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Help! Blocked drain!

(21 Posts)
BasinHaircut Fri 08-May-15 09:36:43

When we bought this house we had a damp report which said that we had a blocked drain on the side of the house that 'just needed clearing out'. I naively thought that it just had some leaves etc in it and it would be a 2 min job.

Anyway, I've just been out to clear the drain and after scooping out the leaves it was filled with mud. At first I thought that they must have just ran a drainpipe down into a hole in the driveway instead of an actual drain but after digging down I have found the actual drain grille.Looks like the drain below the cover is completely filled with mud. I tried to lift the grille but can't.

In that corner of the house I have found a few woodlice and we did get high damp readings there although it's not visibly damp. Now I'm worrying that there is going to be a major problem but I guess the first job is to clear the drain. Then I can worry about the joists etc!

Anyway, how do I clear the drain? Do I need to get someone in or is it worth trying something myself first? I've googled and people are suggesting sticking a rod or hose down etc but others say you may damage the pipe.

its times like this I wish DH had an ounce of DIY skill or knowledge, but he is quite frankly useless!

LIZS Fri 08-May-15 10:01:14

I'd probably get a specialist in to give it a proper flush through.

BasinHaircut Fri 08-May-15 10:34:14

Thanks. I think if DS has a nap I might see if I can dig down any further if I can get the grille up, and if not call someone out.

I'm dreading it though. We got this house By a fluke and I've been waiting for something to go wrong

LIZS Fri 08-May-15 10:41:26

If it is causing such issues then might be best to have it properly resolved now rather than diy and perhaps have it recur and damage work you do to the house.

BikeRunSki Fri 08-May-15 10:44:06

Get someone like Dynorod in.

bobs123 Fri 08-May-15 10:45:48

I would give it a go yourself first. Find something to lever the grille up. If you have them use long gloves or those really skinny clingy ones like they use at the doctor's. You might find it's purely mud in there that needs clearing.

Warning - doing this might make your hands/arms stink for the foreseeable grin

PigletJohn Fri 08-May-15 11:14:43

consider a wet and dry builders vac that will suck out the water, and (more slowly) mud.

Get a spare cartridge filter to fit - you can swap when it gets clogged. You can brush dry dust out of the pleats of the filter, or hose off mud.

This one is cheap, sturdy, and has a 2-year warranty. Don't get a little one. For dry work you can use huge paper bags which are better for sawdust, plaster dust etc.

Be aware that mud in drains may indicate a broken drain which will need to be dug up and replaced. Shared drains, common behind terraces, are now the responsibility of the water co, but drains serving only your house, or that part of them until it reaches the shared part, are all yours.

Woodlice eat rotten wood so are a discouraging sign inside the house. They have no teeth so can't damage sound, dry wood.

BasinHaircut Fri 08-May-15 11:17:01

I'm sure it is just mud, probably got blocked when the previous owners did the driveway and they have just left it. But how far will it go down? I'm assuming unless I want to risk damage I only want to use my hands?!

PigletJohn Fri 08-May-15 11:30:15

You probably have a yard gully, which has a sort of U-bend in the bottom. The grill should be at, or a couple of inches below, ground level. You can clean out the gulley with kitchen spoons and ladle. If the pipe itself is choked it will be harder and you will need rods and jets.

Look for the nearest man-hole cover and lift the lid with a spade.

A plastic gulley and pipes will be 30 years or less old, glazed clay might be a hundred. Clay is more likely to be broken and to have a hundred years of accumulated blockage.

pics here

BasinHaircut Fri 08-May-15 11:46:26

Thanks *piglet.

I'm not quite following though. So are you saying that I need to lift the manhole to see what type of pipe before I dig out? Or just if that doesn't solve the problem?

PigletJohn Fri 08-May-15 12:18:52

it may be useful to look down any manholes to see if there are signs of blockage or damage. If you are lucky it will only be the gully that is blocked.

BasinHaircut Fri 08-May-15 12:51:14

Well I can't even get the grille off! So no digging for me. I'm going to call in the professionals. Any recommendations?

PigletJohn Fri 08-May-15 15:01:27

try your water co or council, it will probably be a chargeable work but see what they say. Dynorod will probably squirt it. There will be other local drain people, or a plumber if you know one (personal recommendation is always best)

If it is an iron grill in a saltglazed clay gully, it might be rusted in and a steel hook will probably pull it out. There is a slight risk of cracking the gulley though, which is especially inconvenient if it is set in concrete. Newer plastic gullies I would not be concerned about giving it a good yank. Some of them are in segments and come apart.

BasinHaircut Sun 10-May-15 08:11:23

Thanks again piglet john! I booked dynorod, are they no good then? They are coming tomorrow.

Can I ask some further advice from you? We obviously have no idea how long the drain has been blocked. It does drain although v slowly. It's not overflowing. But Water has clearly affected the corner of the house as the render is damaged there and the inside showed high damp readings.

DH pulled the carpet back yesterday to see what the situation with the floorboards was, and there appears to be concrete for the first foot or so (it's front corner, by the front door) so although we will lift the boards in due course to check, it hopefully hasn't got the joists wet. Or am I being naive/optimistic? Could it have damaged the house in any other way? I'm thinking subsidence etc or am I being dramatic? The block paved drive seems to be in good nick so common sense tells me that the damage is cosmetic, but we got such a good deal on this house that I've just been waiting for something to go wrong and cost a bomb to sort out!

KatieScarlettreregged Sun 10-May-15 08:15:39

Happened to me a couple of weeks ago. Huge drain we didn't know was there until the Poonami began running down the street blush
We dug out the garden to get to the drain and called the Council who put us through to the Water Board. Man came out, opened the drain (was enormous) wiggled a big pole and it was fixed.
Cost nothing.

PigletJohn Sun 10-May-15 11:54:29

I have nothing against Dynorod. Jetting and rodding will clear a simple blockage.

I've heard water co drain people moan about them, perhaps they don't get on.

If you have a yard gully, and it is made of brown pottery like an old teapot (salt glazed clay) then it is quite likely to be cracked, broken and leaking. In the London area houses built on clay move a bit, and 70-76 years ago most houses in cities were shaken around a lot. An experienced local builder will be familiar with houses like yours and should know if it's likely. It is not a complicated repair but it will involve digging a hole. I was once in one mending a broken gully when the hole filled up with warm soapy water because the people next door (with exactly the same problem) had a bath. The whole terrace would have been the same. Damp patches around rains may also arise is there is a leaking downpipe.

BasinHaircut Sun 10-May-15 19:00:44

Thanks piglet the house is 1930s and London-ish. We are on clay though. I think it is a yard gulley.

Would be a nightmare to have to dig a hole as I'm assuming the driveway would have to come up.

If dynorod clear the drain, how will I know if the gulley is broken if it's draining? Or will the dyno man be able to see that it's broken and tell me?

PigletJohn Sun 10-May-15 19:21:24

if it has a break, he will probably be able to tell. It is now quite common to poke a camera down to see how bad the damage is, and where, before estimating the work required.

A broken gulley or pipe can drain as the water and detritus gets out through the break. The ground above such a break tends to subside because the earth is washed away. Sometime concrete or paving above sounds hollow when banged. You may encounter red worms in the wet ground.

sianihedgehog Sun 10-May-15 20:45:38

Dynorod actually work under contract for one of the local water companies. They're fine, but if they say that the drain has collapsed it'll almost certainly be cheaper to get a local guy to digest it up and fix it.

PigletJohn Sun 10-May-15 20:51:46


BasinHaircut Mon 11-May-15 14:15:20

Thanks guys. Dynorod came and unblocked the drain, the gulley is intact. PHEW!

TBH I could have done that myself, he just scooped out the mud and flushed through with my hose but at least he removed the grille without damaging it (I wouldnt) and has given me the peace of mind of knowing that it's all fine now.

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