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Drainage or sewage problems can cause a variety of property issues, both large and small. Broken, blocked or cracked drains or sewers can potentially cause serious structural problems, however there are ways to identify any issues and deal with them before you have any serious concerns.

Occasionally you may notice water is slow to drain from the sink or bath and there may also be a foul smell around the sink hole. Hair or grease are the most common cause of blocked drains but can usually be dealt with by using cleaners, plunging or you can detach the u-bend or trap to remove persistent blockages.

Blockages can also occur outside due to leaves or dirt, these can be cleared fairly easily but if you are struggling to reach the blockage and general cleaners are not able to unblock your drains then you may need to call in a professional who can investigate the problem and unblock your drains.

As well as slow draining and unpleasant smells you may also notice water collecting in outside areas such as overflow drains and manholes. All of these signs may indicate a blocked drain or sewer. In more serious cases you may notice cracks in driveways or exterior brickwork and steps that appear to have sunken. These can be signs of a more serious structural problem known as subsidence, which can be caused by leaking drains or sewers.

Over time, pipes and joint deteriorate due to age and use. In particularly older properties such as Victorian homes, drains were originally made with salt-glazed clayware and can often be over 100 years old! These drains can develop cracks and become porous. However if you have iron pipes, these can corrode easily over time. During the 60’s, properties were often fitted with pitch fibre pipes which again will deteriorate over time and become blistered or collapse. Therefore it is a good idea to check the type of pipes you have within your home and be prepared to replace them.

If your pipes are cracked or broken, this could be an indication of movement in the ground as well as tree roots which can grow through piping and eventually put stress on them leading to damage. If pipes are leaking, or blockages are causing an overflow, this can cause soft ground which can lead to subsidence. Flooding can also cause movement within the ground of properties, due to the change in soil consistency and water concentration. Also check with the neighbours to establish whether they have drainage problems too, as this could indicate a sewerage problem which could be the responsibility of the local council as opposed to the home owner.

Ultimately, by keeping on top of blocked drains and sewers, you can help to avoid much more serious structural problems or ground movement which can lead to subsidence. Gain professional advice if you have any concerns, and general cleaning or unblocking doesn’t seem to be working, particularly if you notice more serious signs of drainage problems.

by Cormac Henderson

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