Drain repair costs

The cost of drain repairs are split into two main areas:-

  • Diagnosing the problem – this is usually done with CCTV on access rods or a drain crawler which is a small wheeled platform with a mounted camera controlled remotely
  • Resolving the problem and the costs depend on the cause and extent of the issue
  • Most drain engineers will seek to manage issues without excavation if at all possible but sometimes it is unavoidable.

The cost of diagnosing the fault

This is mostly handled with a camera mounted on the end of flexible drain access rods which allows the engineer to investigate all aspects of the drain thoroughly including bends and corners. Sometimes a drain crawler will need to be used – this is a camera mounted on a small, wheeled platform which offers better access if there is a high level of obstruction.

The drain survey cost will be anywhere from £90 to £350 and is dependent on a few key factors:

  • Site access and the number of manhole covers
  • The size of the property as this pertains to the length of the drain run
  • How quickly the blockage or fault can be identified
  • Where you live in the UK – London and the South East are invariably more expensive than the regions

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The cost of remedying the fault or repairing the drain

The cost of the repair will depend entirely on the nature of the fault and crucially, whether the issue can be managed without having to dig down.

A simple blockage could be resolved with a jet wash followed by another camera survey to confirm the drain is clear – this would not add a huge amount to the original survey cost.

With a crack or split drain, drain lining is a relatively new option which can repair the fissure or hole without the need to dig up the old pipe and replace it with a new one. However, a collapsed drain will require excavation and the replacement of the old pipe with a new section of drain and this can be expensive.

What is drain lining?

Drain lining is a method by which a cracked or split pipe can be repaired without the need to dig down and sink a new pipe.

Once the fault has been diagnosed on a survey, then the repair can be carried out via a small access hole. The drain is lined with a polymer sleeve which sits within the existing pipework literally acting as a lining. The engineer will slowly feed the liner into the drain and then once it is in position, an airbag is inflated and this pushes the liner out towards the surface of the pipe until it is a snug fit. The polymer liner hardens within the original pipe and the airbag is then deflated and removed.

If there are pipes which join on to the drain, then holes are cut in the liner for these intersections. The camera or drain crawler is used again to check that the repair is effective and has resolved the problem. If the crack or break is confined to a small area then patch lining can be used to remedy this. Patch lining works on the same principle as full drain lining but it is just used for a small area and is consequently cheaper.

The cost of drain lining

Drain lining charges are based on the length of the pipe run and the diameter of the pipe itself. The costs are expressed on a square metre basis and an average cost for a 100mm pipe will be between £60 and £100 per square metre and for a 150mm pipe, the prices range from £95 to £120 per square metre.

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Collapsed drain repair cost

Because a collapsed drain is largely hidden from view, it is almost impossible to know about this damage until the drain starts backing up but there can be some early clues which are easy to miss if you are not looking out for them.

If you spot unexplained damp or wet areas outside your house when the rest of the ground is dry then there could be a collapsed drain or crack below the ground which is allowing fluid to leak into the surrounding soil.

Collapsed drains can be caused by old age, subsidence, tree roots, frozen pipes, old or unstable joints or the impact of nearby construction work. A CCTV survey should be able to identify the problem and confirm whether the drain can be repaired with a drain liner or will need complete replacement.

Digging up the ground and replacing a section of the collapsed drain is pretty simple in theory but the costs are attached to the amount of labour required to do the job. This is made worse if the drain is under hard standing like a driveway or patio which will need restoration afterwards as this can significantly add to the bill. Drain replacement costs average at £120 – £600 per metre as opposed to the cost of drain lining which is £60 – £100 per metre as this can be carried out without excavation.

Problems caused by collapsed drains

Collapsed drains can be something of a silent problem and unknown to the householder, after all, if the water is escaping into the soil around the break or collapse then the drain won’t appear to be blocked and there is no obvious alert to the issue.

However, there can be damage going on which is unnoticed to the occupant of the property and this can include:-

  • Foundation rot – the egress of water if it is near to the property can seep into the foundations which could lead to structural problems
  • Sewage – there are obvious health implications with the release of sewerage into the ground
  • Damp and mould – your walls and ceilings may begin to absorb the water from underneath the building causing unexplained damp and mould to form

Keeping drain repair costs under control

Until a diagnosis of the problem, a blocked drain can be a bit of an open cheque so nail down the costs right from the start. The drain company should quote a fixed price for the CCTV survey and also for services like jet washing. Once the fault has been diagnosed then it is a question of examining the options for repair and pricing these accordingly.

Finding a good drain engineer

For many people, a blocked drain does not usually present itself as an issue until the system is backing up into the house by which time it has become an emergency. It is good practice to have a list of household trades you can call on in a crisis rather than relying on the names and numbers which pop up at the top of a Google search as this can often end up meaning you pay over the odds because you are in a hurry to find someone.

Source some reputable companies locally by using personal recommendations from friends, family or work colleagues. Check that they have a 24/7 call-out service as not all smaller companies do. Social media is a good source of local tradespeople via community or neighbourhood forums.

There are online platforms which can provide a list of contacts if you key in some simple details but some of these are little more than glorified advertising directories and there is no assessment or benchmark over quality and standards.

Good drain management

Drains are very much out of sight, out of mind and tend to be forgotten about by householders until the inevitable happens and a blockage or problem occurs. There are some simple steps that any householder can take to ensure they keep their drains running well and which will help minimise problems in the future. These include:-

  • Have a drain survey before you purchase a new house – this will give you an accurate picture of any potential drain problems before you buy and some surveys may require this. The existing drainage could a factor in indoor and outside tap fitting costs.
  • Be particular about what you put down the kitchen sink, the bathroom plug hole and the toilet. Non-biodegradable sanitary products like wet wipes are a common cause of a drain blockage as is cooking fat, tea leaves and coffee grounds
  • Keep waste pipes clean and clear with regular treatments of vinegar and soda crystals and boiling water
  • Act quickly if water is leaving slower than usual and try and find the site of the blockage before it gets worse.
  • Some householders will keep a set of drain rods and rod their own drains, these are available from major hardware stores
  • Try and avoid or remove trees near the property or where you know there are drain runs as the roots can cause real damage to pipework ending up in costly fractures and splits

Sometimes, drain repair costs are unavoidable as fractures or collapses can occur simply due to tree root incursion or old age. This is why it is important to have a drain survey before you buy a property and it is also not a bad idea to have a survey every few years to just check that nothing sinister is brewing underground. A small crack which you may not know about can be managed with a cost-effective drain liner for instance, and this could prevent a major collapse further down the line and the cost of a collapsed drain repair.

The cost of the repair will depend entirely on the nature of the fault and crucially, whether the issue can be managed without having to dig down.

FAQs - Drain Cleaning Cost

Can I unblock a drain myself?

Good household management should involve the regular clearance of kitchen sinks and basins to prevent blockages from building up further down the line. Small blockages can usually be cleared quite easily using a sink plunger or drain snake and soda crystals which help dissolve grease with the aid of boiling water.

You can buy drain rods from most builders merchants or DIY stores, they clip together to provide the required length and can be used to rod through a blockage and help it on its way. A stubborn blockage which will not clear however will require further investigation.

Can I make an insurance claim for a blocked drain?

Anything that is down to wear and tear or just routine maintenance will not be covered by your household insurance policy. Building insurance will cover damage to the property but it will depend on what the cause of the damage is. If the collapsed drain repair is covered then the payout is usually limited to the actual cost of the drain and not any subsequent damage caused by the leak although this may be covered under another part of the policy.

Is reinstatement of patio or paving covered as part of the drain repair costs?

This is something you will need to agree with the individual drain contractor. Most will leave the site tidy but if the paving or material is specialist then this may need to be reinstated by a different company at additional cost.

What if the drain blockage is off my property?

Householders are only responsible for the drains and pipework on their own property. Complications can occur when the pipe runs into a shared drain before it accesses public land or land which is not in private ownership.

See more information on how to report a blocked drain from the government and more general guidance on drainage and repairs from the National Association of Drainage Contractors.

Mike Alexander
Hey there, I'm Mike - writer and part time home improvement expert at Refurbb. Since owning and refurbishing my own property in 2018, I've since been developing rental properties, writing about my home improvement endeavours, sharing what I've learned and connecting readers to reputable tradespeople in the UK.
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