Is my soakaway blocked?

Worried your soakaway system might be blocked?

Traditionally, a soakaway is a big hole that’s filled with gravel and used to collect stormwater. But as the trench gathers soil and debris, this fills the empty spaces – leaving water with nowhere to go.

Luckily, this isn’t the case with modern soakaway crates.

These geocellular crates act as an underground reservoir for excess rainwater, allowing it to drain away into the ground at a more controlled rate – effectively preventing waterlogging.

Made from plastic, soakaway crates easily clip together and can be stacked side-by-side or on top of each other to form a box structure.

When installed correctly, such soakaway systems require very little maintenance. However, if you encounter issues with your soakaway, it’s well worth having it looked at right away as it may be blocked.

In this article, we’ll be looking closely at how you can tell if your soakaway is blocked, what might be causing the problem, and what you can do to unblock it.

How to identify a blocked soakaway

There are a number of signs that indicate your soakaway system isn’t operating as it should be. One of the most obvious is pooling close to the soakaway – either in your garden, on your sports field or any other grassed areas.

If you spot noticeable dips in the ground, this also indicates that you have a problem with your soakaway. These often occur when the soil has become compacted to the point where it can no longer penetrate any more water.

Alternatively, if water is backing up around pipes and gullies, or gushing out of the drains and pipes connected to your soakaway, take this as your sign that your soakaway is blocked and needs immediate attention to prevent further water build-up and damage to your landscaped areas and building foundations.

3 common causes of blockages

When soakaways are blocked, they make it difficult to distribute the collected water back into the soil.

There are several reasons why this might be the case, but the most common include:

1. Compacted soil

Compacted soil often stems from external pressure on the ground or an unusually long period of dry weather. As the ground is much harder, water is unable to seep through, leading to waterlogging.

2.  A build-up of excess silt, leaves and debris

If an insufficient membrane has been used to protect your plastic soakaway crates from silt and sediment – or the geotextile membrane has been damaged in any way – this too can cause the system to clog up.

Similarly, if any stones, leaves or rubble make their way into the pipework of your soakaway, this will restrict the flow of water. which is why it’s always a good idea to use silt traps or catch pits.

3. A collapsed drain

A collapsed drain is another potential cause of a blocked soakaway. Whilst this can happen as a result of poor maintenance, ground movement, soil composition or above-ground traffic, it is typically the most time-consuming and costly issue to rectify.

How to repair a blocked soakaway

Depending on the extent of the blockage, it may be possible to rectify the issue with high-pressure water jets. You should ask a professional to do this, as they will have the state-of-the-art equipment required to access and rinse your pipework.

Sometimes, blockages occur because of failed silt traps or filters. Therefore, it’s worth inspecting your traps regularly to guarantee their efficiency and prevent unwanted materials from entering the soakaway.

If your system cannot be cleaned or repaired (either by yourself or a competent engineer), you should consider a soakaway replacement.

The Building Regulations stipulate that new soakaways must be installed in a new location (at least 5m away from the closest buildings). However, when you purchase soakaway crates from a reputable supplier like Cotterill Civils, you can trust that they will last for many years and won’t break the bank.

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