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Building regulations & drainage – what you need to know in 2023

The drains are some of the most important parts of our homes, but we really only notice them when something goes wrong. Building regulations covering drainage are designed to minimise the chances of this happening and to ensure that wastewater and effluent is effectively carried into the sewers without polluting our homes or the wider environment.

If you’re carrying out extensive home renovations or construction projects – and we’re talking anything from a full extension or converting a room into a utility room to laying a new driveway – you’ll almost certainly have to take account of the effect of your project on drainage. That could be the pipes taking wastewater from your property or a hard surface such as a new driveway or patio diverting surface water into the sewerage system rather than neighbouring properties or a nearby road.

This month, we’re taking a look at some of the building regulations surrounding drains and drainage, so that you can make sure you’re doing everything you need to, or are asking the right questions of your builder or contractor.


Couple trying to fix some pipes in the kitchen at home


Ownership of the drains & sewers

One of the main issues you’ll come across when dealing with anything to do with sewers is who owns them or has responsibility for them. If the drains you’ll be affecting are owned by your local water company, you’ll need to get their permission before doing pretty much anything. Without the appropriate permissions, your project will be illegal and you may well be subject to hefty fines, as well as being ordered to take down or remove any work you have done.

You can find out the location of public sewers at your local authority office, or you can get assistance regarding the direction, depth and size of any drains on your property, from a specialist drain company such as Need a Tanker who can conduct a CCTV drain survey.



Approved Document H

Nearly everything you need to know about building regulations regarding drains and drainage is to be found in the government’s Approved Document H. This offers guidance on a range of issues, including “foul and surface water and rainwater, and sanitary waste disposal, including sewage structures and their upkeep” together with “refuse storage of solid waste materials for dwellings, waste disposal, treating wastewater, pollution prevention, and the use of appropriate, separate drainage systems. Furthermore, guidance covers the building of hygienic pipework, discharges and cesspools, and the guidelines for building over and around sewers”.

When planning your project, you or your contractor should consult Approved Document H to make sure that you are complying with the law in full. Some of the types of work that are likely to require approval include: 

  • If you’re building above existing sewers, what impact will your work have on them?
  • Where will your new driveway or patio be diverting surface water?
  • Are the pipes connecting your kitchen and/or bathroom appliances the right size and angle to deal with the flow of water?
  • And are they connected to the right drain, so that wastewater from your toilet or washing machine is going into a foul water sewer for treatment rather than into a surface sewer for discharge into the environment?
  • Is your sanitary pipework ventilated to prevent foul smells from entering the building?

Incidentally, if you own a cesspit or septic tank, you’ll also find regulations covering what you need to know and do in Approved Document H.


For all your drainage issues, Need a Tanker can help. We’re experienced at everything from commercial drain jetting and CCTV drain surveys to drain unblocking, soakaways and land drainage. With over 40 years of experience, we offer a nationwide service for residential, commercial and industrial properties.

Get in touch with us now to find out more.

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