Drainage Advice

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Drainage Problems and Blockages:

Most homeowners have experienced a temporary blockage or sluggish drains at some time in their plumbing. An unpleasant smell from the inspection chamber is usually the first sign of a blocked drain. Sometimes if the blockage is severe, sewage can overflow from a gully or from under the cover of an inspection chamber.

We must first ascertain the type of drainage system you have before attempting to unblock a main drain. The system most commonly used is the "single stack system". The wastewater and soil pipes are all connected to the same single stack.

Although drains run underground, they nearly always run in straight lines between the inspection chambers, gullies, fittings and stacks. Inspection chambers or manholes exist at every point where pipes join and where the direction or gradient of the drain changes.
 
In older properties the inspection chambers can be brick built rectangular structures with cast iron or galvanized steel covers. In newer premises plastic chambers can often be found with iron or steel covers. In older premises built before the Second World War the waste pipes are often divided into two separate pipe systems.

Waste from the WC is fed directly into a pipe of a larger diameter - soil stack, leading to the underground drains. The drain "gases" are discharged at a safe height into the open air above the house guttering.
 
The waste pipes from your plumbing fittings leading from upstairs baths and washbasins reach the waste stack directly, via a hopper funnelling the water into another vertical pipe.
The local council is responsible for cleansing any part of a communal system assuming they were constructed prior to 1937. However, the council "can" reclaim the cost of repair from the owner of the premises. Systems constructed after 1937 are the sole responsibility of the owner of the premises. They must individually (or collectively in the case of shared drainage) share the cost of repairing and cleansing the drain up to the sewer. The premises owner is responsible for the whole drainage system up to where it joins the sewer where a premise is drained individually.

If unsure, contact Boilers Repaired and Plumbing Technical Services Department  to determine responsibility for the drainage system.

If you have a blocked or stubborn drain, the first thing you should do is reduce or eliminate the water you put in the lines to minimize the amount of damage you may do. Obviously, if you keep flushing a slow-moving toilet, it will overflow the bowl with the potential of damaging the interior of the premises.
Washing machines can create one of the biggest problems when your drains are running slowly; they use 15 to 20 gallons of water per load. This water could back up into toilets or showers, possibly causing overflow damage. It is relatively easy for 1st National to find out if the blockage is in the interior drains or in the sewer lines.

Cooking grease, hair, food particles, toilet paper and roots often cause sluggish drains or line blockages. If they happen near the drain opening or toilet bowl, a plunger may be effective in clearing them. However, if the problem is some distance into a drain line you may require an engineer from 1st National to locate and resolve the problem via an alternative method. In these circumstances the only effective tools for this job are a set of drain rods or in some case a high pressure jetting machine. Once cleared the chamber will then be flushed thoroughly to remove all traces of debris.

The most important thing to remember is not to panic; we can often clear minor blockages with a combination of expertise and a plunger.