Handy Information and Advice

Handy Information and Advice

All you need to know about how drains work, common problems, and when we can help!



There are a few different kinds of pipes that will be found in drainage systems, and all are slightly different in the way that they handle environmental factors (e.g. ground pressure). 

Clay pipes are the traditional type of drain pipe and are found at properties of all ages, but particularly properties built before the 1960’s. Older clay ware piping systems typically used socket and spigot joints that were caulked with lime mortar to provide a rigid string of drains. These older systems are commonly found to be cracked and broken due to the inflexibility of the joints coupled with slight ground movements, and have never had any degree of built in design-flex.

Old cast iron pipes are susceptible to considerable erosion during service, poor hydraulic performance due to rough internal surfaces and poorly constructed connections to clay or other pipe materials. Modern versions of vitrified clay pipes and uPVC (plastic) pipes are jointed with polymeric flexible couplings, which allow the pipes in the ground to adapt to slight ground movements without breaking. The modern joints can be susceptible to leakage and root intrusions as their older counterparts, but often as a result of poor installation, overloading, excessive ground movement or direct damage.
As a whole however, they are a significant improvement on clay and cast iron pipes and so should sustain somewhat less damage if exposed to these elements.

Another type of pipe used in the 1940s, 50s and 60s was a type called a Pitch Fibre pipe; this was used in a large scale by the UK construction industry. These pipes are not used anymore, due to them being found delaminated, blistered and deformed, as they deteriorate under ground pressure and in damp conditions such as those found in drains. 

A common problem is root intrusion into drains, but this only usually occurs when there is an existing defect such as a crack, fracture or a hole in the pipe. Roots from trees and shrubs naturally seek out water and nutrients, so when they find entry into a drain or sewer, they often fill the available space to make best use of the available water, and this can lead to some considerable blockages if left unchecked. Drains with root intrusion can often be repaired permanently without the need for excavation and removing the tree/shrub from the pipe, however at C.J Lyon we do not recommend leaving the offending materials in the pipe, and prefer to excavate and repair where necessary.

It is an offence to let anything enter into the public sewer that might cause a problem to the flow of the sewage, or that causes a problem with processing at the local waste water treatment plant. These objects include not only gravel, bricks or any other solid object, but also fats, oils and greases. (Section 111 of the 1991 Water Industry Act; Section 46 of the 1968 Sewerage Act in Scotland).

Is it our responsibility? 

A homeowner is responsible for all of their private drainage up to and including the last manhole on their property, if there is a problem on your property only, this is when C.J. Lyon should be called in to help. From this point onwards, the responsibility would become United Utilities (0345 672 3723), and it would then be down to them to clear it without cost. Unfortunately, if we do come out and we find it is United Utitlies responsibility, we would still have to charge due to the time we have taken to attend, as we are unable to claim any expenses back from United Utilities. So please do check first whether the problem is just within your property, or if it extends out of yours and onto another. If it is just within the confines of your own property, that is when we will need to be called out, and we will make sure your problem is solved and you are happy with the service we have provided.

Under legislation enacted on 1st October 2011 in England and Wales, all previous private sewers and private lateral drains have now passed into the ownership of the local Water and Sewerage Company (United Utilities in the North West). At the present time, there are a few exceptions to this ruling which includes drains and sewers under Crown land, some pipes under Railway land, surface water pipes that lead directly to a moving water course and pipe systems upstream from and including sewage pumping stations. Under the new rules, pipes that were previously deemed to be ‘Section 24’  sewers are now public sewers under the ownership of United Utilities.