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Smelly drain problem - who do I call / what do I need to do!

(13 Posts)
FeatherAndFrills Wed 12-Aug-15 12:21:36

Hello Mumsnetters,

New here, but hoping you can help!

Living in a ground floor Victorian conversion flat.

When we moved in, we had a survey on an outside drain carried out by Drain Clear because it didn't seem to be draining after some heavy rain. They stuck a camera down the drain and it came back with no problems.

However, it is STILL not draining properly, and I think it's the entrance to the drain rather than the drain pipes itself. It's the main drain outside where the drainage system from my flat and the flat above is connected to. The drains come down the wall and then stop just before the ground level (I presume so the drain can also clear rain water). Then there is a hole in the concrete path and then the sandy soil underneath which just seems to constantly seep into the drain and block it. The more I think about it, I don't think drains should be like this - should the hole in the ground where the pipe is be lined with something?

It has become a real problem because the stagnant water that sits there STINKS not to mention the potential damage it's doing to the foundations / under the building.

Does anyone have any ideas what I need to do to fix this or what type of professional should help? And any ideas what might help with the smell in the meantime!

Thank you mumsnetters!


Millymollymama Wed 12-Aug-15 12:50:37

Is the external drain pipe you mention, actually the soil and vent pipe? This means: is it taking waste from the bathroom? Or is it just for rain water from the guttering? I suspect it is the soil and vent pipe because they are often external on Victorian buildings. If it is the soil and vent pipe, you urgently need a Surveyor who specialises in drainage to do a proper survey. It looks as if the soil and vent pipe is not connected into the drainage system properly and is discharging into the surface water drain. Hence the dreadful smell. You need a proper survey done, of what drains where, and not just a camera down the part they can get a camera down. At least that is what I would do. It is also a possibility that the bathroom drainage pipe has collapsed underground and is leaking the waste into the ground where it is contaminating the surface water. Whatever, get a Surveyor who understands drainage.

PigletJohn Wed 12-Aug-15 13:34:41

or an experienced old local plumber. If he has worked in your area for 30 years he has probably seen hundreds of houses built the same as yours, with the same techniques and the same problems.

I have a feeling that the gulley you mention will be brown pottery (salt-glazed clay) in which case it is pretty sure to be broken in the ground.

Look for a nearby manhole.

Are there any red worms in the mud?

FeatherAndFrills Wed 12-Aug-15 14:05:47

Thank you for replying Mollymollymama and PigletJohn!

I have attached some photos in case that helps with the diagnosis...

Molly I think you are right, it is the grey water pipe so I think it gets the water from the sinks and washing machine etc. would this be right? When the water has (slowly) drained, it just becomes a muddy hole and I can see the top of the pipe that comes up from the ground (about 10cms below the level of the concrete).

As you can see, the hole is just a poorly made gap in the ground and below the concrete it's just the normal ground which is soil / mud.

There are no red worms in the mud that I've noticed PigletJohn.

Would a plummer be able to fix this? I'm reluctant to shell out more money on a survey (especially having already supposedly had one) only to then have to do the fix on top. Clearly I will have to do what's necessary though as this can't be good for the building.

There is another drain for the building 2 meters or so a way that doesn't have these problems....

PigletJohn Wed 12-Aug-15 14:21:01

If the old iron downpipe from the gutter originally ran into it, it will probably have been designed and built for rainwater.

It is wrong, but not uncommon for bodgers to put sink wastes into rainwater drains. Rainwater drains might go to a soakaway or a stream or culvert rather than a sewer. Ignorant and uncaring bodgers sometimes also connect WC wastes. If you are lucky the stink will just be tealeaves, cooking fat, sour milk and cods heads.

An older house might have a combined drainage system, where rainwater and foul go to the same sewer, but this is no longer permitted in new or converted houses.

Whatever drain is under there is broken and collapsed, hence the hole. Broken pipes and drains wash away the soil leaving a hole. In some cases houses subside into these holes. It needs to be dug out and relaid. It is going to cost a bit.

You had better look up the ownership and maintenance responsibilities.

You can also contact your water and sewerage company (for example Thames Water). Shared drains and sewers (serving more than one house) are now their responsibility. I don't know what the rules are for converted flats, or outside England.

If foul waste is going into a rainwater drain they will probably serve you with a notice to stop. It is illegal even before they serve a notice.

FeatherAndFrills Wed 12-Aug-15 15:57:29

Oh gosh this does not sound good. I had a homebuyers survey AND a drain survey and there were no red flags raised. Why do we bother!

I'm pretty certain it's not WC waste and I've not noticed and bits floating around that could have drained from a sink. It really is just grey water some times.

What is the best type of professional to dig out and relay the pipe? Is this a plummer job or builder or both? The pipe itself isn't broken I don't believe, just there is no formal drain area.

It's a leasehold flat so I'll dig out the lease and check where responsibilities lie.

I've just had a look at the Thames Water guidance and I don't believe it will be their responsibility as the drain area is on private property:

I guess you have no ballpark as to the type of figure you're talking about PigletJohn?

Nervously sitting down....

PigletJohn Wed 12-Aug-15 16:14:01

some plumbers call themselves sanitary engineers and do drains. Others are weedy little fellows with petal-soft hands who fit showers but don't like digging holes. They might use a labourer.

Builders dig holes but not all know about drains.

I'd start by asking for recommendations of a plumber. He should be wrinkled with horny hands.

Ask the water co to take a look anyway.

FeatherAndFrills Wed 12-Aug-15 16:14:02

Another thought, might my insurance cover this?

FeatherAndFrills Wed 12-Aug-15 16:15:41

Just seen your reply PigletJohn! Thank you very much for taking the time to talk me through this!

Nerves not yet calmed but I will start making some calls based on the info you have helped me with.

Wish me luck!

PigletJohn Wed 12-Aug-15 16:19:17

you can look at your policy, but it will probably not cover deterioration through age and neglect. It might cover repairs of the building if it has subsided. There is probably a policy for the block that is relevant, as I doubt you (leaseholder of a flat) own the outside drain.

FeatherAndFrills Wed 12-Aug-15 16:36:40

Noted, thank you.

Fingers crossed for a wrinkly handed plummer to be my savior

user1487661535 Tue 21-Feb-17 07:26:45

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

wowfudge Tue 21-Feb-17 07:58:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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