Sewer connections in urban areas: why timber headings are a good choice

If works for sewer connections are required in a built-up, busy urban area, then a timber heading can be a wise choice for a variety of practical and budgetary reasons.

Timber headings are one of the oldest ways of creating short, tunnelled sections for laying underground pipework, having been used for centuries. If you’ve ever seen the 1963 film The Great Escape, then you’ll already have an idea what they look like – though of course we don’t use scoops fashioned from milk tins to do the digging, use wood from camp beds to support the tunnel, or disperse the excavated material using our trouser legs!

Reducing complexity for works in urban areas

The main benefit of a timber heading is that the sewer connection works can be carried out without needing to excavate an open trench, either because there are a large number of services already in the line of the pipework, or because there are other buildings or busy roadways in the vicinity. It’s also perfect for situations where it’s not possible to gain access with heavy machinery, because space is too tight. Working from a single shaft, the tunnel is manually excavated, ensuring the least disruption to both the people working, living or travelling in the area, and also minimising the possibility of damage to nearby buildings, cables or ducts. After the connections have been made, the tunnel is back-filled, by dry-packing with concrete by hand until the heading is filled back to the shaft.

Timber headings: why a specialist contractor is a must

As they are constructed by hand, typically by operatives using hand tools in dark and cramped conditions, timber headings are a very particular skill – and the risk and difficulty are increased the deeper the tunnel needs to be dug. This is why it’s critical to find an experienced specialist to tackle this kind of sewer connection in an urban area.

Aside from the practical challenges avoided through the use of a timber heading when making a sewer connection in an urban area, there can also be cost reduction benefits. For example, we recently completed a job in central London, where the sewer connection was to a main that ran down the public highway. That highway was a designated Red Route, which would have meant a high cost in terms of lane closures and the TFL rental scheme daily charges, had we taken a more conventional approach and used open-cut trenching. By using this traditional method, we were able to not only keep the traffic flowing on a very busy highway, but reduce the cost of the job by avoiding the road closure expenses.

At Premier Drainage Solutions, we’re experts in performing sewer connections using timber headings, and specialise in works that take place in complex city environments. To find out more about our experience in making sewer connections in urban areas, call 01268 950050 or send us an email to [email protected].

Do you need assistance?


Find the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.

Learn more

Find us

P4 Allen House Business Centre The Maltings, Station Road Sawbridgeworth Herts CM21 9JX

Google maps

Contact us

Discuss your project with a member of our head office team today.

Learn more

Contact us

Premier Drainage Solutions
P4 Allen House Business Centre
The Maltings, Station Road
Herts CM21 9JX

Request a call

Our charity

MSA Trust receives no government support and relies entirely on charitable donations to fund their support services as well as research into finding the cause and cure for multiple system atrophy (MSA).