There are many different types of pipe making up your water system. Some bring fresh water to your home, others take away waste.

Understanding your pipes and drains and how they work can help you spot any problems. So, from mains water supply pipes to sewers, we look at the different pipes in your plumbing and drainage system.

Diagram of a house showing how a mains water pipe connects to the stopcock under the kitchen sink

How water systems work: from the mains pipe to your tap

Your water comes into your house from a mains water pipe. This brings in fresh, clean water and connects to your home through the stopcock.

It’s often located under the kitchen sink. You should locate your stopcock in case you ever need to turn off the water supply in an emergency.

Pipes connect from the stopcock to your taps, providing drinking water in the kitchen.

The mains may also connect to a storage tank that provides water to the rest of the house – including bathrooms and toilets. The storage tank is often in the loft. In more modern homes, the mains pipe might directly connect to all taps in your home.

Diagram of a house showing how a mains sewage pipe connects to a toilet

How sewers and drains work together

Your water system also has pipes and drains to take away waste. This includes the toilet waste pipe and pipes connecting to your sinks, baths and showers. These are sometimes called soil pipes.

Your plumbing system may also have a stench pipe (also known as a soil vent pipe). This takes away fumes and stops the smell of drains coming into your home.

Drains are pipes that carry waste from your home. These connect to sewers. Sewers collect waste from the drains of many houses and buildings. Sewers are usually looked after by your water company.

How your drains work – blockages and drain covers

You can keep your drains clear by taking care when putting things down your sinks and toilets.

A common cause of blocked drains and sewers is cooking fat or oil poured down the sink. This solidifies and stops waste water from passing. A blocked drain could then back up and cause damage to your home. You should put fat or oil in the bin instead.

Drains are also often blocked by things flushed down the toilet. Never put cotton buds, nappies or wipes down the loo, even if the packaging says they are flushable.

You can stop leaves and other garden debris from blocking your system by getting a drain cover. These are available from any hardware shop.