Home Maintenance

How to Unblock a Drain by Yourself


When your stormwater or sewer drain is not doing its job, it might be due to a blocked stormwater drain or a clogged soak hole. Either way, you will need to unblock it, or call in a plumber or drainlayer.

The Auckland City Council has a stormwater infrastructure consists of:

  • 6000km of pipes
  • 45,000 manholes
  • 6700 catchment pits
  • more than 900 treatment devices.

Auckland City Council are clear that they own and maintain public pipes, manholes, catchpits and other assets that manage stormwater flow, quantity and quality.

However, landowners are responsible for maintaining assets on their property up to the point where it connects to the public assets. This can include roof gutters, downpipes, grates and catchpits.

Generally, Auckland City Council determine the point between public and private assets as one of these:

  • The connection to the public stormwater system regardless of the location or number of properties serviced.
  • The point where the service connection serves more than one property.
  • The point where the service connection crosses the property boundary.

If you have ongoing problems with stormwater, ACC have great resources available to homeowners and developers.

Identifying Causes

As well as attempting to fox your blocked drain, it is worthwhile thinking about what caused it – especially if it is a recurring problem. Leaves and weeds, or other rubbish are a common culprits. So take some time to prevent this from happening. You might need to prune a tree or relocate your compost.

Check to make sure the wrong things are not being flushed down your toilet. Teach your family the 3 P’s – the only things that should be flushed are pee, poo and paper.

You may also find that tree roots are growing into your pipes, or that they are filling up with silt or dirt.

Step 1: Inspection

Look at the area where the drain runs from. Is there a flooded yard? Have a look at where it begins and see if anything is clogging up your drainage system. You may have a blocked gully trap or a blocked stormwater drain.

You can tell if your gully trap is overflowing because of a blocked sewer drain by the colour of the water in the gully. If it looks like raw sewage, you know it’s blocked and you should call a plumber or drainlayer to unblock your sewer drains. But if it just looks like clear water, it’s probably just rainwater.

Step 2: Call a pro

It may be necessary to call a plumber or drainlayer, if the blocked drain seems serious. They will have the right equipment for clearing any blockages.

If you are doing this job yourself, have these items on hand before beginning: rubber gloves, bucket, plunger, drain rods.

Before you do though, have a think about whether or not you are likely to solve the problem – or make it worse! It is not uncommon for DIY problem solvers to damage the waste pipes, traps or drains.

Also, be aware that only licensed plumbers can repair or replace waste pipes inside your home, and only licensed drainlayers can repair or replace drains underground or outside your home.

Step 3: Clean out the blockage

If you’ve got a blocked stormwater drain, use a garden hose to spray it from one end to the other. If your problem is a blocked gully trap, take a bucket and scoop up all the water in the tray. Then get your plunger and plunge out all the blockage in the drain pipe. If it doesn’t clear, you may have a collapsed or broken drain. In this case, call a plumber or drainlayer to clean out what’s blocking your drains under the house.

Step 4: Flush ‘n’ fill

Once all the blockages are cleared out of your sewer and stormwater drains, flush them with fresh water. Fill up the gully trap with a hose to make sure it’s not blocked again, then plug your stormwater drains – if you have plugged stormwater drains.

If the blockage was in your stormwater drain, go back into your yard and pour two buckets of water down the drain for good measure.

Step 5: Check for leaks

After all the cleaning, check your section and the street to make sure everything is damp only. Sometimes a good clean-out may reveal a leak in your plumbing system. In this case it’s worth calling a plumber to take a look at the drains under your house.

If you have found that there is a leak under your house, you can undertake the task yourself to save money or call a plumber or drainlayer for assistance.

Step 6: Clean up

Wash your rubber gloves and use bleach to clean out bucket and plunger if they got dirty during this process.

Step 7: Relax – it should be fine now!

The water should run freely through your drains. If you have plugged stormwater drains, unplug them or leave the plug off until it rains again to let the water run freely down the drain.

Happy digging!