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Different Types of Drains & Pipes

Different Types of Drains & Pipes

With so many different types of drains and pipes, it can be hard to know what it is you’re working with, this is why Express Clear have put together a comprehensive source explaining what all the different types of pipes and drains are in a house or property.

Briefly covering what they are, what they do, where they are and what they look like.



ABS is a material of piping looks very much like PVC but is black in colour. This material is commonly used for drain and vent lines but professional plumbers are no longer using this material and they are replacing it with PVC.

Bath trap

The Bath trap drainage device usually refers to the P-trap. A bath trap must be the correct size and shape to ensure a bath can drain properly. It must be an effective seal to prevent a backup of waste and keep sewer gases at bay. The appropriate size of a P-trap 1.5 inches in diameter, whatever the size of bath.

Black Iron

Black Iron is a material which is incredibly strong, corrosion resistant and provides an air-tight seal. These are usually used for water lines but have been alternatively used for gas transportation.

Bottle trap

A Bottle trap plumbing piece is positioned directly underneath a sink and looks like a bottle and called this because it holds water. The bottle trap helps to keep your bathroom clean and free-from nasty odours. The basin pipe that the water runs down is much smaller compared to the bottle trap, which is larger in diameter.

This is required because the vessel always holds a certain amount of water, when sullage runs through it, it is then filled back up with new water. The water that sits at the bottom of the bottle trap seals off any unwanted gases or return waste from entering the building. They are usually made from plastic but chrome-plated designs are available for a more aesthetically pleasing finish.


Cast Iron

Cast Iron is used as pressure pipes for water, sewage, gas and more recently, water drainage. Cast iron pipes are resistant to abrasion which makes them very practical and highly durable. This material is more difficult than most to cut because it requires an electric cutter or grinder.


CPVC stands for chlorinated polyvinyl chloride, this is a thermoplastic and can handle both hot and cold water. Suitable for carrying drinking water to residential, commercial and public properties. They can also be used to carry wastewater to treatment systems.

Clay Pipes

Clay is one of the most popular materials for pipes in UK homes. They are durable and robust which means clay pipes are able to retain their impeccable structural and strength for decades.

Stacked up clay pipes for drainage

Cold Feed Pipe

The Cold Feed Pipe is the pipe that supplies cold water into a hot water system (i.e. the boiler or heating system), so you can have hot water and heating.

Communication Pipe

A Communication Pipe is used to transport water from the water mains to private properties. They’re laid under highways and are maintained by local water companies - this includes repairs, replacements and detection of leaks. A stop-tap marks the end of the communication pipework and if you’re a property owner and have one on the premises, it’s likely to be your responsibility.

Where the Communication Pipe is located under a house


Fascias are horizontal rafters that are connected to the eaves of a roof. Here you will find guttering connected to the fascia board. This used to collect rainwater to prevent leaks and flooding.

Flexible Copper Tubing

Flexible Copper Tubing is used for final runs to water heaters and is best utilised in tight corners - as it has a flexible nature. It does not withstand high temperatures.

Foul Drainage

Foul Drainage transports sullage from all vessels in a building that produce wastewater including: baths, showers, toilets, sinks, washing machines, dishwashers etc.


Galvanized Steel

Galvanized Steel is used for main water supplies, this material prevents corrosion and rust. Galvanized steel is no longer used within the home and are better used in areas that are not easily accessed.


A Gully is a small chamber with grating covering on top. This enables surface water to enter and flow into a drain.

Gully trap

A Gully Trap is a fixture found inside a domestic drain. The gully trap stops foul smells and gases from the waste that has passed through from dispersing into the surrounding air. They are self-cleaning pipes that generate enough force from the water flow to flush away waste buildup and they have a deep water seal with a minimum depth of 50mm.

They also stop insects and pests from finding their way into your building. These pipes are found on the outside of buildings and will collect all sullage from your sinks, baths and showers.


Internal Supply Pipe

An Internal Supply Pipe is the network of pipes that enable hot and cold water to flow throughout a building.


Lateral Drains

A Lateral Drain refers to the length of a pipe that transports wastewater away from a building. They’re found on the externals of a property and are hidden underground, running beneath public roads and pavements. They connect to the sewer, which is where the waste is released and then treated by your local water company.

What is a Lateral Drain?

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Overflow Pipe

An Overflow Pipe is a pipe that prevents a water overflow, they are found on cisterns or toilet tanks. If the toilet does being to fill up too high, the excess water will be transported through this pipe to prevent it from filling up any further. This part is put in place to prevent flooding.


The P-Trap is a device that’s usually found under sinks and serves a multitude of purposes. The P-trap prevents clogs by capturing debris to stop blockages from forming and works to stop gases from the sewer entering properties. P-traps tend to be made from PVC or steel, commonly PVC P-traps are installed but if they’re not cased inside a cupboard, steel ones are used because they’re more aesthetically pleasing. P-traps are literally shaped like the letter ‘P’, this part acts as a water seal, allowing water to pass through but never back up towards the vessel it left.

What a P Trap Pipe looks like

Public Sewer

The Public Sewer is a large pipe that feeds into more than one property. This removes waste from buildings and directs it into public sewers.

Public Sewer Systems

Rigid Copper

Rigid Copper is commonly used for water supply pipes because they do not carry any health risks like PVC can. This material is mainly used by professional plumbers because this material is more difficult to work with and requires precise cutting



An S-trap used to be part of a toilet but is no longer used because it has been known to allow sewer gases through and into the home.

Surface Water Drainage

Surface Water Drainage collects rainwater from the outside of a property, from the roof guttering and transports it through manholes which will then flow through to access chambers and into the storm drain network.

Shower trap

A Shower trap is a fitting that prevents clogs inside the drainage of your bath and/or shower. The shower trap is a straight pipe with a U bend that is positioned downwards to trap water between the inlet and the outlet - it is made up of three sections. The first part is the inlet, this is a vertical pipe that transports sullage from the bath or shower away and into the trap. The ‘trap’, is the second part, here the stagnant water is replaced by new water that flows through the inlet. The outlet is a horizontal pipe that shifts wastewater towards a main drain and from there it will enter the sewers.

Shared Supply Pipe

A Shared Supply Pipe is commonly found in older properties. Your local water supplier will be responsible for leaks outside of your boundary but you will be responsible for anything within your own boundary.

How a Shared Supply Pipe works


The U-bend is like the P-trap, the U-bend is shaped like the letter ‘U’ and this pipe is found under toilets and sinks. This piece of piping contains water along the lower section, stops unpleasant gases from being released and enables waste to pass through.


Water closet trap

A Water closet trap can be referred to as an ‘S-trap’, this part is hard to see but this is a small water chamber within the toilet base that forms the shape of the letter ‘S’. The S-trap is no longer used and has been banned because it has been known to allow sewer gases to enter buildings. The toilet has been able to overcome this issue by rerouting a small flow of water into the toilet bowl through a ‘fill tube’ whilst the tank refills.

Water Main

A Water Main is the main pipe used within a water supply system. Typically they’re laid under the ground of a homeowner's property but not always, they can be laid under the ground that’s owned by someone else.

Where a water main connects to a house

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