A blocked drain stops waste water from properly draining away from your property. Left unchecked, it can lead to anything from an unhygienic mess to flooding that can cause serious damage to your home and garden.
Home insurance can cover you for drain damage in some instances, depending on the cause of the blockage.
But there’s lots you can do to try to prevent blocked drains happening in the first place.
Read on to find out how you could have a go at unblocking a drain yourself and when to call in the professionals.
Home insurance can pay out for damage caused by a blocked drain - but it will depend on the cause.
For example, if the blockage or damage is caused by tree roots growing into the piping or other accidental damage, then you should be covered.
Gradual damage, corrosion and wear and tear to pipes and drains may not be covered.
And you’re unlikely to be able to make a claim if you’ve blocked the drains because you’ve been flushing baby wipes down the toilet and leftover cooking oil and coffee grounds down the sink day after day.
Insurance won’t cover you for a pipe that’s leaking because of a lack of due care and upkeep on your part.
So make regular checks of your pipes and drains to ensure they’re not corroding, brittle or bunged up and arrange for repairs as necessary before problems get worse.
You’re responsible for the maintenance and repair of drains that are inside your home and property boundary.
Where the drain leaves your property boundary, it’s the responsibility of your water supplier. Also, drains that connect to a neighbour’s drain and the main sewer are the water supplier’s responsibility.
If you’re unsure if the blockage is on your property, contact your local water company. If they think the problem lies in their system - or if they’re unsure - they’ll send out an engineer to investigate.
If you have recurring blockages, even though you’ve thoroughly cleaned and cleared your drains - or if you can detect the smell of sewage or even have back-ups of sewage into your home, then it’s likely you have a collapse somewhere along your drainage piping.
Other signs of a collapsed drain are damp or mould on floors and walls.
Pipes can collapse due to old age, recurrent blockages or tree or plant root intrusion.
A CCTV drain survey - where a camera is inserted into the drain - can confirm exactly what’s causing the collapse.
Any accidental issues that damage drains within your property boundary may be covered by your home insurance.
If you think there’s a blockage in or a collapse of your drain, you can contact your insurer for advice.
If the problem is outside of your property boundary, then your local water company will be responsible for removing blockages and for repair work and you should contact them. They will send out an engineer to investigate.
There are some ways to determine if a blockage is in your pipework, or in your local water company’s.
A blockage can happen in your internal or external drains. In many cases, you can clear the blockage yourself.
Usually, a combination of soap scum and stray hairs is the cause of a clogged sink drain in the bathroom. In the kitchen, trapped food waste and fat could be to blame.
If you’re sure the responsibility for unblocking the drain is yours (as opposed to that of your local water company) and it’s a minor problem and safe to do, here’s how to have a go at fixing the problem yourself.
If you see a public drain overflowing - for example on a road outside your home - you should report it to your local council’s highway drainage department. You can find out how to contact them on the gov.uk website.
Most household blockages happen because of what we flush down our toilets and pour down our sinks.
Leftover food, cooking oils and fats can solidify in pipes and clog them. Wet wipes and sanitary towels flushed down the loo are also common culprits that clog up our pipes and prevent waste water from swiftly exiting our homes.
Clean out the u-bend, or sink trap, under interior sinks regularly and use a pressure hose to clean and blast outside drains of debris every few months too.