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Tree roots invade sewage pipe - what to do?
July 7, 2006 1:47 PM   Subscribe

Tree roots clogged our sewer pipe. What next?

This morning I found that our sewage line had backed up into the basement. The plumber came and snaked the sewage line, pulling up a big clump of roots in the process.

What are our options for dealing with this problem in the future? Posters in this thread suggest annual pipe-snaking to get rid of the roots. Is this the best way to go?

The plumber suggested using Root X to prevent this in the future. I'm skeptical. Should I spend the money for this product?
posted by medusa to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
You might want to call the city sewer department and see if they have any suggestions. It may be more cost effective to use Root-X because pipe snaking may be too costly to do every year.
posted by JJ86 at 2:05 PM on July 7, 2006


I have been using a similar foaming root killer twice a year and have found it very effective. I used to have the drain snaked out once a year, but in the five years I have used root killer I haven't had a single clog.
posted by LarryC at 2:19 PM on July 7, 2006


RotoRooter service is available all over the country. Look in the Yellow Pages.

They use a drill motor and a long, flexible shaft with a blade on the end to cut them out and restore operation of the sewer pipe. It's a common problem. Roots inflitrate at pipe seams and though corroded pipe, usually something called Orangeburg pipe... popular in the 1950's and with a 50 year life span!
posted by FauxScot at 3:10 PM on July 7, 2006


What are our options for dealing with this problem in the future? Posters in this thread suggest annual pipe-snaking to get rid of the roots. Is this the best way to go?

That depends on what you mean by "best." It's an effective solution that does not fix the problem, but rather only treats the symptom. In the long run it may be more expensive than anything else, as it's $150-$300 a pop to snake the line (especially if you don't have a clean-out plug, which I don't, so a toilet must be removed every time). Over ten years you've probably paid enough to replace the entire main sewage line, unless your situation is very unique and hard to repair (and thus expensive).

The RootX stuff seems to work. It's not magic, but if applied regularly it really pisses the tree roots off.

Another solution: if you know which tree(s) (or bush[es]) is a causing the problem, and they are one your property, you could get rid of them. Dead trees don't grow roots. Short of that, you can mitigate the problem somewhat by watering the heck out of the culprit plant, so that it is less dependent on your sewer line for water.

The best solution, in that it really fixes the underlying problem, is to have a plumber put a camera down your main sewer line, find where the problem is, and repair it. This will cost $1000 to $5000 in most cases, but you won't be calling a plumber out for that problem ever again, if it's repaired correctly. Of course, that solution is the worst when it comes to up-front impact on your bank account...
posted by teece at 4:28 PM on July 7, 2006


teece writes "The best solution, in that it really fixes the underlying problem, is to have a plumber put a camera down your main sewer line, find where the problem is, and repair it. This will cost $1000 to $5000 in most cases, but you won't be calling a plumber out for that problem ever again, if it's repaired correctly. Of course, that solution is the worst when it comes to up-front impact on your bank account..."

In Calgary the city will camera your drain for free, call your city or whoever you write your sewer service cheques to to see if they offer this service before laying out any money.
posted by Mitheral at 6:32 PM on July 7, 2006 [1 favorite]


If you've got Orangeburg pipe and roots are growing through it, then it's really only a matter or time before things get way worse. If you think you've got Orangeburg pipe (or if you're not sure that you don't), then you should look into getting your main examined with a camera.

(Just to be clear, "Orangeburg pipe" is basically a cardboard tube soaked in tar. It was used a lot in the '40s and '50s. Amazingly, it's got a 50-year lifespan, which has actually proven out in most cases, but now a lot of those installations are going past the end of their expected lifespan.)

If you've got roots in your sewer main, you've got one of two situations:

1) You've got clay, cast iron or PVC pipes, and the roots are growing in through cracks in the connection joints. If that's the case, and your pipes are basically structurally sound, then approaches like periodic RootX and Roto-Rooter should be fine.

2) You've got Orangeburg pipe (or it's sometimes called Orangeburg "tile"), and then the roots are probably growing straight through the body of the main itself. As a fer-instance, we just bought a house that had an Orangeburg main, and the camera revealed that the entire stretch out to the street was going oval--the pipe was rotting out and being eaten through by tree roots, and basically collapsing.

Since we discovered that before we closed on the house, we were able to get the cost covered by the seller as part of the transaction, but there really isn't any other option at that point. If the sewer main itself is collapsing, then a Roto-Rooter's just going to chew through the collapsing pipe walls, and chemical solutions are also just going to hasten the demise, too. It's not cheap (I think our cost came to about $3,000), but you really don't have another option, since having the main collapse is _way_ worse.

On the other hand, if you've got a stable pipe and the tree roots just need to be trimmed back, then any of the less-radical approaches should work just fine.
posted by LairBob at 7:54 PM on July 7, 2006 [1 favorite]


I have roots.

The Root-X type stuff is basically effective, but the roots will eventually come back.

The "it won't happen again" solution with today's technology is having them come in and "jet" the pipe, using a water jet to excise roots, etc. without damaging the pipe. They then line the pipe with an epoxy-like substance. It is somewhat pricey, but beats digging up pipe. I don't know if the solution applies to other than cast-iron pipe, which what it was proposed to me as a solution for. I don't see any reason it can't be used with pipes of other materials.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:27 PM on July 10, 2006


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