Drainage vs plumbing: what is the difference?

drainage plumbing

For many people, the terms drainage and plumbing are interchangeable and describe a network of pipes that help a home function properly. However, they’re two very different systems with very different jobs. The distinction is essential when it comes to problems and knowing who to call.

A general plumber may not have the specialist training or knowledge to handle drainage emergencies such as blockages in sewer pipes. Here’s a simple way to remember the differences between the two systems. If your toilet won’t flush, that is a plumbing problem. If it is blocked, that’s a drainage issue. So, what is the difference between drainage and plumbing? We’ll explore further in this article.


Supplies water and gas into the home

Relies on external mains pressure


Carries water and wastewater away from the home

Relies on gravity

Generally speaking, plumbing refers to the system of bringing fresh, clean water into your home (and gas). When you turn on a tap, the plumbing system carries water through an underground pipe network directly from your water supplier. Anything that takes water away from your property is regarded as drainage. When you flush the toilet or pull the plug to empty a bath or sink, that’s drainage in action.

Common plumbing problems 

A home’s plumbing system consists of a network of pipes and fixtures. They work together to supply clean, safe water for cooking, cleaning, drinking and heating. Plumbing problems are an inevitable part of your home, and an experienced plumber will be able to help you fix them. Among the most common ones are:

  • Leaky pipes: can be caused by pipe corrosion, pipe joint damage, excessive water pressure and a host of other issues.
  • Low water pressure: can be a symptom of a more significant problem such as hidden water leaks and blocked pipes.
  • Faulty water heater: possible causes include incorrect water pressure, a broken electrical connection and aging equipment.
  • Running toilet: a damaged flush valve or faulty flushing handle could be to blame.
  • Clogged toilet: often caused by flushing objects that should not be flushed.
  • Water heater problems: among the possible causes are sediment build-up and heating element failures.
Blocked Drains Castle Hill

Common drainage problems

A home’s drainage system is designed to dispose of wastewater as quickly as possible. It comprises all the pipes, drains and gutters that convey rainwater, sewage and other liquids away from the property. Drainage problems can occur at any time in any part of the system. A blocked drains expert can help fix most of them, whilst a stormwater drainage specialist, like GSM Plumbing, will be required for certain external drainage work. Among the most common issues are:

  • Slow or blocked drains: most likely causes include grease and fat from cooking, leaves and other outdoor debris, tree root intrusions and foreign objects flushed down the toilet.
  • Improper grading: the slope of the land directs water towards a property, not away from it.
  • Cracked/broken pipes: can be due to excessive wear and tear and tree root intrusions.
  • Overflowing gutters: often caused by blockages due to fallen leaves.

Why you need a drainage specialist

Often, the problem with drains and pipes is you can’t see them. Stuck underground, they’re out of sight, as are any issues, at least initially. This often means plumbers need specialist equipment to discover what’s going on and remedy the situation. However, not every plumbing company is equipped to handle these setbacks.

So, what are the tools of the trade? Using specialist CCTV drain cameras, plumbers can see the condition of the drain system and identify problems such as stress, cracks, blockages or root ingress without the need to excavate or dig up the land. If grease, sludge or other waste is causing an obstruction, they’ll insert a jetting hose and pump in water at high pressure. This will scrub pipe walls, removing debris. Gravity will do the rest, flushing the problem away. For tree root problems, a mechanical or motorised drain auger is sent into pipes to cut through the wood like a saw.

Rouse Hill plumber

Importance of having an emergency plumber 

Everybody hopes that a plumbing or drainage emergency won’t happen, but the reality is something will go wrong sooner or later. And it will never happen at a good time. If you have a running toilet or a few drips from a leaking tap, you can probably wait until the next day or the weekend. However, if water is gushing all over the kitchen, time is of the essence. Reliable emergency plumbers will come to your rescue immediately, any time, day or night. A fast response is crucial to prevent further damage to your property.

Whether it’s a clogged drain, flooding, or a sudden sewer backup, emergency plumbers have the required knowledge, training and specialist tools to manage all kinds of plumbing and drainage problems. It means there’s little chance of errors being made that could lead to worse problems further down the line. And their insights are essential. What may look like a minor issue to you could be a symptom of significant damage to the entire plumbing or drainage system.

Above all, emergency plumbers should adhere to all safety protocols. Water heaters, broken pipes and pressurised water can be hazardous. Emergency plumbing specialists must comply with workplace health and safety standards and the Plumbing Code of Australia (PCA).

GSM Plumbing for your drainage and plumbing issues

When a plumbing or drainage problem arises, you want an experienced plumber who can handle a wide variety of issues. In general, most plumbers can take care of things inside a home but cannot deal with work outside the property.

At GSM Plumbing, we have years of experience providing plumbing and drainage installations, maintenance and repair. We have the specialist tools and knowledge to manage every type of plumbing and drainage issue. From blocked sinks and leaking taps to sewer line blockages and middle-of-the-night emergencies, our teams provide drainage and plumbing solutions to homes, businesses and strata properties.

If you live in Castle Hill or any surround area and would like our help with your plumbing and drainage needs, contact us today.

Greg Murray

Greg Murray

Greg Murray is the owner of GSM plumbing and has over 25 years' experience in plumbing and drainage. Whether you've got water leaks, blocked pipes, or need help constructing or maintaining a drainage system, Greg and his team are here to help. Find out more about GSM Plumbing.

About GSM Plumbing

Plumber Castle Hill

GSM Plumbing has been helping residents and businesses in Sydney keep their pipes flowing and drains clear for 25 years. If you've got a plumbing issue you're not sure about, give us a call on 02 9199 2560 and we can help.

Get a Quote Today

Latest Plumbing Articles