Blocked pipes are a nightmare for most households – especially if you can’t easily fix the issue on your own.
Clogged drains can mean water and toilet overflows, often in extremely inconvenient times like the middle of the night. In other scenarios, your drains might only be partially blocked, causing a slowing of water drainage in your sinks, toilets, and bath.
Paying a professional is often the only real fix – as most homeowners don’t have (or want) the tools necessary to unblock the drain.
The average cost of unblocking a drain ranges from £70 for a simple upper line to £280 for a full line clean. Here, costs depend on whether it’s an emergency visit and where the issue is.
For example, a block a few feet down from the drain will be simple and fast to fix. A block closer to the sewer mains can require significant effort to find and remove.
How Much Does It Cost to Unblock Drains?
In most cases, the largest factor influencing the cost of unblocking a drain is the time of day. However, other factors, like what the issue is and how easy it is to fix can also be impactful.
|Rodding + Jetting||£125-£400|
|Drain Survey (CCT)||£150-£200|
Please note, these cost estimates are based on quotes given at the time of writing in May 2023. Actual rates are subject to change as plumbers may change their operating rates at any time. Use these figures as a basis for your own research.
5 Drain Unclogging Price Factors to Consider
The largest factor influencing the cost of unclogging a drain is the cost of labour.
However, that cost will heavily depend on factors like the time of day, what kind of specialist you need, and your location.
1. Cost of Labour
The national average cost of a plumber is £40-£60 per hour. However, that will change depending on where you’re at. In a rural area, it could be as low as £30. On the other hand, in an urban area, it could go up to £80.
In addition, if you have an out-of-hours issue, you’ll be charged twice the plumber’s normal hourly rate plus a call-out fee. Here, call-out fees are typically £100 or £150. Other plumbers may use a rate of £150-£200 for the first hour of work, after which they revert to the normal out of hours fee.
In addition, most plumbing jobs take 1-4 hours. A simple clog is unlikely to take more than two hours – unless the plumber has to disassemble all the drains to find the clog.
This means that the cost of your job will heavily depend on what the situation is.
- Water is draining slowly so you schedule a plumber, it takes 2 hours to locate and remove the clog – £60-£220
- Water is draining slowly so you schedule a plumber, you end up needing a CCTV survey of the drains and the plumber recommends relining the drains, which takes 4 hours. £600-£800
- The toilet overflows during business hours – £50-£70
- The toilet overflows at 2 AM – £150-£200
- The sink overflows because of backflow from the sewer during business hours – £70-£150
- The sink overflows because of backflow from the sewer at 2 AM – £150-£300
So, rates quite a bit depend on the specifics of when you’re requesting labour.
In addition, some plumbers will have a call-out fee for business hours as well. This covers the cost of travel and any consultation.
However, it’s likely to be cheaper. For example, you might pay £100 or £150 for the first hour of work, even if the full hour of work isn’t needed.
2. Time to Complete the Job
A simple clog can be removed by shoving a plumbing snake down the drains and finding and removing the clog. If the clog is located near the backed up drain in question, that should be straightforward. It’s unlikely to take more than an hour.
On the other hand, if the clogged drains are an issue because of clogs deeper in the sewage system, finding those clogs can take a lot more work. You’ll also need a lot more specialty equipment to remove clogs that are further down.
In most cases, clogs are removed within a few hours at most. However, if you have to reline your pipes, you can expect that to take 4-8 hours total, including the survey.
3. Materials Needed
You won’t likely pay for having someone rod your drains. However, if your plumber comes out to jet the drains or uses a CCTV camera, you’ll likely pay extra for the equipment.
That’s also true with drain lining, where you’ll actually pay for the lining.
In addition, if you’re using chemical cleaners, you’ll likely pay for the chemicals used to unblock the drain. Otherwise, there are very few material costs to worry about.
4. Surveys Needed
If your plumber can’t find the clog or suspects there might be larger issues in the pipes, they might recommend a CCTV survey. This will mean inserting a small camera into your drains to check the condition of the pipes.
For example, if clogs are a result of roots growing into the pipes through cracks – you’ll either have to replace those pipes or reline them to remove the roots. That can involve a process of coring (removing the roots) and then lining the pipes to prevent the roots from growing back.
In addition, this is not a permanent solution, and you’ll still have to replace the pipes in 5-10 years.
5. Source of the Problem
Hair or debris build-ups are quick and easy to clean up with a snake or with a drill. However, roots growing into your pipes can be much more difficult to fix.
Therefore, the cost of removing a clog will always depend on what’s causing the clog. The simpler the issue, the faster your plumber can remove it.
- Hair, fabric, disposables – 1-4 hours
- Cracked pipes –4-8 hours
- Roots – 8+ hours
- Fat build-up – 1-2 hours
- Leaves from outside – 1-3 hours
Eventually, most issues are solvable in an hour or two, so most costs are static between £70 and £200.
How Do Plumbers Unblock Drains? (Methods)
Most plumbers use two primary methods to unblock a drain: rodding and jetting.
Rodding involves inserting a metal rod, usually made of twisted or coiled metal, into the drains. These can be manual (for 60 metres or less) or mechanised. Most also have hooks or prongs on the end, which can be twisted to break up masses of debris and build-up.
Rodding is the standard way to clean a drain and most plumbers will show up to your home with a “rod” or “snake” to do the job.
- Your plumber inserts the rod into the top of the drain.
- The snake is fed into the drain using a twisting motion, which can be manual or mechanised, to remove debris from the drain as you go.
- If the rod hits a blockage, the plumber will attempt to drill it out by rotating the rod. Otherwise, they may attempt to hook and pull out the debris.
- This is continued until the drain is clear.
Jetting connects a high-pressure water pump to your drains and flushes your drains out.
This is ideal for sediment and sludge that builds up and is not easily removed by a rod or drilling.
- The plumber inserts a hose with a multi-directional nozzle down your drain.
- A pump sends high-pressure water through the jet, flushing out sludge and blockages.
- This is repeated in every drain in the home.
In some cases, you’ll want to rod and then jet the plumbing. That’s the best way to ensure your pipes are fully clean.
6 Reasons Your Drains Are Blocked
There are plenty of reasons why your drains might be blocked. In addition, many of them aren’t listed here.
However, the following includes the 6 most common reasons your drains are blocked.
1. Flushing Foreign Objects
Flushed foreign objects are the main cause of blocked drains. Here, wet wipes, sanitary napkins, tampons, baby wipes, cotton pads, clothing, cleaning rags, and even children’s toys can all cause blockages.
In some cases, foreign object blockages are actually a combination of issues.
For example, if you flush fat down the drain, the fat builds up on the side of the sewage pipes. When someone flushes a baby wipe, it sticks to that fat, blocking the pipe. More debris builds up on top of that and the full pipe is clogged.
Flushing wipes and tampons or menstrual pads is never a good idea. However, you can often fix the issue by quickly rodding the drain. And, if the issue is close enough to the top of the drain, you could even do so yourself.
2. Fat and Food Build-up
If you flush waste food, wash dishes without scraping or wiping fat, or dump liquids from boiling meat into the drain, it will cause fat build-up. That fat is liquid while it’s hot. However, when it cools, it will start to stick to the pipe walls.
And, unfortunately, every bit of fat you dump down the drain will start to cool at about the same place. Eventually, it will all stick in the same place, causing the pipes to narrow. That can result in slowed drainage.
It can also mean increased risks of other debris causing actual clogs. And, if left alone long enough, the fat build-up can fully block the drains.
Leaves entering the sewer from outside can break down in your pipes and cause blockages. They can also lie flat over the pipes and block the entrance that way.
If your drains are blocked soon after a storm or if you never clean your gutters, the chances of the issue being leaves are much higher. Unfortunately, fixing this issue normally involves checking the home and then looking at the exterior drains.
Preventing it can also be difficult. For example, you may need an exterior drain specialist to advise on how best to guard drains outside.
Roots can work their way through drains and through cracks in pipes or pipe fittings and grow into sewage pipes over time. Once they do, the drains very quickly clog.
This happens because the roots narrow the space available in the pipes, causing build-up and eventual clogs.
Unfortunately, getting rid of roots in pipes can be extremely difficult. You can drill them out. However, you’ll almost always have to replace the pipes or line the pipes afterwards. And, that can be quite costly.
5. Broken Pipes
If an outdoor pipe is cracked, it can allow dirt or roots to enter the pipe. Once that happens, you’ll have to dig it up and replace it.
This also means that fixing a clog because of a broken pipe can be difficult. First, you’ll likely need a survey to identify the issue. From there, you can uncover the pipe in question and fix the issue.
6. Sludge and Debris Build-up
The older your pipes are, the more likely it is that they are full of sludge and small debris. That’s especially true if you live in an area with low water pressure.
Or, for example, if you use a toilet with a reduced tank to save water, it could reduce the pressure on the sewer, meaning more sediment is left behind when you flush. Over time, that increases the risk of sediment build-up and clogs.
Luckily, this issue is extremely easy to fix with jetting. However, you’ll have to schedule a point for your plumber to visit with equipment to do so.
Can The Council Unblock My Drain?
Householders are always responsible for blocked and clogged drains on private property – even if you’re in a council house. That’s also true if you have a shared drain.
You have to decide with your neighbours who’s responsible for a blocked drain and how to split the costs.
Council is, in no way, ever responsible for unclogging drains.
However, if your issue is with the sewer or lateral drains, the sewer company is responsible for the issue. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to identify this without calling a plumber to inspect the system.
How To Hire And Find Drainage Specialists Near You
If your drainage is blocked, you’ll normally want to compare local plumbers. If it’s an emergency, you’re more likely to want to simply hire the first person able to come to your home.
In most cases, a quick Internet search is your best option. However, you can also list your job and ask plumbers to offer quotes, using the form above.
Drainage Specialist Hiring Checklist
Hiring a plumber or drainage specialist should always mean looking for relevant qualifications and good reviews.
- Relevant qualifications such as NVQ Level 2 or 3, APHC certification, Competent Person’s Scheme registration
- Workmanship guarantee
- Worker’s compensation
- Liability insurance
- Good reviews online
- Timelines that meet your needs
- If you have time to compare, quotes that compare well to alternatives
5 Signs Your Drains Are Blocked
If your drains are fully blocked, you’ll notice. However, there are several early warning signs you can spot in advance.
In addition, if you hire a plumber for a scheduled visit when your drains aren’t an emergency, you can save as much as half of the cost of the visit.
1. Water Not Draining
If water is pooling in your sink, bath, or toilet, it means the drain is blocked. That may be an issue of a clog at the top of the drain.
You can check this by pulling the filters or the cap off the drain and checking. It might also be because of water pressure issues or air in the line. However, chances are high that you have a blockage.
2. Slowly Draining Water
Slowly draining water means that you have a partial blockage. That blockage could be debris, sediment, trash, leaves, roots, or even an air bubble.
However, it will mean that your drains work slowly and water may even bubble as it goes down the drain.
3. Noises from Drains
If your drains bubble or gurgle, it usually means there’s a partial blockage. Again, that blockage could be anything, including an air bubble. However, it will always mean your drains make noise.
Here, the source of the noise can often tell you where the blockage is. For example, if you hear the noise very loudly at the top, it may mean the blockage is near the top. However, if an upstairs bathroom drain is gurgling near the bottom of the wall, it may mean the blockage is much further down in the pipe.
4. Unpleasant Smells from Drain
If your drains smell, it always means there’s a problem. That issue is often blocked drains.
In some cases, smells can mean that your pipes are cracked, allowing air to force smells back up the pipe. It may also mean that vent pipes are clogged, which can be because of leaves or other issues at the vents on top of your home.
In addition, smells might mean you’re about to have a backed up sewer, because the clog is getting to the point of preventing waste from flowing all the way to the sewer.
5. Water Levels Rise in Toilet When You Flush
If you flush the toilet and water levels in the toilet bowl go up before they go down, it means the water is having trouble draining. This always means there is a clog, even if it’s not fully blocking the pipes.
Therefore, this is a great early warning sign that it’s time to have your pipes cleaned before you start having real problems.
Hiring a plumber or a drainage specialist to unclog your drains normally costs £70-£280. However, depending on the issue, you could spend £800 or more.
For example, if you have a simple scheduled visit during business hours, you’ll pay £60-£150. If you have an emergency visit, you’ll likely pay a starting rate of £150-£200. And, if you have to core roots out of your pipes and then re-line them, you’re looking at close to £1,000 in costs. Therefore, the cost of unblocking a drain can vary quite a bit.
Here, the simplest answer is always to pay attention to your drains and call the plumber out before the issue becomes an emergency.
If you’re looking for a local drainage specialist, use the form at the top of the page to request quotes from plumbers in your area.