An engineer carrying out drain unblocking on a residential property.

Step 1. You need to check the water levels inside the toilet to see if this is higher than normal. If so, do not flush the toilet as this can cause it to overflow. However, if the water level in the toilet is not higher than normal, a simple test can be carried out to see if the water level rises.

Fill up a bucket of water and slowly pour it into the toilet. If the water levels start to rise, stop. If not, continue pouring the bucket slowly into the toilet. If the water levels do not rise or gurgles, there could be a blockage somewhere else in the line.

Step 2. Walk around the property to see if you can find any overflowing pipework, drains or gullies. This is a sign that your drains are backing up

Step 3. The next step would be to find the main drain cover. Most properties do have one, but sometimes, these are shared with neighbours. If you do not have one in your property, check with the neighbouring property to see if they have a drain cover. If so, this needs to be lifted so that you can check if the water level is near the top of the manhole lid. If so, then this will confirm that the drainage system is blocked.

Step 4. First step could potentially save you hundreds of pounds. Contact your local authority to see if they can investigate to see if they are responsible for clearing blocked drains under their duty of care, as your drainage system might be publicly owned by the water authority and their responsibility for clearing the blockage free of charge. The local water authority may advise you that the drainage system is not their responsibility or public and would need to be cleared by a private drainage contractor.

Step 5. Be aware of scam contractors. Click here for more information about how to avoid being scammed.

Finding out who is responsible for clearing your blocked drains.

For Public Sewers: Public sewers are the responsibility of your local water authority for your area. Please see below for useful contact numbers:

Image of an engineer carrying out an unblock through a toilet.

Contact Numbers For:

Anglian Waters: 0345 791 9155
Affinity Water:    0345 357 2407
Southern Water: 0330 303 0368
Thames Water:   0800 316 9800

For Private Drains: If you are a private homeowner, landlord, letting agent, or tenant, you are responsible for unblocking the private sewers and drains.

We would recommend you find an approved contractor who are listed on the NADC website for areas outside of Hertfordshire or contact ourselves (Drain 247) who is a registered contractor on the NADC website for covering the Hertfordshire area.

How Do I Check To Make Sure The Blockage Is Not In My Internal Pipework?

Not all blockages are external and could be hidden within your internal pipework that runs around your property. Many blockages are caused by todays un-dissolvable products which become logged internally inside the downpipes of your toilet bend or the WC downpipes.

Here are the signs that may confirm the blockage is internal:

  • The neighbouring property is not showing any signs of problems with their drainage systems. However, this could be confirmed by asking your neighbour.
  • Your property’s drains may not be shared with the neighbouring property.
  • There are no signs of overflowing manholes or flooding in the area.
  • Your upstairs WC toilet is not flushing correctly and is not affecting the downstairs toilets. This would suggest an internal blockage upstairs.
  • After inspecting your manhole cover outside your property, if you find that it is not blocked and is clear, this is a very good indication that the blockage is internal and is not the responsibility of the local water authority, but the responsibility of the homeowner.

What If I See An Overflowing Sewer On A Public Pavement Or Business Premises?

Sewage causes an unpleasant smell, poses a health risk, and also negatively impacts the environment and wildlife. One of the reasons is that overflowing sewage could run off into the rainwater gullies situated on the edge of the pavement lines. These directly link to our watercourse, which would have a dramatic environmental impact.

If you see an overflowing sewer which is outside in a public area, it is recommended that you immediately contact the local authority in that area or the environmental agency. When you call, they will ask you a few questions such as:

  • What you have seen and when you have seen the problem.
  • Where the problem is located.
  • If you see the sewage entering a river or a watercourse.

Upon confirming these questions, the local water authority will inform you what the next steps should be. If it’s deemed that it’s their responsibility to fix the issue, they normally address this in line with their own protocols. If it isn’t their responsibility, they will get in touch with the relevant owners.

Easy Steps To Avoid Getting Blocked Drains In Your Home Or Business Premises

  • Avoid putting non-disposable products down the toilet, such as nappies, diapers, wet wipes, and condoms.
  • Correctly disposing of cooking oil, fat, and food in the bin, rather than down the sink.
  • Don’t dispose of solvents, chemicals, and oils down your toilet or sink. Instead, take them to your local disposal depots.
  • Don’t flush or wash down old prescription tablets, medicines, and needles in your toilet or sink.
  • Stop putting hangable toilet fresheners in the toilet because can get knocked off and get flushed down the toilet. These types of items get lodged and causes blockages.
An infographic showcasing the importance of drain unblocking and taking care of your drains.

We hope that the above information was useful and keep your drains clear and free flowing, and make sure it doesn’t drain your bank.

If you suspect that the blockage is your responsibility and you are looking for a professional, registered drainage contractor to clear the blockage.

If it is confirmed by our engineers that it is your responsibility to clear the blockage, our engineers will discuss this with you and offer our fixed-price service to clear the blockage is £90 for a standard non-shared blockage within a 7-mile radius of our Watford depot. Outside of this radius, our cost for our engineers attending will be £120. Contact our friendly team by calling our 24hr freephone helpline 0800 612 8038 or using our online contact form.

99% of all blockages are cleared within 60 minutes using high-pressure jetting equipment.