Here at The Choke Folk we want to help our customers with their drain problems and in this section you will find the most common questions our customers have asked us in the past.

We also offer an advice service to our website visitors, if you have a specific question please use our “email the pro” form at the bottom of the page.

In drainage the benefit of having an experienced Management and Workforce is immeasurable; it can be the difference between acceptable and exceptional. We have a workforce to get drainage right first time.

If there is a question not answered below, and you’d like to speak with one of The Choke Folk’s knowledgeable staff, don’t hesitate to call us on 08450 035250.

Water leak

If you have an emergency with water leakage and you are not sure where the water is coming from, or if you are not familiar with your plumbing system, it is best to do the following five things immediately.

  • Turn off your mains supply. It will be close to where it enters the house and is most often under the kitchen sink.
  • Turn on the cold and hot water taps in the kitchen sink and leave them on.
  • Turn on the hot water tap in the bath and leave it on.
  • Turn off the central heating.
  • Call a plumber, or informed friend/relative, for advice and tell them what you did.

This process will drain most of the water from the pipework in the house without causing any damage, regardless what plumbing system you have.

Toilet paper

Sometimes toilet paper can be the cause of regular drain blockages. Good toilet paper will completely break up into tiny flakes when submerged in water. You can test toilet paper by putting 3 sheets on your open hand with outstretched fingers. Hold your hand in the basin under a running tap, and the toilet paper should easily break up and flush down the basin waste without causing a blockage.

Toilet fresheners

It is better to avoid all forms of toilet and air fresheners that fit over the toilet bowl. We often find that for one reason or other they end up in the toilet and get flushed away. They normally only go around the bend in the bottom of the toilet and then get stuck. In most of the cases we find, the toilet had to be removed in order to dislodge the air freshener.

Furthermore air fresheners do not work. They give off a perfume that is strong enough to blind the receptors in your nose so that you have the illusion that the bad odour is gone, similar to someone shining a spot light in your eyes so that you think the room light is switched off. The only effective way is to get rid of the cause of the smell. A clean bathroom and toilet will not smell. Temporary unpleasant odours will disappear in minutes by opening the window.

Stop valves

Spend some time making sure you know where all your stop taps are and what they turn off. When you have a burst pipe, a small relatively cheap problem can very soon become a very expensive problem if you cannot find your stop valve and you have to wait 1 – 2 hours for a plumber to arrive. Also make sure that the stop taps are working by turning them off and on. Do this at least twice a year to ensure they do not seize up. A good plan is to write it on your birthday calendar so that you do not forget.

Good tip: When turning any tap on, turn it on all the way (anti-clockwise). Then turn it back (clockwise) a quarter of a turn. This will not effect the water flow, but should ensure that the tap will not seize up.

Septic tank / cesspit

If you have a cesspit or septic tank and the soil is not good enough for a soak away, e.g. clay soil, you may have to empty the cesspit/septic tank frequently at great expense. A waste treatment plant may be a very cost effective option. Small treatment plants are virtually maintenance free and are so effective that you may be able to discharge the treated water into a nearby, brook, stream or canal, or even to a storm water drain alongside a nearby road.

Another feasible solution could be a Compost Toilet.

Save water

Saving water by flushing with less water is good, so is getting a special toilet that only needs a little water. But always get someone to inspect the condition of your drains first, e.g. a CCTV inspection and a flow inspection. The toilet may need less water but maybe your drains need more to move the waste away effectively.

Another feasible solution could be a Compost Toilet.

Rain water

Rain water capture is simply using the free rain water that falls on your roof for places where you do not need to use drinking water. For example: watering the garden, flushing the toilets and doing the laundry. You can also have a capture system that uses your shower and bath water (grey water) for the garden. These systems do not need to be very expensive: it is amazing how much you can do to save the environment with a very small budget.

Manhole covers

Do not remove or cover manholes. The temptation is always there to cover or remove ugly manholes in the garden or patio. Unblocking and repairing drains without good access is significantly more disruptive and expensive. It may mean that the garden or even the floors in the house will need digging up. There are always alternative manhole covers that can be installed without spoiling your floors, patio or driveway.

How do roots grow?

Tree and shrub roots require oxygen and water to grow. Growth rate is variable and is affected by the soil depth, water supply, aeration, mineral supply and temperature.

Root systems are made up of large, permanent roots for support and stabilization, and many small, temporary feeder root and root hairs. These small roots are the primary water and nutrient absorbers. Most roots can be found in the top 6 to 18 inches of soil, where water, nutrients and oxygen are found.

Roots generally extend up to two or three times the height of the tree, but can extend as far as seven times the height of the tree. Large, mature trees may have thousands of feet of root system searching for nutrients. Roots will be less extensive in clay soils than in sandy or well-drained soils.

Do you have a callout charge for an emergency visit?

We have no callout charge for any of our services. You will always be quoted for the first hour for an emergency job. No hidden fees or callout charges will be added. What you are quoted is what you will pay.

I’ve had a CCTV survey and have been told that my drain needs relining. Is this completely necessary?

Yes. Cracks and displaced joints will inevitably cause many costly problems in the future. In fact, we can safely say that the money spent on various callouts for a seemingly continuous drainage problem will be considerably more than money invested into drain relining. This is because relining creates a brand new layer of pipe inside the existing one where the problems lie, therefore creating a seemingly new pipe which is guaranteed to run smoothly for years to come.

I’m in the process of buying a house. Would a CCTV survey benefit me?

It is always beneficial to gain as much information on anything you will be investing your money into, especially if it’s your potential home. If you have been notified by the seller that the property has had previous problems with the drains, a CCTV survey is a quick way of showing any potential drainage problem, as well as giving you and the seller an idea of how much it will cost to fix.

How do drains become blocked?

The most common causes of blockages are inappropriate items being flushed down the drains. Sometimes though, a blocked drain can indicate a more serious underlying problem such as a structural defect. Rest assured, though, all of our fully trained engineers carry the knowledge and tools to resolve any problem.

Heavy Rain Blockages

If you have a Rainwater Blockage you may want to get it cleared sooner rather than later. If you get a rain water down pour it could cause flooding in the building premises.

Rainwater Systems can get blocked with leaves, mud and silt.The most common blockage is in the rainwater gullies when debris builds up over time. We carry out a general cleaning service leaving the gullies cleaned, clear and operating at 100% efficiency

Do i have a blocked Stack Pipe?

Stack Pipes are the common main pipes in which run vertical through the building Structure and are used by other residents / flat owners / offices & Upper Floors. If you experience a blocked stack you will need to inform all the other users above. They will not know and still use the waste services as normal and cause further flooding to your area.

These problems more occur in Residential Properties, Office Blocks and Renovation works. If you have a blockage in a stack call us immediately and we will attend on Emergency call out and resolve the blockage with minimal disruption.

I have a foul odor coming from my waste disposal unit. What can I do to eliminate this odor?


Foul odors occur from a buildup of food debris within the disposer. To eliminate this odor, place ice cubes and lemon or orange peels in the disposer and run for 30 seconds. Next, squirt a little washing up liquid into the disposal unit while it is still running. Finally, run cold water for about 30 seconds to rinse all the debris away.

How do I know if I have a blocked drain?

Foul smells, along with slow draining sinks and the water level in your toilet looking unusually high, are usually the first warning sign of a problem. If these signs are noticed and dealt with as early as possible though, the underlying problem will be quicker and undoubtedly cheaper to fix.

Drain problems who’s responsible?

Shared Drain System

If you have a Communal Drainage System (Shared) and it is blocked, generally the owners share the costs to resolve the problem. If you find the Drains are leaking constantly you may want to make the other people whom use this drainage system aware as they may not know that the drains are blocked and flooding. Our emergency teams aim to respond to all blockages within one hour.

Communal Drainage
If you have a communal Drainage System (Shared) and it is blocked generally the owners share the costs to resolve the problem. If you find the Drains are leaking constant you may want to make the other people whom use this drainage system aware as they may not know that the drains are blocked and flooding. Call our Emergency Services who will attend with in 1 hrs.

Commercial / Industrial Drainage
If you find a leaking Drain in your place of work you may want to call us immediately as the Drainage Pipes are bigger in size and constantly in use and no business wants to stop trading. We offer an emergency Service for this sort of Drainage Blockage and always aim to attend within one hour, fully equipped to resolve your Drainage Problems with minimal Disruption. We want to help.

How does weather impact root growth?

During drought conditions and in the winter, roots will travel long distances in search of moisture. When trees and shrubs get thirsty, they follow the trail of moisture vapors escaping from small cracks, holes, or poorly sealed joints in the water and sewer lines. The roots penetrate the opening to reach the nutrients and moisture inside the pipes.

Toilet Tips

  • Do not leave small objects on the back of your toilet that have the potential to fall in and cause a clog.
  • Once a month, pour bleach into the toilet bowl before bedtime, and flush or rinse in the morning.
  • Strengthen the power of your toilet’s flush by using a small mirror to check the series of holes that sit under the rim of the bowl for mineral deposits or grime. Poke each hole clean with a length of wire clothing hanger, and then flush.

After my drain has been unblocked, how do I prevent further blockages?

Avoid flushing un-biodegradable products down the toilet, avoid washing food scraps and food product down the sink, and never wash cooking oils or fats down the drains. Also, if you live in an older property and have experienced several drainage problems, booking regular CCTV surveys to inspect the drains will give even better peace of mind.

My drains are blocked. How do I clear the drainage line?

Simple Blockages
Simple blockages can be cleared quite easily and more often than not it is possible for the property owner to clear the drain following these simple steps.

i) Blocked trap below the kitchen sink.
Waste traps located below the kitchen sink will block as a result of food deposits and fats building up in the u-bend. Simply empty the wastewater from the sink in to a bucket and pour warm water from the kettle into the plug hole being careful not to scold yourself. The action of the warm water flowing around the food waste should eventually break down the blockage. Should the trap still be blocked them gently plunge around the plug hole. Please contact us for further assistance should you require.

ii) Blocked toilet.
Blocked toilets often result from too much toilet paper in the toilet, children’s toys or general misuse. Most of the time to clear the drain it requires a quick and easy step. Obtain a drain plunger, most properties have them and if not your local hire shop will be able to hire one to you for a few pounds. Plunge around the trap in the toilet pan and this should clear the drain. If the drain has not cleared then inspect the drainage gullies around the point at which the soil pipe discharges into the ground externally. Should the gullies be overflowing then the drainage system serving the property is likely to be blocked and you should call Choke Folk for further assistance.

iii) Blocked house gullies.
Generally building and house gullies block from leaves, debris and garden cuttings. Wearing some long gauntlets clear the waste at the bottom of the gully and wash the gully and branch through with some water from the hose pipe. Important, do not allow the end of the hose pipe to come into contact with the wastewater.

 

Bathroom Helpful Tips

  • Once a week run hot water down the drain to help keep it free-flowing.
  • Repair leaky taps to avoid further damage to the fixtures and taps.
  • Tubs and showers should be fitted with strainers that catch hair and soap chips. Clean the strainers regularly.
  • To remove unsightly mineral deposits on your shower head, put one cup of vinegar in a plastic bag and place it over the shower head.
  • Hold it in place with a twist tie and let stand overnight. In the morning, remove the bag and wipe off the mineral deposits with a damp cloth.
  • Do not use your toilet as a wastebasket. Do not flush facial tissue, sanitary products or diapers as they do not dissolve and can clog the lines. Keep a rubbish container in each bathroom.

Water leak

If you have an emergency with water leakage and you are not sure where the water is coming from, or if you are not familiar with your plumbing system, it is best to do the following five things immediately.

  • Turn off your mains supply. It will be close to where it enters the house and is most often under the kitchen sink.
  • Turn on the cold and hot water taps in the kitchen sink and leave them on.
  • Turn on the hot water tap in the bath and leave it on.
  • Turn off the central heating.
  • Call a plumber, or informed friend/relative, for advice and tell them what you did.

This process will drain most of the water from the pipework in the house without causing any damage, regardless what plumbing system you have.

Toilet paper

Sometimes toilet paper can be the cause of regular drain blockages. Good toilet paper will completely break up into tiny flakes when submerged in water. You can test toilet paper by putting 3 sheets on your open hand with outstretched fingers. Hold your hand in the basin under a running tap, and the toilet paper should easily break up and flush down the basin waste without causing a blockage.

Toilet fresheners

It is better to avoid all forms of toilet and air fresheners that fit over the toilet bowl. We often find that for one reason or other they end up in the toilet and get flushed away. They normally only go around the bend in the bottom of the toilet and then get stuck. In most of the cases we find, the toilet had to be removed in order to dislodge the air freshener.

Furthermore air fresheners do not work. They give off a perfume that is strong enough to blind the receptors in your nose so that you have the illusion that the bad odour is gone, similar to someone shining a spot light in your eyes so that you think the room light is switched off. The only effective way is to get rid of the cause of the smell. A clean bathroom and toilet will not smell. Temporary unpleasant odours will disappear in minutes by opening the window.

Stop valves

Spend some time making sure you know where all your stop taps are and what they turn off. When you have a burst pipe, a small relatively cheap problem can very soon become a very expensive problem if you cannot find your stop valve and you have to wait 1 – 2 hours for a plumber to arrive. Also make sure that the stop taps are working by turning them off and on. Do this at least twice a year to ensure they do not seize up. A good plan is to write it on your birthday calendar so that you do not forget.

Good tip: When turning any tap on, turn it on all the way (anti-clockwise). Then turn it back (clockwise) a quarter of a turn. This will not effect the water flow, but should ensure that the tap will not seize up.

Septic tank / cesspit

If you have a cesspit or septic tank and the soil is not good enough for a soak away, e.g. clay soil, you may have to empty the cesspit/septic tank frequently at great expense. A waste treatment plant may be a very cost effective option. Small treatment plants are virtually maintenance free and are so effective that you may be able to discharge the treated water into a nearby, brook, stream or canal, or even to a storm water drain alongside a nearby road.

Another feasible solution could be a Compost Toilet.

Save water

Saving water by flushing with less water is good, so is getting a special toilet that only needs a little water. But always get someone to inspect the condition of your drains first, e.g. a CCTV inspection and a flow inspection. The toilet may need less water but maybe your drains need more to move the waste away effectively.

Another feasible solution could be a Compost Toilet.

Rain water

Rain water capture is simply using the free rain water that falls on your roof for places where you do not need to use drinking water. For example: watering the garden, flushing the toilets and doing the laundry. You can also have a capture system that uses your shower and bath water (grey water) for the garden. These systems do not need to be very expensive: it is amazing how much you can do to save the environment with a very small budget.

Manhole covers

Do not remove or cover manholes. The temptation is always there to cover or remove ugly manholes in the garden or patio. Unblocking and repairing drains without good access is significantly more disruptive and expensive. It may mean that the garden or even the floors in the house will need digging up. There are always alternative manhole covers that can be installed without spoiling your floors, patio or driveway.

Lime scale

There are a lot of products on the market that remove lime scale from your appliances. That is all well if your drains are new. If you live in an older house, you may have clay drains that are connected with lime cement. Acids and chemicals that remove lime scale will slowly dissolve the lime scale cement, leaving your drain pipes with open joints and causing leaking sewage, blockages and allowing roots to penetrate. A much better alternative when in a hard water area is to treat the water before it gets into your appliances. This treatment will prevent lime scale forming and may even be cheaper than the treatment to remove the lime scale

Isolation valves

Whether you do DIY plumbing or get a professional plumber out, always install isolation valves in the feed pipe to every appliance, whether it is a tap or a washing machine. This allows you to turn the water off to each appliance without affecting the rest of the house. It will also help to stop leaks immediately. Isolation valves are cheap and will save you a lot of hassle, damage and expense if a problem occurs.

Insulation

Insulate all water pipes outside the house, in the garages and in the loft. Insulate all pipes that are outside the areas where you have central heating. Not only will this reduce the likelihood of frozen and burst pipes, but you will also save energy as a lot of heat is lost through un-insulated pipes. Pipe insulation is cheap and available from all hardware DIY stores and the work can be done easily by home owners.

Hidden pipes

One of the things in our experience that creates the most disruption and biggest expense for our customers is hidden pipes. When decorating or putting in the new bathroom always ensure that there is access to all the pipes for the full length of the pipe. You do not have to leave pipes under floor boards or behind tiles. There are many ways to hide pipes while still being able to access them quickly in an emergency without causing damage.

An example we come across frequently is a blocked shower. If the waste pipe is push fit, as most are, it is often necessary to remove the pipes to clear a blockage because the push fit pipes may pull apart otherwise. If the pipe is under the bathroom floor tiles, you are left with two options. Either, the bathroom tiles and then the floor will have to be removed, or the ceiling in the room below has to be cut away.

Geothermal heating

The process is much simpler than it sounds. It uses a heat pump that collects heat from underground and amplifies it. This amplified heat is used for heating in your house. It is the most reliable of all low carbon sources and works 100% of the time, unlike wind or solar. The process can also be reversed to cool the house in the summer. It is currently quite expensive and does not make short term economic sense, however it does make a lot of environmental sense.

Food Disposal

Dispose of food safely down the drain by installing a waste disposal unit in your existing kitchen sink. These units grind up all food waste and safely dispose of it down the kitchen drain. It also helps in getting rid of smells from the bin.

Drinking Water

Save a lot of money by installing a water filter rather than buying water in bottles. Good carbon filters can cost less than £10 and provide 2,000 litres of the purest water, which is half a penny per litre for top quality water.

Compost Toilet

If you want to use enviro-friendly alternatives to the water flush toilet, you may want to consider either the Dry Earth Toilet or the Compost Toilet. Technology and style have come a long way since the day of a bucket and trowel. You can even install a remote compost toilet whereby the pan is installed in the bathroom and the waste is automatically converted to compost outside the house, like in the potting shed for example. They are odour free, maintenance free and a cheaper alternative than a cesspit.

Bleach

It is best never to use bleach. The active ingredient in domestic bleach is sodium hypochlorite. This chemical kills most viruses and bacteria including the good bacteria.

Your drain is not only a pipe. It is an ecosystem and relies on various strains of bacteria to process waste. These are gram-positive bacteria and are harmless. During this process the waste is broken up and odours are removed leaving a clean drain without any bad smells. Sodium hypochlorite kills these bacteria. Normally the first bacteria that return to the drain are harmful gram-negative strains. These gram-negative bacteria are often the cause of smells.

Bleach should also never be mixed with anything containing ammonia, since chloramine gas can be produced from this combination. Urine contains ammonia, so bleach should not be used to clean urine spills. Chloramine gas is highly toxic.

For both the best and safest results, clean the toilet using lukewarm water with washing-up liquid.

Baby wipes Tips

Baby wipes and sanitary towels are probably the single largest cause of drain blockages. They may be small and one would think that they will easily go down the drain. The problem is their strength.

If you hold a few sheets of good toilet paper under a running basin tap, you will find that the paper disappears between your fingers, completely breaks up and easily flows down the waste.

Baby wipes and sanitary towels do not break up even after many months. If a baby wipe gets hooked on a rough patch inside the drain, it will stay there while more and more waste keeps piling on behind it, until the drain is blocked. A good way of disposal is to wrap it in a nappy bag and put it in the bin.

My drains are blocked. How do I clear the drainage line?

Simple Blockages
Simple blockages can be cleared quite easily and more often than not it is possible for the property owner to clear the drain following these simple steps.

i) Blocked trap below the kitchen sink.
Waste traps located below the kitchen sink will block as a result of food deposits and fats building up in the u-bend. Simply empty the wastewater from the sink in to a bucket and pour warm water from the kettle into the plug hole being careful not to scold yourself. The action of the warm water flowing around the food waste should eventually break down the blockage. Should the trap still be blocked them gently plunge around the plug hole. Please contact us for further assistance should you require.

ii) Blocked toilet.
Blocked toilets often result from too much toilet paper in the toilet, children’s toys or general misuse. Most of the time to clear the drain it requires a quick and easy step. Obtain a drain plunger, most properties have them and if not your local hire shop will be able to hire one to you for a few pounds. Plunge around the trap in the toilet pan and this should clear the drain. If the drain has not cleared then inspect the drainage gullies around the point at which the soil pipe discharges into the ground externally. Should the gullies be overflowing then the drainage system serving the property is likely to be blocked and you should call Choke Folk for further assistance.

iii) Blocked house gullies.
Generally building and house gullies block from leaves, debris and garden cuttings. Wearing some long gauntlets clear the waste at the bottom of the gully and wash the gully and branch through with some water from the hose pipe. Important, do not allow the end of the hose pipe to come into contact with the wastewater.

 

How can I reduce the likelihood of a blocked drain or sewer?

  • Using the correct disposal methods for many waste items will help keep the drains free flowing. Items such as nappies, cotton buds, food waste and fats should not be disposed of through the drainage system.
  • Personal items like nappies and sanitary towels should be sealed in plastic bags and placed in the bin, do not flush these items down the toilet.
  • The use of a sink sieve when preparing food will prevent the traps on your sink from blocking.
  • Maintain the drainage gullies around your property. Clean away leaves and garden debris that if left will eventually block the drainage system.
  • Drainage Consultants operates cost effective drainage maintenance programmes. For further information on how you can implement such a programme please contact us

Important Information
The information in this website is for general guidance on plumbing and drain cleaning and may not always be the best advice for your situation. If you need further assistance please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free site survey or quotation.