What are water gullies and how do you maintain them?
Help and advice
What is a gully?
A gully by definition is an outside water drain pipe that’s designed to discharge surface water from your garden. This can include rainwater drainage from your guttering and grey wastewater from your washing machine, sinks, bath/shower and dishwasher.
If you've noticed that your water gullies are draining slowly or overflowing, it's probably because they're blocked. And if they're not dealt with swiftly, the resulting lack of water drainage could cause damage to your home and garden.
Luckily, clearing a blocked gully is a relatively easy task that you can carry out yourself using the tips below.
The tools you’ll need
Before you get started on clearing your water gullies you should make sure you’ve got the following tools to hand.
- Protective glasses
- Rubber gloves (elbow length if possible)
- A drain rod (can be purchased from most DIY stores)
- A garden brush
- A flat head screwdriver
- A trowel (a small garden spade is fine)
- A hosepipe
- A bucket
- Access to hot water
1. Get yourself prepared
Clearing your gully and dealing with outside drains can be a messy job, potentially exposing you to all kinds of muck and bacteria. So it’s best to pop on your protective glasses to keep your eyes clear of any splashback and your rubber gloves to keep your hands clean.
You should also make sure that no one is planning to use the bathrooms or kitchen (including the washing machine and dishwasher) if you want to avoid getting wet.
2. Locating and clearing your gully
Usually, the opening of your gully will be covered by a plastic or metal grate, often known as the gulley trap. This trap prevents the pipe from getting blocked by dirt and other debris, such as falling leaves and twigs. Over time this debris can accumulate and harden over the gully trap, resulting in flooding and smelly drains.
Once you’ve located your gully, you should try to clear as much of the debris from the trap as you can using your hands. This is the part where you’ll be thankful for your rubber gloves! Once you’ve cleared the top of the gully you’ll need to turn your attention to the inside of the gully.
3. Remove the gully cover
If your gully has a trap covering the opening you’ll need to remove it. This can usually be done quite easily using the screwdriver to prise it open, or if you’re lucky, there may be a handle. This is the part where those protective glasses come in handy, as the stiffness of the gully cover may result in you getting splashed.
If you have no luck with the screwdriver you can also try threading some string around the bars of the gully trap and giving it a firm tug. If all goes well the trap should come loose, giving you access to the inside of the gully.
4. Check inside the gully
You can either use the trowel or your hands to clear out any visible blockages inside the gully. In most cases, the gully will be blocked by twigs and leaves that have made their way through the trap. So clearing this debris by hand is often enough to get the gully running smoothly again.
Once you’ve finished clearing the gully, give the taps in the kitchen a try to see if the water is draining smoothly. If so, give yourself a pat on the back (take the rubber gloves off first though). If not, we’re going to have to take this up a notch.
5. Use the drain rod
Drain rods are flexible rods about a metre long that can be screwed together and inserted into a drain to clear any blockages. You should start first with a single drain rod to see if you can feel any obvious blockages inside the gully. You may need to attach additional rods until you do.
Once you encounter a blockage you should prod at it carefully with the rod. The goal here is to break the blockage into smaller, more manageable pieces that can be easily flushed down the drain. If you push the blockage too hard, you may just move the issue further down the drain.
Please be careful when using the rods not to rotate the blockage in an anticlockwise motion, as this could actually unscrew the pipe, making the problem far worse.
6. Rinse the gully with your hose
Use the garden brush initially to clear the area around the gully of any debris. This will minimise the risk of accidentally flushing anything down the gully while the trap is still off. Once the area is clear, direct the hose down the gully for several minutes to flush the pipe clear of any blockages.
7. Flush the gully with hot water
Fill your bucket with hot water and carefully pour it into the gully. The hot water will help to dislodge any grease or fat that may have accumulated inside the gully. If you like, you could also add a little bleach or washing up liquid to the water to amplify this effect.
8. Test the gully before resealing
Running your taps for several minutes while monitoring the gully should be enough to tell if it's draining properly. Once you are happy that the gully is clear you should replace the trap over the opening.