Underground Gutter Drainage Problems

Beyond doubt the commonest problem with underground gutter drainage systems is them becoming blocked. The resultant back-flow of water to a drain gully can be quite alarming; with a lot of home owners rushing to get an ‘expert’ in to deal with the problem. The fact is that most DIY home enthusiasts can easily tackle and resolve the problem of a blocked underground drain quite easily.

Equipment for Unblocking Underground Gutter Drains

Believe me, clearing a blocked underground gutter drain is easily done - and not worth paying someone else to do it for you. Whilst you will need to buy a set of drain rods with accessories from a DIY store, their cost will be a lot less than paying someone else to bring theirs and you’ll have then have them ready to use again at any time.

Pipe drain rods are usually flexible plastic rods that screw together as you’re working them; you can get a variety of heads to attach to them - the commonest ones being plungers, double worm screws, clearing wheels and dome heads.

You can buy high-pressure water hoses that can clear blocked drains - but, if the problem is water not clearing properly from a drain you should be wary of adding more water to it! Companies that specialize in clearing blocked drains often advertise CCTV (closed circuit television) services to ‘see’ what’s blocking the drain. At least initially, I wouldn’t worry about using CCTV to see what the problem is.

Finding Blockages

The problem with a blocked underground gutter drain invariably arises where the underground drain changes direction. The fortunate point here is that - every time the underground drain changes direction there should be a manhole cover. So locate the manhole cover nearest to the drain gully that’s getting the back-flow of water.

Lift the manhole cover, if the manhole is full of water the blockage will be occurring between that point and the next manhole down, rather than between it and the drain gully at your property. If that is the case you need to go to successive manholes down, until you get to a manhole that hasn’t got standing water in it.

Unblocking Underground Gutters

Having located the point below the blockage, you can start to insert the drain rods back towards your property; I’d have the ‘double worm screw’ head on to start with. This is important - You must work from the manhole back towards your property; working the drain rods away from your property might just move the problem down to your neighbor or, even worse, exacerbate the problem.

As you push the drain rods up the drain keep turning them clockwise to keep the rods connected. You’ll feel the blockage and with a little more effort should be able to push through it. Immediately the water will start to drain away, you should then clear out any remaining debris in the drainage pipe.

Pull back the drain rods and replace the ‘screw’ head with the plunger. Push the rods back up the pipe as far as possible, as you remove the rods the plunger should drag back to the manhole any debris that was still in the pipe.

Remove the debris with a scoop or trowel. Whilst you’ve got the manhole cover up you might as well give any other pipes leading it to it a clean as well. Finally, before replacing the manhole cover, return to your property and let a hose run into the drain gully for a few minutes, just to make sure the problem has been fully cleared.

Final Thoughts

People that make a living out of clearing other people’s drains must love the first heavy rains after the Fall. All the leaves that people haven’t cleared away from their drain covers disappear into the underground drains where they can quickly block it up, the first heavy rain flowing down the drains from the roof gutters can’t pass the obstruction and its ‘bonanza’ time for them.

You can of course help your self to avoid getting a blocked drain by not letting soil or debris fall into drain gully’s, clearing leaves from them and - if they’re broken replacing drain grills.

If the blockage in an underground drain won’t clear with drain rods it could be that the drain itself has collapsed, requiring a new one to be installed.

See Also: Unclogging Clogged Gutters