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Found drain covers under carpet in new house - problem?

(40 Posts)
SeraOfeliaFalfurrias Thu 04-Aug-16 00:14:20

We've just bought a new house, built in 1970s, extended in 1980s. Today we pulled up the old carpets and found two drain covers in the hallway in the extended bit of the house, which I assume used to be outside. Is this okay and/or legal? Can we just quietly cover them up again or should we have them looked at? I can't say I fancy having the water board in my hallway pulling up my new oak flooring if anything goes wrong with the local drains! We couldn't get the covers off to see what's underneath, I doubt anyone has touched them in 30 years.

blinkowl Thu 04-Aug-16 00:19:35

My friend didn't realise she had drains under her living room till it flooded so you're ahead of her by realising they're there at least!

I think she sealed hers up but she did also have another manhole in the garden so maybe that gave sufficient access?

I think you need to speak to a plumber to see what's possible.

SeraOfeliaFalfurrias Thu 04-Aug-16 06:35:54

We'd never have known if the flooring man had actually finished the job today instead of pissing off home early!

ineedamoreadultieradult Thu 04-Aug-16 06:38:43

You will have to speak to the water board. It's likely part of the planning permission to build over them was that they should be accessible. We had one in our conservatory and only ever had lino down in there so it could be easily uncovered if necessary.

Mrswinkler Thu 04-Aug-16 06:53:32

What you might be able to do it get a new recessed cover that you can lay your oak floor into yet still be able to lift access cover if needs be. Internal covers need to have a special seal so that you don't get odours and stuff from the drain. It's probably the reason the floorers left early; they'll need sone advice on what you want to do.

SeraOfeliaFalfurrias Thu 04-Aug-16 06:54:26

Bugger.

SkyLucy Thu 04-Aug-16 07:00:47

When we moved to our house in May 2015, we noticed a strange square cut into the kitchen's laminate flooring. Excitedly thinking it was a cellar, it turned out to be access to ours and neighbours' drains - we realised that it had been covered by a rug both times we viewed the house!

Unfortunately it's perfectly legal. It's not pleasant but (touch wood) we've not had to investigate any further in 18 months. Still find it a bit gross though!

lastnightiwenttomanderley Thu 04-Aug-16 07:02:42

OP, there is some hope still!

Check with your local water company whether it's a private sewer (ie yours) or one of theirs - they should be able to advise and even send you a plan of their sewers.

What's behind the door? It may be that it was a tricky junction when they installed the drainage for the extension and so they needed to provide access in case of blockage (there are rules on minimum angles for joints etc) There are other ways of doing this now though so you might find you no longer need access if you can provide a rodding eyE somewhere else in the system which might be easier than having to.incorporate access into your new floor.

(I'm a chartered enginner by the way, happy to have a look if you're not sure. A plan of the house and the location of the cover could be enough to get a fairly good idea)

OverAndAbove Thu 04-Aug-16 07:04:54

Yes you need a cover inset which can be made to cover the hole and match the wood floor. It's not cheap but it will fine.

My friend has a well in her study! It's quite attractive so it has a glass cover inset and lighting in it...They put a rug down in winter though as even though there's no draught, it somehow looks cold.

SeraOfeliaFalfurrias Thu 04-Aug-16 07:13:34

lastnightiwenttomanderley - Thanks for the advice. The door is the downstairs loo. Sadly there are no plans for the house (which means much joy in terms of Land Registry, but that's a whole 'nother story.

If we get a plumber out will they be able to advise?

SeraOfeliaFalfurrias Thu 04-Aug-16 07:14:02

Should we get our solicitors to ask the sellers what the story is with regards access?

LIZS Thu 04-Aug-16 07:20:06

We're there any plans submitted to the council for the extension? Did it pass Buildings regulations?

Berthatydfil Thu 04-Aug-16 07:22:14

They would have been the original drains before the extension was built.
I nearly had to do that when we had our extension but as they were only my drains we were able to move them.
Try your planning dept as they

BluePitchFork Thu 04-Aug-16 07:30:42

how recent is the sale?
if it is, then yes.

ChristinaParsons Thu 04-Aug-16 07:31:43

Should have come up on your water search when you bought the house

Berthatydfil Thu 04-Aug-16 07:36:59

Oops .....should have a record of the legal agreement and the planning and building regs details.
Think it's called a section 28 (?) building over sewer agreement.
I think that the agreement means that water company have the legal right to demand access it if there is a blockage in the shared drains so don't put an expensive floor covering down without any way of getting access to it.
You can't refuse them access and I'm sure the legal agreement is binding on all future owners of the house. It's also a potential risk to your home should the drains block / back up and it might be something you need to disclose to your insurers now you know about it.
Thinking about it it's something that your solicitor should have been made aware of in the buying process so it's worth making enquiries to see if he asked about it and what reply he got from the vendors.

Berthatydfil Thu 04-Aug-16 07:40:41

www.homesandproperty.co.uk/property-news/legal-qa/our-house-has-an-extension-over-a-sewer-is-this-legal-38586.html

SeraOfeliaFalfurrias Thu 04-Aug-16 08:21:50

I'll have to have another look at the water search when I get home but we looked through all the searches very carefully and didn't see anything that raised concern. Of course we weren't specifically looking for a drain in our hallway at the time!

Berthatydfil Thu 04-Aug-16 09:20:12

If I was you I would get straight onto your solicitors.
Did your vendors do the extension or was it a few owners previous?

One thing that crossed my mind is if the extension is small they may not have had planning permission if it was a permitted development. Although they would have needed building regs. Again your solicitor should have asked for this info from your vendors knowing there was an extension.
When we were planning our extension we were told that if we had been forced to build over the existing manhole which would have ended up in the proposed kitchen we would have needed 3 meters space around it to have allowed drain rodding to have been done.
That space in your picture looks very small - do you have 3 meters space there ?

SeraOfeliaFalfurrias Thu 04-Aug-16 09:39:35

No 3m clearance, it's a hallway. The extension is huge, it nearly doubled the size of the house. They must have had planning permission, even in the 1980s. The people who sold us the house are the ones who did the extension, so they definitely knew the drain was there.

I emailed my solicitor first thing and have also contacted the council about getting hold of the planning permission documents.

WhoTheFuckIsSimon Thu 04-Aug-16 09:40:48

Don't get a plumber. Call a local drain unblocking firms. I wouldn't have thought that a fresh water plumber would be keen to start poking about at sewers. I used to work for a water board as a sewer unblocker and we had strict rules regarding us not touching fresh water stuff and the fresh water guys not touching sewers for contamination reasons.

People building extensions over sewers is common. It won't be a mains sewer (very very unlikely) but underneath will be your private sewer running to the main sewer. If I were you I would want to know what pipes ae running where. So does your neighbours sewage join your pipes upstream or is it just your house that the pipes are serving? I would want to know where the next upstream and downstream covers are so if you have any problems you know where you can rod from. I would be tempted to have a cctv sewer survey done to make sure the sewer is in good condition. If there's any partial collapse you can get it sorted now before there's a problem and drains start backing up. I would be tempted to cctv every ten years.

Our neighbour built over his manhole. His sewer comes into ours and gets blocked at times. He's the first one to know but thankfully he doesn't get overflowing covers, he just can't flush the loo. So he comes tearing round to ours to use our manhole!

Berthatydfil Thu 04-Aug-16 10:05:41

In that case I'm very surprised that it didn't come up in the searches

Owlcat Thu 04-Aug-16 11:35:22

Are they definitely drain covers? Our garden has covers that were for inspection chambers for the sluice system before the house was put onto mains drainage some years ago, they're now redundant. Do you know if the house has always been on main drainage?

lastnightiwenttomanderley Thu 04-Aug-16 11:38:15

It would only come up in the searches if it was a public sewer. Error aside, the fact it hasn't normally means it's private, though it may be shared with neighbours. There is some excellent advice here on what to do if it is a public sewer but you need to rule that out first. You also need to check the implications if it's shared but this isn't normally as onerous.

For me, the fact that it is next to the downstairs loo means it may just be a location where they wanted to put in a tricky connection and need access. Of course, there are exceptions, but this seems likely to me based on the info you've given.

WhoTheFuckIsSimon has said everything I would, so do a little digging (paperwork and records rather than manual!) and then get a drain company out. A plumber is unlikely to be able to tell you what you need to know.

SeraOfeliaFalfurrias Thu 04-Aug-16 11:53:18

Thanks everyone. We looked over the searches very carefully and didn't notice anything odd, but then we weren't looking especially for a drain in our hallway at the time.

Obviously I have no idea what's under the cover, which is why I wanted a plumber to look, but a drain company makes more sense.

The council have got back to me already (very efficient!) and are looking for records for me. No word from our solicitor yet.

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