How to deal with a blocked drain or sewer

Image of a drain
Canstock image

What do I do if my drain is blocked?

When dealing with a blocked drain you will need to assess whether the blockage is in the private drain or the public sewer.

A private drain is the pipe that leads from your home.  This is solely your responsibility. You will need to instruct a contractor to clear the blockage.  If the blockage cannot be found or concerns are raised about the condition of your drainage system, a CCTV survey can be undertaken.  First, check with your neighbours and see if they are suffering the same issue.  If they are, the blockage could be in the sewer, if not, it may just be in your private drain.  If you believe that the blockage is in your private section of drain, you can carefully lift the inspection chamber (if possible) to check whether there is any backed up sewage.

A public sewer is where the pipe from your home joins with a drain from another property. This is the responsibility of your local water supplier.  If the problem is in the sewer, you and your neighbour should share the cost of the contractors fees.  If negotiations with your neighbour hit a stalemate, contact your local council’s Environmental Officer, he/she may be able to help you reach an agreement with your neighbour.

If in doubt, contact your local Environmental Health Officer by contacting your local council. Your Environmental Health Officer could offer to come to your property or offer you advice over the phone.  If they come to your property, they should be able to assess the problem and advise you accordingly.  Following their visit they should be able to tell you whether it is your responsibility to clear the blockage or whether your neighbours are jointly liable for the cost.  Find your local Environmental Health Officer in Scotland here.

The Environmental Health Officer can issue a notice on everyone affected by the blockage but this would be costly as your local council will add an administration fee.  They also have the power to make arrangements for a contractor to clear the sewer and bill all properties concerned.

How do I prevent my drain from getting blocked?

Inside your home:

  • Do not put food waste in your sinks (scrape cutlery/crockery completely before washing).
  • Pour cooking oil/grease into a cup (never pour into the sink), let it solidify and dispose of in the bin.
  • Never place anything small that could cause an obstruction in the sink (hair clips, jewellery, cotton wool etc).
  • Always place nappies, face wipes, tampons and sanitary towels in the bin (not down the toilet).
  • Don’t place too much toilet roll down the toilet at one time.

Products are available to use inside the home when dealing with a blocked:

Outside your home:

Sweep the drain and the area around the drain regularly and keep it free from leaves and debris.

For guidance on how to deal with your insurance company click here.