ripped up stormwater drain, this can never have worked

The replacement of stormwater-pipe-shaped-objects with functional stormwater pipes

Last season was a very rainy year in Melbourne. So rainy that our laundry drain (which used to be the outdoor stormwater drain), became flooded. We called the plumbers who dug around a bit, laughed in horror, and said “We think you might need to replace all your stormwater pipes, there are some tree roots in it.”

Under. Statement.

We agreed with the plumbers that we would dig out the drains and they could lay the new pipe when we were done. The cost of getting someone in to do it was prohibitive: it was along the fence line where there were a lot of trees and you couldn’t get a digger in there.

So we started digging. I had to rip up the pavings and rip down the cat run and remove a lot of plants.

partially exposed horrible 1950s stormwater drain pipe still in ground

The pipes were laid (according to Louis, the neighbour who has been in her house since all the local houses were built in the 50s) by the people who first owned the house.  The house is from 1951. They got concrete pipes – probably the same miserable, horrible, local concrete that the roof tiles were made from (see this post for the yuck), and laid them butted end to end. No sealant mind you. just butted end to end. Good long term thinking right there. I even found a bit of pipe that was clearly a join -pipe with the join hole just exposed, nothing covering it. I am gobsmacked at some of the decisions the first owners made.

cement drain pipes were put into the ground with exposed holes in them

This section of pipe was laid WITH the joining hole open to the soil. I stomp on it in annoyance. I spurn the pipe.

The downpipe was probably at some point draining into a sand trap that filtered it into a concrete box and then the water ran out after that –  but the sand was now mud, and the trap and all the pipes had become totally clogged with mud and roots.  The new pipe from the replacement laundry, ran into…solid ground. It was surreal.


ripped up stormwater drain, this can never have worked

how did this ever work?

Many of the pipes were clogged pretty much 100% with tree roots and dirt, or just dirt. Entire sections were MISSING. Many were smashed or broken or cracked. every pipe downstream of the trap was clogged with tree roots.

a cross section of stormwater drain pipe removed from ground showing 100% clogging of soil

cross section of pipe: This is why there was no water flow

I literally couldn’t even!

Another bit was so clogged that all the water from the roof on one side of the house was draining under the house through a hole I’d never noticed before. It probably has been doing this for years. It was always damp under there. Now I know why.

Anyway. down the back of the shed we used to have a cat run where they could go to the toilet and use a tube to get to a backyard cat run.

That got all pulled down in the great muddinating.

Mud and water in the drainage ditch

I spent at least a weekend day a week for a large number of weeks basically sitting in mud and removing the drains. It was pretty freaking miserable. We had to remove the pipe, then dig down to even it out for new pipe. It rained the whole time. It was damp at best, wet the rest of the time. Actually kneeling in mud, the mud becomes warmer, I was always sad to have to move on to a fresh bit of cold mud.

There was a lot of chopping involved because tree roots are basically bits of giant tree in the ground and you can’t lift out the drains till they are broken up.

We basically dug down to the back of the yard (and this is a 1950s block, it’s LONG) and after a lot of test pits, (that was painful) we actually found the outlet to the PVC council stormwater pipe that goes down behind the back fence. Neighbor told us, it used to be a seasonal stream, this is why there is the council land down there.

We got the plumbers back, and they were literally delighted that we’d actually done it. They apparently don’t get a lot of people who do the digging themselves cause it’s freaking hard.

They piped us in, we replaced the dirt, and I had to redo the paving along the back of the house. Which left me the new cat run to do…and that was another monumental “that didn’t seem so hard on the box” type job, which I am about to post about next.