Sewers: 10 things you should know

Here’s a rundown of ten things you should know about sewers but probably don’t:

1. There are four main causes of sewage backup or overflow

The most common causes of sewage blockages and overspill are:

  1. Damage to the pipes through breaking or cracking.
  2. Tree root infiltration. Roots enter the pipes in vulnerable locations and continue to grow causing cracks or loose pipes.
  3. Draining unwanted substances down the line such as cooking oil or food waste.
  4. Combined Pipelines often get overloaded by rain or flooding causing an overflow.

Of course, more than one problem can exist at any time making diagnosis and repair complicated. Using an experienced and certified drainage expert can help you sort out the problems quickly and without recurrence.

2. CCTV can help with sewer repair and maintenance

People are often surprised to find out that the use of CCTV is commonplace in sewer maintenance. By feeding a special camera through the sewer lines, the drainage technician can find a problem, create a report and suggest how to fix it.  This option means no digging, saving time and expense.

3. There are 3 types of sewer excavation

The three types of excavation are: open cut, dig and push and timber heading. Each one has a specific purpose or proper use.

  • Open cut means digging a trench in the road or footpath to reveal the public sewer, before working within the trench to install the new sewer connection.
  • Dig and push is required on any line that is set deep and in a confined footprint. Trench boxes, made from steel or aluminium cur the sides vertically and are pushed into the ground whilst an excavator removes soil from between the panels.
  • Timber headings are essential for working in places where it’s not possible to get heavy machinery on-site, where there are buildings in the way, where it’s unclear where other services are located, or where it’s critical to keep disruption to a minimum.

4. You can’t connect to public sewers without permission from your water authority

New sewer connections must be carried out according to all the necessary legislation, then adopted by the water authority in question. Before you apply to your local water authority for permission to connect to a sewer, you’ll need to confirm who owns the pipe you propose to connect to.

5. There are over nine different types of sewer connection methods

Knowing which sewer connection method you are going to use is key to any sewer connection process:

  • Pre-formed junctions.
  • Oblique (Y-piece) junctions.
  • Square drainage junctions.
  • Brick sewers.
  • Existing manholes.
  • New inspection chamber.
  • Indirect connections
  • Pre-formed saddle.
  • Adoptable connections (laterals).

Each of these nine techniques has different uses, read the full article here.

6. You need to check a sewers position before building your extension

Why? If you’re building within three metres of a public sewer, or within one metre of a public lateral drain, you need approval before work starts. Without the water authority’s permission, your local authority might not supply a Building Regulations Completion Certificate. This can cause can problems when trying to sell your property at a later date.

7. Sewers date back to Ancient Rome

A fun fact – sewers are often thought of as a modern invention but one of the first-known sewers was built around 600 BC in Rome and is known as the Cloaca Maxima. Closer to home, London’s first sewer system was completed in 1870 by London chief engineer Joseph Bazalgette and measured 82 miles in total. Surprisingly, these sewers are still in use today.

8. Your sewers are your responsibility

Not a lot of people realise that their drains, and any private sewers that carry household waste, are the householder’s (or the landlord’s) responsibility right up to the point where they connect to a public sewer.This is why it’s important to know where your sewers are and what condition they are in. If in doubt, get a professional in.

9. Sewage water flows out in one of three ways

  • Foul waste sewers carry waste from domestic appliances such as toilets, baths, showers and washing machines, to a sewage works for treatment.
  • Surface water sewers carry rainwater back to the local river, stream or soakaway. This water is considered ‘clean’ and doesn’t cause pollution.
  • A combined sewer takes foul water and surface water (rainwater) away together to be treated.

10. Using a sewer or drainage specialist is essential

When it comes to drainage and sewers, it’s vital to use specialists who know what they are doing. Specialists will also be up to date on the latest legislation and ensure you meet legal or environmental requirements.

If you want well-planned drainage solutions – we’re here to help.

Get in touch and let us know how we can help: call 01268 950050 or email [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).