to clear blockages, or a high-pressure jet of water. Either way, drains being designed as they are, this normally involves the equipment travelling some distance up the drainage pipe in order to make contact with the blockage.
For this reason, in all but the most minor of cases it is normally necessary to contract a professional in order to clear your drains. However if you’re concerned about the water levels around your home and fear that damage may occur, there are other steps you can be taking while waiting for your contractor to arrive.
For minor floods, consider making some educated guesses about the water movement and where exactly the water is likely to end up. If the level of flooding continues to rise, which areas of your property are most at risk?
Where possible, try to find ways to protect your home – such as with the use of sandbags. Alternatively, if there is not enough time, at least consider moving your most valuable belongings away from the “danger zone” so that if the water does eventually flood your home, you can at least take reassurance from the fact that your most prized possessions have been safely stowed away.
Blocked drains can be a scary proposition that can quickly snowball out of control. If you are concerned about a blocked drain, contact a professional as soon as possible. Doing so will ensure that you are top of the waiting list. Owners who “wait and see” may have a nasty surprise if they decide professional help is needed, yet all their neighbours have made bookings early. If in doubt, act, and act quickly.