Replacing or Refurbishing Exhaust Soakaways

Malfunctioning soakaway

An exhaust soakaway plays a crucial role in managing and redirecting excess water and pollutants away from buildings and infrastructure. Over time, these soakaways can deteriorate, leading to various issues such as poor drainage, foul odors, and even structural damage. When faced with a malfunctioning exhaust soakaway, property owners often contemplate whether to replace or refurbish it. In this article, we will explore the factors to consider and the pros and cons of each option, helping you make an informed decision.


Exhaust soakaways, also known as drainage soakaways or septic soakaways, are underground structures designed to collect and disperse excess water, particularly from the exhaust systems of buildings. They serve as an essential part of the drainage system, preventing waterlogging, flooding, and potential damage to structures.

The proper functioning of an exhaust soakaway is crucial for maintaining the integrity of a property’s drainage system. Over time, however, soakaways can deteriorate due to various factors, including age, lack of maintenance, or external factors like soil movement or root intrusion. When a soakaway fails to perform its intended function, it is necessary to either replace or refurbish it.

Signs of Exhaust Soakaway Failure

Identifying the signs of a failing exhaust soakaway is vital to take prompt action. Some common indicators include:

1. Waterlogged or Saturated Ground: Excess water pooling around the soakaway area or in nearby surroundings indicates a problem with the soakaway’s drainage capacity.

2. Foul Odors: Unpleasant smells emanating from the vicinity of the soakaway are often a sign of blockages or stagnant water, indicating a malfunction.

3. Slow Drainage: If sinks, toilets, or drains are slow to empty, it could be a sign of an overwhelmed or damaged soakaway system.

4. Sinkholes or Depressions: Sunken areas or small craters forming around the soakaway are indicative of soil erosion caused by water escaping from the system.

5. Damage to Nearby Structures: A failing soakaway can lead to water infiltrating the foundation of nearby buildings, causing cracks, dampness, or structural damage.

Factors to Consider

When deciding whether to replace or refurbish an exhaust soakaway, several factors need to be considered. These include:

1. Age of the Soakaway: The age of the existing soakaway is an essential factor in determining whether it can be effectively refurbished or if a replacement is necessary.

2. Level of Damage: Assessing the extent of damage to the soakaway system helps determine whether repairs are feasible or if a complete replacement is the better option.

3. Local Regulations and Permits: It is important to consult local regulations and obtain necessary permits before making any changes to the drainage system.

4. Cost Comparison: Replacement vs. Refurbishment: Evaluating the costs associated with replacement and refurbishment helps in making an economically sound decision.

Replacing Exhaust Soakaways

Replacing an exhaust soakaway involves a systematic process to ensure effective drainage and compliance with regulations. The following steps are typically involved:

1. Assessment and Site Survey: A professional Bristol drainage engineer assesses the condition of the existing soakaway and determines the necessary specifications for the replacement.

2. Excavation and Removal of the Old Soakaway: The old soakaway system is carefully excavated and removed from the ground, making space for the new installation.

3. Installation of a New Soakaway System: A new soakaway system is installed, taking into account the site-specific requirements, soil conditions, pests and drainage capacity needed.

4. Proper Disposal of Waste Materials: Waste materials from the old soakaway are disposed of responsibly, following local guidelines for waste management.

5. Ensuring Compliance with Local Regulations: The newly installed soakaway system is inspected to ensure compliance with local regulations and standards.

Refurbishing Exhaust Soakaways

Refurbishing an exhaust soakaway involves repairing and improving the existing system to restore its functionality. The process typically includes the following steps:

1. Inspection and Assessment of the Existing Soakaway: A professional drainage expert inspects the soakaway to identify any damaged or worn-out components.

2. Repairing or Replacing Damaged Components: Damaged pipes, chambers, or other components are repaired or replaced to restore the functionality of the soakaway.

3. Clearing Blockages and Obstructions: Any blockages, sediment buildup, or obstructions in the soakaway system are cleared and drains unblocked in Bristol to ensure proper water flow.

4. Improving Soakaway Efficiency: Measures such as adding filtration media or improving the soakaway’s capacity may be taken to enhance its efficiency.

5. Regular Maintenance to Prolong Lifespan: Implementing a regular maintenance plan helps extend the lifespan of the refurbished soakaway and ensures optimal performance.

Pros and Cons of Replacement

Replacing an exhaust soakaway offers several advantages, including:

– Enhanced Functionality: A new soakaway system provides improved drainage efficiency, reducing the risk of waterlogging and associated issues.

– Longevity: With proper installation and maintenance, a replacement soakaway can offer a longer lifespan compared to refurbishment.

– Compliance with Modern Standards: Replacing the soakaway allows for adherence to updated regulations and standards, ensuring environmental sustainability.

However, there are some potential challenges and limitations associated with replacement, such as:

– Higher Cost: Installing a new soakaway system is generally more expensive compared to refurbishing the existing one.

– Disruption: The replacement process may involve excavation and construction work, which can cause temporary disruption to the property and its occupants.

Pros and Cons of Refurbishment

Refurbishing an exhaust soakaway offers several benefits, including:

– Cost-Effectiveness: Refurbishing the existing soakaway is often more cost-effective than a complete replacement.

– Preserving Existing Infrastructure: Refurbishment allows for the retention of the existing drainage infrastructure, reducing waste and preserving the property’s original features.

– Environmental Considerations: Refurbishing minimizes material waste and contributes to environmental sustainability.

However, there are some drawbacks and limitations to refurbishment, including:

– Limited Lifespan Extension: Refurbishing may extend the lifespan of the soakaway, but it may not match the longevity offered by a new system.

– Potential Hidden Issues: Refurbishing may not address underlying issues that are not readily visible, leading to recurring problems in the future.

Choosing the Right Option

Choosing between replacement and refurbishment depends on various factors. It is advisable to consult with a professional drainage engineer or a specialist in soakaway systems. Consider the following aspects:

1. Consultation with a Professional: Seek advice from an expert who can assess the condition of the existing soakaway and provide recommendations based on your specific requirements.

2. Evaluating the Condition and Requirements: Consider the extent of damage, the age of the system, and the long-term drainage needs of the property.

3. Budget Considerations: Assess your budget and weigh the costs of replacement against refurbishment, considering the potential long-term savings and benefits.

4. Long-Term Sustainability: Consider the environmental impact and sustainability of each option, including resource usage and waste generation.


Replacing or refurbishing an exhaust soakaway is a crucial decision to ensure proper drainage and prevent potential damage to properties. While replacement offers enhanced functionality and compliance with modern standards, refurbishment provides a cost-effective and environmentally conscious alternative. Assessing the condition, consulting with professionals, and considering the long-term implications will help make an informed choice. Remember to prioritize maintenance and regular inspections to prolong the lifespan and effectiveness of the chosen solution.


Q1. How long does it take to replace an exhaust soakaway? The duration of the replacement process depends on various factors such as the size of the system, site conditions, and any additional modifications required. It can range from a few days to a couple of weeks.

Q2. Can I refurbish my soakaway without professional assistance? While minor maintenance and clearing blockages can be done by homeowners, it is recommended to seek professional assistance for thorough inspection, repairs, and refurbishment to ensure optimal results.

Q3. Are there any eco-friendly options for replacing or refurbishing soakaways? Yes, there are eco-friendly alternatives available, such as using sustainable materials for replacements or incorporating environmentally friendly filtration media during refurbishment. Consult with professionals to explore such options.

Q4. Can a damaged soakaway cause harm to the environment? Yes, a damaged soakaway can lead to water pollution, soil erosion, and contamination of natural water sources. It is essential to address soakaway issues promptly to prevent harm to the environment.

Q5. Is it possible to repurpose an old soakaway for other drainage purposes? In some cases, an old soakaway may be repurposed for other drainage needs, such as redirecting rainwater away from the property. Consult with professionals to evaluate the feasibility and suitability of repurposing.

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