Image of a draining sink

Drainage Engineer or Plumber?

Posted on 03/04/2018

Knowing where to find a tradesperson is very important for getting the help you need, but knowing what type of tradesperson you need is perhaps equally as important.

One of the biggest confusions we see customers experience a lot is whether they need a drainage engineer or a plumber – both deal with pipes and the flow of water and other liquids, so which is needed for your job?

If you’re in a hurry, with a blocked drain or a leaking pipe, a simple tip to follow is: inside = plumber, outside = drainage engineer.

Tip: Inside for a plumber, outside for a drainage engineer

There are plenty of exceptions and crossovers of course, but this rule of thumb is a great place to start. 
Another basic explanation is: plumbers are concerned with water coming into your home, drainage engineers with taking it away.

All trades require specific skills and experience but few trades cross over to the extent of plumbing and drainage. Most people are familiar with what a plumber does, but what exactly does a drainage engineer do?

Drainage engineers work with systems to ensure water, sewage and other materials can flow between systems as efficiently as possible.

When these systems fail – typically due to a blockage or burst pipe – drainage engineers are responsible for finding and fixing the issue. As often these pipes contain sewage, drainage engineering is not for the faint hearted.

One of the most famous recent examples of drainage engineering at work was London’s fatberg, a huge mass of household and industrial waste that weighed as much as 11 double decker buses. Drainage engineers were called in to dislodge the monstrosity and the work took almost three weeks.

Drainage engineers are also responsible for planning drainage systems for new builds, including excavating, laying foundations and installing pipes.

In more domestic settings, drainage engineers – like the ones on the Local Heroes platform – survey a home’s sewers and drainage systems to determine where a blockage is located, its likely cause and how to fix it.

A full drainage survey can also involve the use of CCTV to determine the likelihood of future drainage problems.

To clear a blockage, a drainage engineer may use a tool as simple as a long, flexible rod but are more likely now to use high pressure water to clear a blockage.

If you’re unsure of whether you can put something down the drain, don’t. Remember: bin it, don’t block it

In most cases, calling a drainage engineer to your home should be a last resort and you can reduce the risk with a few good habits such as not pouring oil or fat down the drain and binning rather than flushing wet wipes.

Another rule of thumb for drainage: bin it, don’t block it.