Victorian Terrace, Modern Estate or Rural Idyll: The Potential Drainage Problems
Very few of us give any thought to the drains connected to our property. We take a shower, flush the loo or run the washing machine without a thought about where all that water goes. That is, of course, until something goes wrong. Some forty percent of home subsidence issues are caused by leaking drains and, even if a drain problem is not so serious as to lead to subsidence, repairing it can still be a very expensive and disruptive business.
The types of issues that can arise are very much dependent on the type of property you live in. In other words, the problems to look out for vary depending on the age, location and method of construction of the property.
Victorian Terraced Homes
This type of property is very common in our towns and cities and, although built over a century ago, they still provide many of us with spacious, comfortable homes. Typically, these Victorian houses are brick-built and laid out in terraces. The drains of each property in the terrace will connect to pipes leading to the public sewer.
The pipes used in Victorian times were made from salt-glazed clay. Although this is a reasonably robust material, the fact that such pipes will now be over a hundred years old means that problems can arise. The chief issues to be aware of are cracking to the pipes and leaking through the joints as they become more porous over the years. Such problems, if untreated, can lead to leaks and, in the worst cases, subsidence.
A particular problem for houses built in the 1960s is an issue resulting from the material commonly used for drains at the time. Pitch fibre drain pipes have not lasted well and are no longer used. They can deteriorate and can become compressed and misshapen thus causing blockages.
Houses built more recently have their issues too. Partly this is as a result of the fact that drain-laying is no longer regarded as a trade in its own right; more often than not drains are laid by unskilled operatives. Even with the best quality materials, a badly laid drain will result in problems.
The other issue with modern drains is that of neighbour disputes over shared drains; typically where not all of a group of homeowners with shared drains are willing to pay-up for repairs.
Rural properties, particularly those ‘off-grid’, are frequently likely to have private drainage with a septic tank and soakaway arrangement. On occasion older tanks can leak into the water course and sometimes soakaways can become overwhelmed by the volume of water they are expected to cope with.
Before buying a property, particularly an older one, a professional drain survey is always a sensible option. All homeowners should keep a regular eye on their drains and look out for warning signs such as cracks, subsidence, foul smells and difficulties in draining sinks or flushing the toilet.
Drains specialists can offer a range of solutions. Blocked drains can be cleared by rodding or jet hosing. Broken or cracked drains can be cleared and relined in situ. Intrusive tree roots can often be cut away without major excavation too. Should whole sections of drainage pipes need to be replaced, however, some excavation work will need to be conducted.