With households across the country suffering from flooding, water damage in homes is a hot topic. But it isn’t just overflowing rivers that cause flooding.  In fact, a likely common reason for puddles expanding into potentially damaging localised floods is a blocked drain and this could lead to a property insurance claim, if left unattended.

drain - how to unblock a drain

Get to know your drains from your sewers

Rather than waiting for a problem to occur, check a few things out so you are prepared for any future issue.  The first thing to do is to work out what the difference between a drain and a sewer, on and near your property, and understand who is responsible for maintaining these.

The Citizens’ Advice Bureau says, “A drain is a pipe that drains water and waste from a building and other buildings which belong with it, for example a garage.”[1]

This means that, if there is a problem with the drains on your property, you are responsible for sorting it out. Your local authority can force you to carry out work to repair or improve the drains and they can also carry out necessary work themselves and charge you for it.

On the other hand, a sewer collects water and waste from the drains of a number of properties, which is why most are publicly owned and maintained by a water company. The main exception relates to private septic tanks and cesspools, which are usually the responsibility of their owner.

Drains, private sewer systems and home insurance claims

It is sensible to check that your domestic or commercial property insurance policy covers unblocking and repair to your drains or septic tank or cesspool. Review the small print to see what is excluded and check if there any limits to the amount the insurer will pay out per claim.

There could be some very specific things that could prevent you receiving an insurance payout lurking within the small print.  Remember that, once there is a problem and the water is rising, it’s too late to change your insurance! Buy cover wisely.

What to do when a drain issue becomes apparent.

So, what can you do, if you see that the level of water within a puddle rising and you know that a drain could be the issue?  It is probably advisable to call on the services of a professional but if you can’t find one in time and at a reasonable cost, here are a few things to try, if it is safe to do so.

  • Find the source of the problem. Indoor drains are most likely to be blocked with grease, hair and food waste, whilst outdoor drains commonly fall prey to leaves, debris and dirt.

  • Get the right tools. You probably won’t unblock an outside drain with a sink-plunger so get hold of a set of drain rods and be sure that you are wearing the right sort of clothing for the job and that your eyes and mouth are protected.
  • Remove the drain cover. Most drain covers have some sort of handle which you can use to lift them, or you can attach a bit of rope to achieve a better lifting position. Lift carefully and remember safe lifting guidelines to avoid back strain. You may need to use a screwdriver or crowbar if there isn’t a handle.
  • Have a look inside. Brace yourself! This might not be pleasant. If the chamber is full of water, the blockage is likely to be below (downstream) the chamber but if the chamber is dry, the blockage is likely to be above (upstream) of the chamber.
  • Get rodding! Assemble the drain rods (making sure the connections are tight!) and insert the plunger end into the entrance or exit pipe, depending on where the blockage is. Plunge the rod back and forth, twisting it CLOCKWISE ONLY. If you twist it the wrong way, the rod could come apart and you could lose it in the drain.
  • Keep going until either the chamber drains or the contents of the upstream pipe flow into the chamber and out down the downstream pipe.
  • Rinse it through. Run some clean water through the system by running the taps inside the property for a few minutes, to make sure the blockage really has gone.

If you don’t find the blockage in time to prevent damage to your property or discover that there is damage to your drains due to tree roots or a broken pipe, you may have to make a property insurance claim.  The water may have found its way under the foundations of your home, creating issues that need to be addressed.

Such claims may not necessarily be straightforward, particularly if your insurer believes better maintenance may have prevented an issue or the policy wording is somewhat vague.  You may find yourself having to try to argue your case with your insurance company’s loss adjuster but without the benefit of their in-depth experience in insurance loss scenarios.

If it comes to this, consider whether you would benefit from having a loss assessor manage your property claim and represent you in the negotiations.  It just requires one call to Aspray on 0800 077 6705, to access the support you need for your property insurance claim. 

Flood Claim dealt with by Aspray

Provided Aspray use their vetted contractors for the reinstatement works required, there will be no charge for the Aspray service and all you will need to take into account is the excess you agreed with your insurer.  That means you should steer clear of cowboy operators and have the full support of an Aspray property damage claims project manager, wherever your property may be located.

Too good to be true? Given that 97%[2] of our customers said they were happy with the way their insurance claim was handled by Aspray, we can confidently say that we believe we offer a service providing exactly what our clients need in property damage and loss scenarios. If you need help, we are on hand to provide it.

[1] https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/water/water-supply/sewerage/who-is-responsible-for-repairing-drains-and-sewers/

[2] Percentage based on results of 254 Customer Satisfaction Surveys carried out at random between June 2019 and January 2020

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