By Anna on 10/12/2018

At Drain Doctor we often get asked about the drains, so we thought we’d put the answers to the top 5 in one place:

1. What’s the difference between a drain and a sewer?

2. How can I tell if my drains are ‘up to scratch’?

3. Can there be asbestos in my drains?

4. Who is responsible for the cost of repairs to a drain?

5. What’s the alternative to digging up my drain when it needs repair?


 1. What is the difference between a drain and a sewer?

A drain is a pipe that carries water and waste from a building and other structure such as a garage which belong with it.

A sewer collects water and waste from the drains of a number of buildings.  Most sewers are publicly owned and are the responsibility of the water companies and are maintained by them.  However, some drains will not be connected to a sewer but instead to a cesspool, septic tank or treatment plant.

 2. How can I tell if my drains are ‘up to scratch’?

The industry standard is the WRc Classification(1) to assess if a drain is ‘serviceable’.  This gives clear pictorial guidance on the condition of the drains and the appropriate corrective action.  Whenever Drain Doctor carry out a CCTV survey we use this guidance and will discuss our recommendations with you.

 3. Can there be asbestos in my drains?

The manufacture of asbestos products was banned in 1999, but many buildings over 18 years old will contain materials made from asbestos.  An example of this is pitch fibre drainage.

Pitch fibre drainage pipes were introduced in the 1940s and used extensively until the 1970s.  The material exhibited a lot of good qualities as it was lightweight, easy to handle and cheaper than fired clay pipes.  Pitch fibre was made of wood cellulose impregnated with inert coal tar pitch but asbestos cement was added to strengthen the material. (2)

It is now thought that pitch fibre pipes have a life expectancy of around 40 years as although they deal well with cool water, hot water, grease and oils soften the tar causing  deformation and leaks.  In the worst case the drain can collapse completely creating a blockage.

4. Who is responsible for the cost of repairs to a drain?

As a householder, you are responsible for maintaining or repairing any drains inside the boundaries of your property.  Whilst you will have to pay to get the work completed you may want to explore insurance to cover such costs.  It is advisable to check with your insurance provider.

In some circumstances, your local authority environmental health department can order you to carry out improvement work or replace a private drain. They might do this if, for example, they think your drain is too small for your property, due to a significant extension to your home or if it’s causing a blockage.

5.  What’s the alternative to digging up my drain when it needs repair?

If you have a damaged drain digging a trench to relay a new one is the most complete job, but it’s often expensive, disruptive and not always practicable for areas covered with concrete, tarmac or paving.

Drain lining is great alternative for both cost and timing.  Within a few hours the damaged  pitch fibre pipes are forced back into shape by being re-rounded and then coated with a liner.  This provides a strong and long lasting solution.  Lining is a specialist skill though, so make sure you use a reputable contractor such as Drain Doctor.


Drain Doctor Guildford & Basingstoke hopes that this article has been of interest to you and if you would like to discuss any element of the topics covered please contact us on 0333 323 4580 or email [email protected]



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