What is a Soakaway: A Comprehensive Guide for UK Homeowners

What is a soakaway?

A soakaway, also known as a rainwater soakaway, is a method designed to manage excess rainwater responsibly. Instead of allowing rainwater to pool or flood, a soakaway allows water to soak into the ground gradually.

A rainwater soakaway connects either to your property via a drainage pipe, or from a place where there’s too much surface water, for example, in your garden. Typically, they are made of plastic storage cells, often called soakaway crates and placed in a hole on your land.

In this guide we will focus on rainwater soakaways, their benefits, installation, regulations and the costs associated with them. At Elite Drainage Services, we also offer services and installation of wastewater soakaways and septic tanks. If you would like further information on these, contact us.

Signs you might need a rainwater soakaway

1. Standing water and puddles

If you see water gathering in your garden, it’s a big problem and means your property might need a soakaway. Dealing with standing water isn’t just important to keep your garden looking good; it also helps prevent possible damage to your home’s structure.

2. Damp basements and crawl spaces

Damp basements and crawl spaces under your home can be a precursor to potential structural issues. Installing this type of system will ensure these areas remain dry, which not only prevents the area smelling, but also protects your home against potential structural damage.

3. Cracks in your brickwork

Soil erosion around the base of your property can weaken your homes stability, leading to structural movement and even in some cases, sinking. This movement causes stress on your homes foundations and can lead to cracks, other structural damage, as well as flooding and other moisture related problems. If you have already noticed large cracks in your walls, uneven/sloping floors or leaning walls, it’s time to call a structural engineer.

4. You’re building an extension on your home

When expanding your property with a new extension, it is very likely you will be required under Building Control guidelines to install a soakaway. Our professional drainange engineers can advise you on these guidelines, as well as design and placement considerations.

Benefits of installing a soakaway

1. Environmental sustainability

Soakaways allow rainwater to soak naturally into the soil, this process actively supports environmental sustainability. By reducing water runoff and soil erosion, they play a significant role in maintaining ecological balance.

2. Protecting your property

They protect your property against possible water damage, making sure it stays structually sound. The system guards against problems such as cracks, damage to your foundations and erosion of landscaping features.

3. Cost-effective drainage solution

There are other more complex drainage options available, but these will come with a higher price tag. Soakaway installation and upkeep are, in comparison quite affordable, making them a practical and economical choice.

4. Preservation of landscape aesthetics

Unlike traditional drainage methods, installing a soakaway system seamlessly integrates with landscaping, preserving the aesthetic appeal of your property.

5. Garden and landscaping health improvement

Especially important for garden lovers, this drainage solution sets up the perfect conditions for plant growth. Making sure your garden stays lively and healthy, even during frequent heavy rain.

DIY vs. Professional installation

1. DIY installation

Installing a system like this yourself to save some pennies can be a tempting option, however, doing this could cause you significant repair or replacement costs in the long-term. For example, repairing the soakaway itself or, having to undertake structural repairs to your home. Before you choose a DIY approach, think about the complexity of your system and the potential risks if it isn’t installed correctly.

2. Professional installation benefits

All properties come with unique challenges and landscapes, so using a professional installer brings valuable expertise. They can ensure guidance with UK regulations as well as provide peace of mind. Opting for a professional installation is an investment, not only in a drainage system, but also in the durability and resilience of your property against the unpredictable weather.

Assessing your property

Before installation it’s important to assess your property. This assessment will consider the specific characteristics of your property, such as whether it is viable to install a soakaway, or whether an alternative option is required to meet your properties specfic needs.

In all cases you or your installer will need to make sure to check local building regulations for any guidelines you need to follow. For example, the system should be installed at least 5 meters away from any property or road, and even more if the ground slopes away from the property. If the soakaway forms part of a new build or extension, it must be added to the building plans. If it is found that your property is built on clay soils, it’s likely that a soakaway won’t be suitable. So, before making any plans, make sure to obtain advice from a professional installer, they will then be able to perform any tests and assessments required.

Does my soakaway need maintenance?

Yes, it is advised to keep your system maintained to ensure it continues working effectively.

How to maintain a soakaway:

1. Regular inspections

Having regular inspections is essential – It means you can highlight any potential issues early, which allows for timely fixes and keeps your system working how it should.

2. Cleaning and clearing

Just like you maintain your gutters, cleaning and clearing debris and blockages from your soakaway prevents damage and ensures water can flow freely.

Cleaning your soakaway yourself isn’t recommended, as you could damage the system, leading to costly repairs. To avoid this, we recommend contacting Elite Drainage Services to clean and clear the pipes for you. We are able to inspect your system with a CCTV drain survey, which will highlight any requirements of cleaning and repair.

What does it cost to install a soakaway?

Understanding the potential costs associated with installation is crucial for homeowners. Consider this knowledge as an investment in protecting the long-term durability of your property, preventing larger expenses that may arise from water-related damages. Contact us for further information on costings and to discuss your individual requirements.

It’s worth noting that some local authorities or environmental agencies may offer grants or incentives for adopting eco-friendly drainage solutions.

Local authority requirements

Each local authority will have its own set of guidelines for soakaway design. For example, BCP council provide their own advice. However, in all cases, your system should not be placed within 5m of a building or road, within 2.5m of a boundary, or in an area of unstable land where the water table reaches the bottom of the soakaway at any time of the year.

For more information or to book a soakaway installation

Taking proactive measures for proper water management is crucial to protect your home from the challenges brought by frequent rainfall. If you want to learn more about soakaways, or book an installation, reach out to Elite Drainage Services.

If you suspect any issues with an existing soakaway on your property, contact us, and we’ll inspect it for you.

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