We've got a problem with our drains!
Am I worrying to soon? Toilet, sink and bath are all taking a long
time drain/flush. It has been like this for the last week or so.
Do you think if I leave this it might fix itself or should I take a
look sooner rather than later? I've no previous experience with
The next question, should there be a manhole on our property? If so,
then I can't find it!!
Below is (hopefully) a link to a noddy diagram I've done to illustrate
our layout. Any idea where I should look?
some reason, I think there may be a drain in the bottom right hand
corner but this is a raised bed (lots of slate) with no obvious
manholes. Short of digging random holes I'm not sure where to look.
Do the council maintain plans of drains?
The house is ~1910 with an extension dating from ~1930 at the back.And
it's corner plot.
Any suggestions welcome!
Worry! It won't get .better. Only call a 'drain expert' company as a last
resort, they cost a bloody fortune.
Not necessarily, could be shared with a neighbour on a property that age.
If you find one next door, put some food die in your bog, flush & watch :-)
Unlikely IME to have an inspection cover on the 'wrong' side of the house
especially in a raised bed.
Not sure, I guess so, give them a call.
Sounds like a single blockage is causing everything to slow down. Do the
wastes from bath & basin empty into a hopper or are they connected to the
soil pipe? I'd guess the latter. Photo of the outside?
Try some caustic soda (B&Q) it might shift things. Nasty stuff, follow the
Biggest blockage causes IME - (1) female sanitary products, (2) plastic
smelly things, (3) toddlers stuffing all sorts down loo.
In fullagreement with TMH do something now.
You say 1910 build unless you are in a big city most urban houses had shared
toilets in those days and rven in 1930 outside loo's were the norm'.
If your toilet soil pipe is plastic then you have had a conversion done and
if done correctly the builder would have had to fit a man hole to connect
into the outside toilet.
Unfortunately IME most simply ran into the underground hopper of the outside
loo ,put a slate or flag over the top and filled it in.
After a while this erodes and the hopper fills with soil bricks etc which
trap paper etc(you get the picture)
On Mon, 10 Dec 2007 13:43:28 -0800 (PST) someone who may be beamer
It might, but the chances of it doing do are probably under 5%.
Sooner. Don't leave it until the weekend.
There should be at least one, but to some extent this depends on the
drains. Does the "drain for bathroom" take the toilet? Does the
"drain for kitchen" go directly into the ground, or does it
discharge into a gully? Is the "soil pipe" connected to any
appliances? Where is the road (the sewer is usually there)?
At a guess there should be one or two manholes at the back of the
house, they are often provided where one or more drains join. They
are also provided at major changes in direction, so if the sewer is
at the front then there will be one to the right of the house, where
the drain turns through a right angle to go down the right side of
the house. If the grey thing to the right of the drawing is the road
then the drain probably goes directly to it from the back of the
At the edge of your property there is probably an intercepting trap,
in a manhole. These are often the source of trouble and are
sometimes revealed by an above ground air vent, though many of these
have been removed by misguided DIYers.
You may also find that the drains of your house are combined with
those of an adjacent house and so go in an unexpected direction.
Does a neighbour have the same problem?
Over the years someone may have "improved" the property by removing
or covering over the "unsightly" covers. The way to deal with this
is to know where the drains are likely to run and look in likely
Once you have found where the drains run, which is best done before
it becomes urgent (I mention this so others can learn the lesson),
raise the inspection covers and see which chambers are full, or
partly full. A blockage lies between the full one and the empty one.
Hire or buy some rods and rod from the full chamber towards the
empty one. If the last one is full rod from there to the public
sewer. If there is an intercepting trap try using the plunger to
clear the obstruction from the trap, as it is usually something in
the trap. If this doesn't clear it rod through the rodding arm,
after removing the stopper if it is still there. Use a search engine
to find a drawing of an intercepting trap if you need one, I'm not
This has been discussed in previous posts, which you can find with a
search engine, for full details.
Also visit your library and find a book that covers drains. The
drawings in it should be worth a thousand words here.
On 10 Dec,
Are there any spots that thaw quicker in snowy/icy weather? The Inspection
chamber may be lurking there.
The problem won't go away. It may appear spectacularly in your garden ,or
that of a neighbour, depending on how the land lies. Otherwise you'll be in
If the drain is shared and the house built pre 1930 then it ain't your
problem. It'll either be the council's or the water company. In my case
it's Thames Water and pretty damned efficient they are too.
On 11 Dec, 12:02, Stuart Noble
Thanks for the many replies. I expected this sort of response! Better
get off my backside and deal with it ASAP.
I'll try and cover everything.
- I tried the council and water company - very very prompt reply
(within 30 mins!) but they don't hold detailed plans.
- I've spoken to neighbours on all sides. No one else is having
problems. I'm guessing that this means they aren't shared but this is
- manhole nextdoor is a long way from my house and has been replaced
approx 6 years ago so they know it isn't used by us.
- worked out the raised bed is not actually raised. I think it is the
old level and the rest of the driveway has been dug out easier to
- soil pipe is clay
-soil vent pipe is cast iron.
- I can't see where the sink, toilet and bathroom waste link up. I've
only go access to two 6" (ish) square drains. I can't even see the
soil pipe outside the house.
- grey bit on the right hand side of the picture is a side road
(houses about 1960s).
- main road runs left to right at the bottom of the picture.
- judging by the water co plan there is a sewer running down the
middle of the main road and a smaller one running down the centre of
the side road.
- logically I would expect we are using the sewer in the main road??
My plan as it stands is......
Tonight I bought some caustic soda* and put a healthy amount into both
of the accessible drains. I don't think this will work but for the
money it's worth a go.
If this hasn't worked by the morning, I'm going to sneak out of work a
couple hours early and have an exploratory dig in the 'raised' area.
If that fails, I'll then have to start taking up the 6m * 6m decking
to see if there is a manhole under there. Eck.
If that fails, I go to the pub and contemplate (and use their
Thanks for all tyour suggestions!
* Not called caustic soda anymore apparently. Few to choose from but
picked one with the most health warnings.
On Tue, 11 Dec 2007 14:54:57 -0800 (PST) someone who may be beamer
The original drain may well have been under or near the drive.
You didn't mention that before:-) If it is at the back of the house
it probably covers what you are looking for.
At least they can't tell you it's *not* a shared drain then.
Indeed. If you're at the end of the run, you'll probably get the
Bugger it. I'd get the water board out. They've got the gear to flush it
from the road if necessary. If they can't find the access, then you know
it isn't in an obvious place.
Yes, logically, I would expect to see the manhole somewhere near to
where all those gullies and soil pipe are and all of them discharging
into it. If there is decking there ir does sound as if it may be under
it. Who the hell put the decking down?
On Dec 12, 4:58 pm, Stuart Noble
Sorry. I forgot to mention the decking. I pulled up every 3 or 4 plank
and dug around with an old screwdriver. No sign of any drain. Also had
a look at the 'raised' area with no sucess. Possibly it's buried
deeper but who knows?
Very heavy frost this morning and no warmer parts of the garden were
Tried proper caustic soda as well with no success. The B&Q nearest to
me said they didn't stock it? Had to resort to HomeBase.
Not sure what to try next. Reluctant to call out water board at =A3111
per hour. Visions of them standing around having a smoke at nearly =A32
Not sure what to do next but run out of daylight to do any more today.
Probably spend a bit more time on it tomorrow before I finally admit
Thanks for all the suggestions so far!
P.S. It wasn't me that laid the decking in case you're wondering :)
Am no expert on drains but I'd try to find out where the manholes are
on either side of you.
I'd expect the manholes are where each house drain tees into the main
line, so might be able to find out how it runs across your property
and look for likely places where yours might be.
Thanks for the suggestion but I have already considered that. On one
side, they have had all the drains replaced (at a cost of =A36K!!) so
they know I'm not using it. The other side of the house is a side road
(we're on a corner plot) and the house to the rear has also had
problem in the past and insist that their drain only serves their
Caustic is overrated as a drain cleaner. It very gradually dissolves oil
and fat but does nothing if the problem is something else.
But they must do it for free if it's shared. They don't exactly
publicise the fact though. It's a shame we can't establish whether
that's the case.
Try shoving a length of garden hose round the toilet U bend.
Another though considering the new info' you say the house at the rear had
Is there (or was there) a path between you?
If so look there you may have shared a 'Tipler' outside loo years ago (these
were up to 12feet deep) .
You also mention cast iron fittings ,as an end house check the rainwater run
offs these connect to the same main drain but were dropped into when inside
plumbing took off.
Failing that get out the devining rods .(really does work only trouble is
doesn't just sense drains) or borrow ground radar from 'Time Team' (hehe)
Thanks for the suggestions. I may have made a small amount of
progress. I (ok it was the wife) had the idea of contacting the
house's previous owner.
Eventually, with the help of the Companies House website I tracked him
down and paid him a visit. He is pretty sure that there is a vent pipe
in the 'raised' area at the front. I can't see anything so I'm
assuming it has to be buried.
He was also responsible for putting in the decking and turfing the
whole back garden and is 100% sure there are no manhole covers to be
Saturday morning will be spent digging up all the slate, membrane and
whatever else I find. Fingers crossed.