Good drainage is essential for the average UK home. And, you and your family need foul water drainage underground and running freely.
Blocked drains containing sewage or surface water run-off are expensive to remedy if you don’t know the location of the blockage or collapse and what to do when you find it.
The solution is to have a CCTV drain survey. The cost of a drain survey ranges from £80-£250 for a basic exploratory version. In comparison, a full CCTV survey, with a report and DVD, costs on average £200-£350. The surveys are designed for different purposes and will save you money by producing real-time footage of the drainage problem. Thereby allowing the engineer to decide on the next course of action immediately without delay or unnecessary excavation costs.
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This guide explains the benefits of a CCTV drain survey and the average price. We also consider finding a reputable drain surveyor with training and experience and why you need to use one.
How Much Does a CCTV Drain Survey Cost?*
CCTV drain prices vary depending on factors we’ll discuss later. However, the table below shows a quick price comparison to help you understand the idea.
|Survey Type||Price Range||Average Cost|
|Basic CCTV Drain Survey||£80-£250||£160|
|Full CCTV Drain Survey & Report- Average Property||£200-£350||£280|
|Full CCTV Survey & Report – Large Property||£350-£480||£420|
|Ground Excavation (per location)||£100-£350||£230|
|Majority of CCTV Drain Surveys||------||£90|
*Disclaimer: We compiled and calculated data, which was correct at the time of writing (August 2022). For actual quotations, contact up to 3 drainage professionals using our website.
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6 CCTV Drain Survey Price Factors
CCTV drain survey prices vary depending on several factors. These include:
1. Property Type
Every house is different, and so is its drainage. Some properties have a complex drainage system, which is difficult for the camera operator to navigate. This takes a long time and therefore costs more to carry out the survey.
2. Drain Pipe Diameter
Large-diameter drain pipes require a survey using a larger camera to capture the pipe’s entire inner surface. Large cameras cost more than smaller ones, and this size differential alters the survey’s price.
3. Drain Length
Large properties tend to have more extensive drainage systems. These pipe systems take longer to navigate and cost more to complete the survey. Depending on the drain length, a survey can cost, on average, from £350-£480 and take up to 6 or 8 hours.
4. Drain Accessibility
Accessing the drainage system can be very difficult, especially if the property is old. Therefore, it’s more complicated to carry out the survey. In an extreme situation, the engineer might have to excavate the ground to gain access, which significantly adds to the overall price. The potential costs to dig for access can range from £100-£350.
5. Purpose of Survey
Some people require a CCTV drain survey to solve a problem with the drain. Therefore, the engineer will only investigate the problem pipe section. Alternatively, Suppose you want a comprehensive survey for a building society, council planning application or similar reasons. In that case, the engineer will provide a survey plan of all the drains on your property. Although the comprehensive investigation will require a full survey with a report, the limited investigation can be either basic or full, depending on the customer’s requirements.
6. Drain Survey Categories
There are two types of drain surveys available costing different amounts:
- Basic CCTV Drain Survey – This type is purely an exploratory investigation. You won’t get a report or a DVD of the survey findings. Instead, you’ll have a verbal description of the issues and recommendations for fixing the problem. This is the cheaper of the two surveys.
- Full CCTV Drain Survey with Report – This type consists of the basic exploration, with a detailed written report and a DVD copy of the CCTV footage. The information includes a description of the drain’s condition, a map of the drain layout, still photo images, and a DVD of the video. This is the more expensive of the two surveys.
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There are no regulations governing CCTV drain surveys. However, an insurance claim, mortgage lender report, planning submission or building control inspection might require a full CCTV drain survey with a report and video footage. If so, it’s essential to have a drain survey appropriately done by an official trade association member who is certified by DrainSafe Approved Contractors Scheme and knows what they’re doing. Information in the Planning Portal explains CCTV drain surveys and their use with official planning submissions and building design.
How Are CCTV Drain Surveys Carried Out?
CCTV drain surveys are straightforward if you choose a company with training and the correct equipment.
1. Arrange a Quote
Contact a reputable CCTV survey company or drainage contractor from the DrainSafe certification scheme. Explain the issues you are experiencing with your drains.
There is no substitute for an on-site assessment of the issue, as the drain system might be complicated, or the area to cover might be more extensive than usual. It allows the engineer to quote for the job accurately, without any surprises. Alternatively, they might specify a basic fee for the job with extras depending on the length of the drain. Be wary of this arrangement as your costs might increase significantly without warning.
2. On-site Drain Surface Drain Mapping
When the engineer arrives, they will try to find the inspection chamber hatch (manhole cover) that serves the drain pipe. If there is a problem, they might use a non-invasive radio drain tracer to map the drain pipe from the surface and give an accurate depth reading.
3. Entering the Inspection Chamber
The engineer will insert a remote-controlled robot or rod-mounted CCTV camera into the drain pipe from the inspection chamber and steer it in the required direction.
4. Cleaning the Drain
If there’s bad visibility, remove as much dirt as possible using a water jet so the camera can get a good view of the pipe’s inner surface.
5. Carrying Out the Survey
Most cameras use a pan and tilt function to allow maximum coverage of the pipe’s inner surface. The camera shows a moving image on a handheld control screen and automatically records it for later inspection.
The most common fault areas are at the pipe joints. The ends are the weakest part of the pipe and subject to the most stress and movement. Furthermore, roots enter the lines at the joints and expand, further causing damage to the pipe ends. The cameras show if the pipes have been damaged by concentrating on the joints.
Sometimes the pipe can be repaired using a flexible liner. Otherwise, damaged lengths should be exposed by excavation and replaced. When used with a radio drain chaser, the engineer can decide on the exact location on the surface to dig and how far down the excavation needs to be.
The report describes the survey findings using still photographic images, DVD footage and CAD drawings in conjunction with written text to clearly explain the location of the fault, the issues surrounding the problem and how to remedy them.
The reports help engineers and customers to find:
- Blockages and leaks
- Root ingress into the pipe
- Loose and displaced joints
- Wear and tear
- Corroded surfaces
- Collapsed drains
- Cracked surfaces
- Scale build-up
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How Long Does It Take?
Because the drain camera moves along the pipe from the inspection chamber, there’s no need for significant excavation work. Therefore, a typical survey doesn’t take long. However, the length of time taken depends on the distance travelled underground.
For larger properties, a full CCTV drain survey with a report, costing £350-£480 with an average price of £420, takes around 6-8 hours to complete on-site. In addition, there’s the necessary time for the engineer to compile the report. In most cases, you’ll know what’s wrong immediately and receive the completed report within a few days.
Questions to Ask Your Contractor
Before choosing a CCTV drain survey engineer to inspect your drain system, you must investigate the company and its workforce.
Do They Belong to Official Trade Associations?
The trade associations for contractors who do CCTV drain surveys provide a database on which customers can find members.
- Ensure their members keep up with the latest technological developments
- Maintain professionalism
- Carry adequate insurance cover
These requirements ensure operatives are thoroughly trained and know how to work safely.
Look out for the following organisations and certifications and ask the contractors if they are members:
- National Association of Drainage Contractors (NADC)
- Water Jetting Association (WJA)
- Achilles Utility Vendor Database UK (UVDB)
- National Drainage Academy (NADC)
What Does the Quote Include?
- Ask for quotes from three or four contractors before choosing your preferred company.
- Always check what’s in the quote and what you’re paying for. Some companies will clear minor blockages without charge while conducting the survey, while others will charge extra.
- When comparing quotes, always ensure the terms are like-for-like, and there aren’t any hidden costs.
- Sign a written agreement with your chosen contractor so each party knows what’s expected.
- Always ask for a receipt on headed notepaper for any payment you make. This confirms payment and helps prevent future disputes.
What Training Courses?
Anyone working on your drain must know what they’re doing and have full training. Many training providers offer approved courses, such as the NADC Certified Drain Surveyor (CDS) Course certified by WRC, The Environment Agency, and NADC.
They must also be aware of health and safety regulations applicable to drain work. Look out for:
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Are They On an Approved Contractors Scheme?
Local councils and government agencies run approved contractor schemes. Membership means that contractors satisfy competency levels when working on drains and can sign off their work without an inspection by a council officer.
Confirm the drain surveyor or engineer has previously completed other similar jobs. Ask for photos and references from former clients.
11 Benefits of Drain Surveys
CCTV drain surveys are a way of finding issues with your drainage system and have several benefits.
1. Better Problem Diagnosis
Diagnosing problems and determining the solution quickly is essential when you have issues with your drains. With CCTV surveys, the engineer can see everything in real-time and decide on a solution for the exact problem immediately, rather than making a guess. Furthermore, you have live feed stored on a DVD to show other interested parties, such as mortgage lenders, insurance companies, architects and the planning department.
2. Reduce Unnecessary Costs
To enjoy a functional drainage system, you must know what’s causing an issue. A blocked drain causes a situation where many everyday family activities grind to a halt. The first action plan is to move the blockage with drain rods or a water jet. If this doesn’t work, then use more expensive solutions. In pre-CCTV days, this involved estimating the blockage’s location, excavating the soil above, and breaking into the drain pipe. There was no guarantee you’d find the precise spot, and often you’d move to a different location and dig again. This might repeatedly happen before finding the position and solving the problem. Continuous digging costs money and has now been largely made redundant.
Thanks to CCTV, the drain inspection camera shows pictures and video identifying a collapsed pipe, invading tree roots, a fatberg or a baby’s nappy. With the cause evident from the video, the engineer knows how to proceed and can advise accordingly.
3. Reduce Planning Costs
CCTV drain surveys result in a more cost-effective diagnosis and identification method. Before this technology’s introduction, some drain blockages were too complex to be identified without excavation and breaking into the pipe. The operation required multiple visits by skilled surveyors and engineers directing excavation and making decisions. Often the original diagnosis was wrong and the planned solution ineffective. Now, using CCTV cameras, engineers can accurately diagnose the problem on the first visit and design the solution within minutes. This saves the customer’s money and the engineer’s time.
4. Minimising Disruption
When a drainage pipe doesn’t respond to normal rodding or jetting, you can choose to excavate, costing a lot of money. This choice makes a mess on your property, causes disruption and noise, and provides access problems. You might even have to excavate beneath a new driveway or under your home’s foundations. Even then, there’s no guarantee that you’ve found the location and have an effective solution. Alternatively, use a CCTV drain survey camera to look inside the pipe and see what’s causing the issue without disruption. Then, if you have to excavate, so be it. But, alternative methods often reduce excavation problems such as pipe lining and reaming.
5. A Wise Step Before Buying a House
Buying a house is often the most significant financial investment you make in your lifetime. Therefore, ensure you don’t inherit problems with a drainage system that costs a fortune to repair later down the line. A home buyers’ drain survey assesses drain condition before you buy, and some mortgage lenders require them on old houses.
6. Resolution of Ongoing Drainage Problems
Problems with drains usually fall into one of the following categories:
- Water backing up – Strange noises after flushing the toilet or overflowing sewage from outdoor inspection chamber covers suggest you have blocked drains.
- Toilets not flushing correctly – Water level too high or too low in the toilet bowl after flushing suggests there are blockages causing issues with water and air pressure in the pipes.
- Bubbles – Watch out for bubbles around the indoor shower, sink and washbasins drain outlets when the water flows away. This suggests blockages causing displaced air in the pipe system, exiting through the appliances rather than through the vent pipe.
- Foul odours – If you smell unpleasant odours from drain outlets in sinks, showers, baths etc., the pipe might be clogged with a mixture of dirt, grease, dead skin, soap and hair.
Before calling a drain survey company, use rods, chemical drain unblockers and other readily available solutions. However, call a CCTV engineer to find the cause if the problem returns.
7. Building Over
If you intend to build over an existing drain, you must have a comprehensive survey to ensure you don’t trap any blockages or cause pipe collapse. The council’s planning department and the local water company might insist on this survey.
8. Tree Root Blockages
Trees try to find the nearest water source, which is often your underground drainpipes. Narrow tree roots find their way through the smallest crack or joint in search of water, and once they’re inside the pipe, they expand and grow to collect as much water as possible. This results in broken pipes or blockages and the slowing of water flow. Often the only way to fix this problem is to remove the tree and its roots. Without a CCTV survey, you wouldn’t know what was happening or the location of the problem.
9. Drain Collapse
Collapsed drains caused by ancient drainage systems or incorrect installation are common. Look out for a foul odour, slow running water when looking in the inspection chamber, boggy surface ground, and buildings’ damp problems. Collapsed drains are serious, and you need a specialist to inspect and excavate before replacing them. Also, remember that if one area has collapsed, there might be more. So, have a comprehensive inspection done to decide on the condition of the entire system.
10. Animal Infestation
During winter, some animals, such as rats, find their way into the sewage system in search of shelter. Many rats enter homes through the sewage pipework and toilet bowl. If you suspect an animal infestation, contact a pest control company to remove the infestation, then commission a CCTV survey to check whether the animals have caused damage.
11. Erosion and Corrosion
Most modern drain pipes are made from plastic, while older pipes are earthenware or metal. Each type moves against other pipes at their joints and erodes the surfaces. Some, such as metal pipes, corrode when they react with minerals in the ground or acidic water.
Damage such as these can be a natural condition of age or a sign of incorrect installation. A CCTV survey will highlight problem areas and allow you to repair the pipes before they cause a severe problem.
Using a CCTV drain survey can reduce the cost of drainage issues and significantly speed up the resolution of problems. But, you must select a suitably qualified and trained engineer or surveyor to produce the report.
Complete the form on this page, and compare local CCTV drain surveyor quotes from three or four qualified companies to find the best price to suit your circumstances.
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