Different Types of Drainage and How to Tell them Apart 

What are the different types of drainage out there and how can I tell them apart? 

Discovering what type of drainage system you have on your property is always helpful in case you encounter any problems on your property or want to make changes to your system.  

What are the Different Types of Drainage in Properties? 

Typically, in the UK, homes have two drainage systems. The reason for having two systems is that one deals with surface water and the other foul water.  Surface water systems take away rainwater from gutters and runoffs, whilst foul water systems carry water away from toilets and showers. Together these systems are known as ‘mains drainage.’ 

Residential drainage solutions often consist of: 

  • Surface drainage systems: shallow ditches dug in a parallel pattern that act as canals for surface run-off water.  
  • Subsurface drainage systems/French drains: located beneath the top layer of soil to remove excess water at the root level.  
  • Slopes: slope drains let excess water to flow downward and away from a structure with the help of pipes moving down a slope.  
  • Downspout and gutter systems: collect water from gutters and direct it straight down to the ground.  

Not all properties have the same drainage systems. Older houses or rural properties can differ.  

In rural properties, if you have a drain cover that is raised and has an electric box outside, this means you have a sewage treatment plant on your property. Alternatively, if you have one manhole cover above ground, then it is more than likely that you have a cesspit in your garden. If you find between 2 and 4 manholes near one another with pipes above ground, you probably have a septic tank on your property. 

Why is it important to know what drainage system I have? 

Different systems require different kinds of maintenance and it’s essential to know what care your system will need to avoid problems or breaking legislation.  

As the owner of a property, you are responsible for the system on your property, including any problems that your drainage system encounters, such as blockages and overflow, or any problems it causes to other properties. If you have a blockage on your property, you will have to repair this at your own cost. However, if there is a blockage further down into the main sewer system, it will usually be the responsibility of your local authority.  

Before attempting to fix or change anything in your drainage system, you should always ask for advice from an expert – some drains systems have serious health risks associated with them and should only be attempted by someone who is qualified and experienced in this area.  

Identifying Your Drainage Systems 

There are several ways to self-identify your drainage systems, but we would always advise consulting an expert to avoid making mistakes or taking unnecessary risks. Before you talk to a drainage company you can gather information by: 

  • Counting your manholes: a standard home will usually only have one main drain that leads to the public drainage system. This main drain transports foul water from your home to the sewage system. If you have twice the number of manhole covers as a conventional property, it is likely you have a dual drainage system.  
  • Contact your local water authority: you may have to pay for this service, but your local authority could have a record of the drainage plans for your property if any applications have been made. 
  • Contact your local council: your local council could hold a copy of the drainage plans for your property that may be obtained for a small fee. However, newer modifications may not accurately be reflected in this information.  
  • Ask the previous owner or a neighbour: if you have recently moved to the property, the previous owner may be able to give this information. As it’s not unusual to share drains with a neighbouring property, your neighbour may already have this information.  

Why use an expert drainage company? 

Your property’s drainage system may have cracks, displaced joints or root ingress which are hard to spot without a closer examination. We offer a CCTV camera survey service which will diagnose any problems and allow us to determine the best solution for repair. Most importantly, this service doesn’t require any excavation but will give you a detailed reports and maintenance recommendations.  

Need help with your drainage system? Contact us for further information.  

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