Water is slopping from your kitchen sink, the toilet bowl is filling up and there's an evil smell pervading your home... A blocked drain or sewer is not something you will be able to ignore for long! It's also not an enviable DIY task, so read on for the low down on finding a professional to clean up, and solve the problem.
Who is responsible?
Many householders mistakenly believe that drains and sewers are not privately owned, and that upkeep and repairs are therefore the responsibility of the local authority or water company. It's important to understand the situation for your own particular home. Check the Title Deeds for your property to see where drains and sewers are located, and who is responsible for their upkeep.
Take the time to check where you stand - carrying out repairs can be costly, and you should be aware of your potential liability. If you are a tenant, your landlord should take responsibility for this.
Broadly speaking, sewers can be defined as either public or private. Your water company is responsible for sewerage pipes from the point at which they join the public sewerage system. In some cases, your premises will not be directly connected to a public sewer, but will be linked to a network of private sewers which later connects with the public system.
The water company is also responsible for any shared pipe serving properties built prior to October 1937 or a shared pipe which they have adopted.
About 50% of properties in the UK are connected to private sewers and responsibility for the upkeep and maintenance lies with the property owner(s). Private sewers include all shared pipes serving properties constructed after September 1937. Often private sewers have not been built to the same standards as public sewers, so unfortunately problems may occur more frequently.
If you own a new property, you are less likely to be affected by low-grade drain and sewer pipes. Since 2002, house-builders have been required to construct all new sewers to adoptable standards. The government is also considering the adoption of private sewers by the water companies, but as yet responsibility still lies with the householder.
Don't forget that if several properties drain into a private sewer, upkeep is the joint responsibility of those properties.
Can't I fix the problem myself?
Some drainage and sewerage work can be carried out by the householder. If the dishwater won't drain away, for example, it is certainly worth making sure it is not simply due to an accumulation of food in the u-bend under the sink!
When it comes to major blockages, however, you risk worsening the situation or injuring yourself by adopting a DIY approach. Time to call in the experts!