Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Topic Author
protagonist
Posts: 6081
Joined: Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:47 pm

Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by protagonist » Wed Apr 08, 2015 4:16 pm

I just got bad news from the city....roots growing into my sewer line in my front yard. The consequence was water backing up into my toilet when my washing machine drained and standing water in the washing machine. The toilets flush ok....sink drains are slow.

I don't know how bad it is yet but these are the options that were presented:
1. Have the old pipes reamed. Cost $190/hr....probably 2-3 hr work- could be less or more depending what they find. Advantage: not very disruptive and cheapest short-term option. Disadvantage: Will have to be repeated periodically (? every 1-3 years?????).
2. Lay new plastic pipe from street to house. Advantage: Ultimately the solution. Disadvantage: Very expensive and disruptive and may also involve changing interior plumbing, destroying yard/driveway, who knows? Cost: Thousands- probably $2500-10000 (need to get estimate from excavation firms)
3. Remove offending tree and roots completely- probably more disruptive and expensive than laying new line.

A friend also suggested the possibility, after the first reaming, of lining the existing old pipe (my home is 135 yrs old) with plastic from inside, or possibly pouring something down the line periodically that would kill the roots when they re-grow. He doesn't know if either is a viable option.

Any thoughts on this? I'm not sure how to proceed.

Also...is $190/hr a reasonable price for a drain company to ream pipes from the inlet in my basement (including camera inspection)? It doesn't sound unreasonable for colonoscopy, but these are just sewer pipes.

Thanks.

The Wizard
Posts: 13356
Joined: Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:45 pm
Location: Reading, MA

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by The Wizard » Wed Apr 08, 2015 4:20 pm

I'd look into having that tree removed for $500 or so and then call RotoRooter to chop up whatever roots got in there.
Once the aboveground part of that tree is removed, the roots die. They don't have to be dug out...
Last edited by The Wizard on Wed Apr 08, 2015 4:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Attempted new signature...

sport
Posts: 8713
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 3:26 pm
Location: Cleveland, OH

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by sport » Wed Apr 08, 2015 4:22 pm

I would have the roots removed from the existing line, followed by a dose of copper sulfate. Copper sulfate for tree roots should be available at any hardware store, Home Depot, Lowes, etc. It may have a brand name such as RootX or RootBGone. It is can of small blue crystals. IIRC, it comes in a 4 lb. can. You just flush it down a toilet. Follow the directions on the can for when to do it and how often. I believe it is once or twice a year. It does not harm the trees.

User avatar
whatusername?
Posts: 639
Joined: Wed Feb 18, 2015 6:08 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by whatusername? » Wed Apr 08, 2015 4:33 pm

The "plastic from inside" is actually a pretty slick solution. They use an epoxy-coated inflatable liner that they insert down your sewer line. It hardens into a seamless line which keeps the tree roots from gravitating toward the water source. I think This Old House did a segment on it a few years ago that you may want to try and find. If this is likely to be a recurring problem, I'd look seriously at this.

[I live in one of the few houses on my street that hasn't had to have the sewer line dug up and replaced - YET - so I actually am looking seriously at this.] :happy
Last edited by whatusername? on Wed Apr 08, 2015 5:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Topic Author
protagonist
Posts: 6081
Joined: Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:47 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by protagonist » Wed Apr 08, 2015 4:35 pm

Thanks, jsl and whatu!

Would Root-X be a permanent solution if applied at regular intervals? Does it work well?

bwb100
Posts: 35
Joined: Sat Jun 07, 2008 10:26 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by bwb100 » Wed Apr 08, 2015 4:39 pm

I feel your pain.

Here was my similar request for information from the boglehead community 4 years ago:

viewtopic.php?t=56902

Our solution (hopefully permanent) was to have a 6 foot deep hole dug in the middle of the yard (4 guys with shovels taking turns - DW didn't want her perennial garden disturbed) to get to a break in our line, and then a liner was used inside the original pipe back to the house and out to the street.

This is the product we used: http://www.perma-liner.com/

No issues since, though 2 years ago the city took out the offending tree which succumbed to disease.

dolphinsaremammals
Posts: 2094
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2014 4:18 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by dolphinsaremammals » Wed Apr 08, 2015 4:46 pm

I don't think 1 will work. The roots will eventually destroy the pipe, I think.

The liner sounds like a slick idea, but I have no info about it. It it works, that's what I would do.

Random Poster
Posts: 1913
Joined: Wed Feb 03, 2010 10:17 am

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by Random Poster » Wed Apr 08, 2015 5:02 pm

whatusername? wrote:The "plastic from " is actually a pretty slick solution. They use an epoxy-coated inflatable liner that they insert down your sewer line. It hardens into a seamless line which keeps the tree roots from gravitating toward the water source. I think This Old House did a segment on it a few years ago that you may want to try and find.
I think that this is the episode: http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/tv/ask- ... 68,00.html

Click on the fourth scene selection.

RW-Expat
Posts: 76
Joined: Sat Mar 21, 2015 3:02 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by RW-Expat » Wed Apr 08, 2015 5:13 pm

protagonist wrote:I just got bad news from the city....roots growing into my sewer line in my front yard. The consequence was water backing up into my toilet when my washing machine drained and standing water in the washing machine. The toilets flush ok....sink drains are slow.

I don't know how bad it is yet but these are the options that were presented:
1. Have the old pipes reamed. Cost $190/hr....probably 2-3 hr work- could be less or more depending what they find. Advantage: not very disruptive and cheapest short-term option. Disadvantage: Will have to be repeated periodically (? every 1-3 years?????).
2. Lay new plastic pipe from street to house. Advantage: Ultimately the solution. Disadvantage: Very expensive and disruptive and may also involve changing interior plumbing, destroying yard/driveway, who knows? Cost: Thousands- probably $2500-10000 (need to get estimate from excavation firms)
3. Remove offending tree and roots completely- probably more disruptive and expensive than laying new line.

A friend also suggested the possibility, after the first reaming, of lining the existing old pipe (my home is 135 yrs old) with plastic from inside, or possibly pouring something down the line periodically that would kill the roots when they re-grow. He doesn't know if either is a viable option.

Any thoughts on this? I'm not sure how to proceed.

Also...is $190/hr a reasonable price for a drain company to ream pipes from the inlet in my basement (including camera inspection)? It doesn't sound unreasonable for colonoscopy, but these are just sewer pipes.

Thanks.
We have the same issue only the tree is in my neighbors yard so I can't cut it down, and to be honest I don't want to. Had backup a couple of times and have now signed up for a twice a year rodding in April (tomorrow as it happens!) and September for a small independent guy who charges $100 cash each time and its about 50 foot from the house to the street. We have an opening right by the house so he don't have to go in the house to rod (nasty!) and one right by the street so he can go both ways if necessary. Got a quote to redo the clay pipe with PVC and it was $8K minimum and a lot of mess, I'll be moving before it every pays off so I'll keep paying the rodder!

User avatar
whatusername?
Posts: 639
Joined: Wed Feb 18, 2015 6:08 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by whatusername? » Wed Apr 08, 2015 5:17 pm

Random Poster wrote: I think that this is the episode: http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/tv/ask- ... 68,00.html

Click on the fourth scene selection.
Bingo!

bobat
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2013 11:39 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by bobat » Wed Apr 08, 2015 5:40 pm

We used to have to call Roto-Rooter about every three years due to a clogged line that's over 100 years old. Finally, one of them told me about RootX.

I flush a container into the toilet twice a year and haven't had a problem since (well over 10 years.)

Good luck!

Topic Author
protagonist
Posts: 6081
Joined: Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:47 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by protagonist » Wed Apr 08, 2015 6:32 pm

So far I only notice my problem when using the washing machine. The clothes come out unusually damp. When the washing machine flushes (large amt. of water rapidly flushing), water bubbles up in the toilet.

The toilets flush fine. The sinks are somewhat slow draining (I use Liquid PlumR from time to time that works for a week or so), but nothing too severe. The kitchen sink drains rapidly when the disposal is working.

The city excavated at the street today and removed a bundle of roots that they said were extending further onto my property from a large maple tree above the line (those on the property are my responsibility).

I have read a lot about Root-X and by all accounts it seems to work. MOst people claim annual application has eliminated the need for either reaming with a power augur, trenchless lining solutions or excavation.

Root-X costs only about $30-40 per 2 lb on Amazon (likely sufficient for an application), and it seems easy to use (acc. to instructions and videos), relatively non-toxic, and supposedly does no damage to vegetation outside the pipes.

One plumbing blog online suggested that if the pipes are less than 50% blocked no prior reaming is necessary....if more than 50% they should be reamed the first time before application. But given the cost of a video camera inspection, why not just try it? My lifestyle is not significantly enough affected that I cannot delay.

Root-X seems almost too good to be true, given the price and hassle of other recommended solutions. So good that I am leery. The city excavators were recommending solutions that would cost thousands and result in lots of property damage. They didn't even mention Root-X.

I'm thinking of just giving it a shot....even foregoing the camera inspection, etc. After which if my washing machine works properly I will repeat every 6 mos. or so and not consider other solutions unless the problem recurs. If something is not broken, why fix it? Especially given the draconian measures necessary.

What do others think about this approach? Any experience?

http://www.amazon.com/ROOTX-Intrusion-S ... 53-7484818

User avatar
ResearchMed
Posts: 9434
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 11:25 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by ResearchMed » Wed Apr 08, 2015 6:45 pm

protagonist wrote:So far I only notice my problem when using the washing machine. The clothes come out unusually damp. When the washing machine flushes (large amt. of water rapidly flushing), water bubbles up in the toilet.

The toilets flush fine. The sinks are somewhat slow draining (I use Liquid PlumR from time to time that works for a week or so), but nothing too severe. The kitchen sink drains rapidly when the disposal is working.

The city excavated at the street today and removed a bundle of roots that they said were extending further onto my property from a large maple tree above the line (those on the property are my responsibility).

I have read a lot about Root-X and by all accounts it seems to work. MOst people claim annual application has eliminated the need for either reaming with a power augur, trenchless lining solutions or excavation.

Root-X costs only about $30-40 per 2 lb on Amazon (likely sufficient for an application), and it seems easy to use (acc. to instructions and videos), relatively non-toxic, and supposedly does no damage to vegetation outside the pipes.

One plumbing blog online suggested that if the pipes are less than 50% blocked no prior reaming is necessary....if more than 50% they should be reamed the first time before application. But given the cost of a video camera inspection, why not just try it? My lifestyle is not significantly enough affected that I cannot delay.

Root-X seems almost too good to be true, given the price and hassle of other recommended solutions. So good that I am leery. The city excavators were recommending solutions that would cost thousands and result in lots of property damage. They didn't even mention Root-X.

I'm thinking of just giving it a shot....even foregoing the camera inspection, etc. After which if my washing machine works properly I will repeat every 6 mos. or so and not consider other solutions unless the problem recurs. If something is not broken, why fix it? Especially given the draconian measures necessary.

What do others think about this approach? Any experience?
We had this problem several years ago, and went through several of these options.

The chemicals flushed down the toilet worked reasonably well for a while, after having a roto-rooter type of drilling/colonoscopy combo.

However, it got to a point where the tree roots were starting to twist the sewer line, and a full replacement was going to be the only way out, and exceedingly expensive.
AND... would mean removing and replacing the relatively recent hand-laid paver driveway. Not good.

So we had the tree removed (which was likely to be needed anyway).
It was a "living thing" so we had mixed feelings, but it was sickly and not attractive, and we had mixed feelings about the appearance already.

We then put in a rather large tree, several feet further away, and now that is a glorious cherry tree with wonderful blossoms every spring.
(We sprung for a rather large tree/root ball, as we didn't want to wait for a sapling to replace what had been a large tree providing some privacy from the street.)

We love the new look, and the sewer never gave us another problem.

RM
This signature is a placebo. You are in the control group.

curmudgeon
Posts: 1932
Joined: Thu Jun 20, 2013 11:00 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by curmudgeon » Wed Apr 08, 2015 8:26 pm

I would put the rootx down first, so the roots have a chance to absorb it. Then a week or two later have someone run an auger down the line to clear it out (don't know that I'd bother with the camera, though it would be good to know if a section of the pipe has significantly collapsed). Repeat the rootx after six months, then once per year after that.

madbrain
Posts: 5271
Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2011 5:06 pm
Location: San Jose, California

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by madbrain » Wed Apr 08, 2015 8:35 pm

protagonist wrote: 2. Lay new plastic pipe from street to house. Advantage: Ultimately the solution. Disadvantage: Very expensive and disruptive and may also involve changing interior plumbing, destroying yard/driveway, who knows? Cost: Thousands- probably $2500-10000 (need to get estimate from excavation firms)
I had the same problem less than one year after moving into my current house. This is the option I chose.
It involved a lot of excavation through my yard. I got 3 bids. It ended up costing $4000. One bid was $10,000.

madbrain
Posts: 5271
Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2011 5:06 pm
Location: San Jose, California

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by madbrain » Wed Apr 08, 2015 8:36 pm

The Wizard wrote:I'd look into having that tree removed for $500 or so and then call RotoRooter to chop up whatever roots got in there.
Once the aboveground part of that tree is removed, the roots die. They don't have to be dug out...
This wouldn't have been possible for us as the tree in question was on city property.

madbrain
Posts: 5271
Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2011 5:06 pm
Location: San Jose, California

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by madbrain » Wed Apr 08, 2015 8:39 pm

protagonist wrote:So far I only notice my problem when using the washing machine. The clothes come out unusually damp. When the washing machine flushes (large amt. of water rapidly flushing), water bubbles up in the toilet.
You should feel lucky. For us the way we noticed is that there was about 6 inches of semi liquid poop backing up the the bathtub on the first floor ...

User avatar
TxAg
Posts: 1559
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 11:09 am

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by TxAg » Wed Apr 08, 2015 8:46 pm

Had the same issue almost 2 yrs ago. The hub style connections on the clay pipes allowed tree roots to come into the line. Our line was buried about 6' down and not far from a gas line so we paid a lot in manual labor for hand digging. The pvc replacement pipe is basically impervious to roots. Our cost was just under $5000. For the record, our house was built in '58.

Additionally, i spent $800 to have the offending hackberry tree cut down. Hackberries are notorious for falling. It was pretty and blocked my view if the neighbors but upon inspection the trunk's core was a bit rotted.

Both of these were expensive but money well spent. We plan to be here a while.

Stonebr
Posts: 1472
Joined: Wed Jan 21, 2009 11:19 am
Location: Maine

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by Stonebr » Wed Apr 08, 2015 8:52 pm

protagonist wrote: A friend also suggested the possibility, after the first reaming, of lining the existing old pipe (my home is 135 yrs old) with plastic from inside, or possibly pouring something down the line periodically that would kill the roots when they re-grow. He doesn't know if either is a viable option.

$190/hr a reasonable price for a drain company to ream pipes from the inlet in my basement (including camera inspection)? It doesn't sound unreasonable for colonoscopy, but these are just sewer pipes.
This is not unreasonable and is a procedure recommended to us by the home inspector we hired before we moved in. I'm not sure which is worse, colon cancer or a house full of backed up sewage. Both may be covered by insurance, but one is easier to clean up than the other. I'm inclined to think that plumbers are under-paid and doctors are not.
"have more than thou showest, | speak less than thou knowest" -- The Fool in King Lear

sarahjane
Posts: 220
Joined: Tue Jan 21, 2014 5:18 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by sarahjane » Wed Apr 08, 2015 8:55 pm

The Wizard wrote:I'd look into having that tree removed for $500 or so and then call RotoRooter to chop up whatever roots got in there.
Once the aboveground part of that tree is removed, the roots die. They don't have to be dug out...
I've done this successfully

User avatar
gwe67
Posts: 194
Joined: Mon Dec 23, 2013 9:52 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by gwe67 » Wed Apr 08, 2015 9:00 pm

I did #2, replacing PVC with new PVC and adding clean-outs. There were no clean outs in the line so reaming the pipe was not an option. Roots can (and did) get into the PVC through a glued joint. I plan to be in this house a while so I chose to the long-term fix. Two years later, my yard is still recovering.
Support this site with a purchase thru Amazon: | http://www.amazon.com/s/?search-alias=aps&tag=bogleheads.org-20&field-keywords=Bogleheads

Lafder
Posts: 4016
Joined: Sat Aug 03, 2013 7:56 pm
Location: East of the Rio Grande

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by Lafder » Wed Apr 08, 2015 9:06 pm

I also have a house with a history of tree roots clogging the lines. I pay my plumber to clean the line twice a year. That gets the roots when they are still small.

The cost to replace the line was about 7000$ when given the estimate about 10 years ago. Yes three zeroes!

The plumber told me he would do what I am doing since the line is fine as long as we keep up with the roots before it clogs.

The line was viewed with a camera. There are no obvious breaks. Consider that roots start out microscopic and follow water, they can get into tiny openings then grow and can crack the lines worse.

Sounds like you need a plumber to come and take a look and make some recs and discuss options. Even if there are big roots, a roto rooter may be enough to get it flowing with ongoing clean outs and copper treatments.

lafder

fh2000
Posts: 114
Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 7:18 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by fh2000 » Wed Apr 08, 2015 9:07 pm

I used to call the plummer every year to snake out my drain line due to the same roots problem. Each time it would cost me $100-120 dollars. I finally bought a 50' Compact Electric Drain Cleaner from Harbor Freight for $200 during their black Friday sale: http://www.harborfreight.com/50-ft-comp ... 61856.html It is quite easy to operate. No more worrying about a Sunday emergency call to the plummer.

Tamales
Posts: 1422
Joined: Sat Jul 05, 2014 10:47 am

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by Tamales » Wed Apr 08, 2015 9:41 pm

Not that it will help you now, but I guess you can get special insurance for the exterior sewer lines, from most insurance companies.

I know someone who recently had the sleeve inserted. The house is about 50 yrs old, clay pipes, with separation and erosion in a whole bunch of places, once they ran a camera the full length. The tree that was the main culprit had actually crept into the pipe in a couple places. Just under 10 grand for the whole job. They didn't remove the tree (which would have been another thousand or more, I'd bet)

With a house as old as yours, assuming the line has never been replaced, it probably is in pretty bad shape, deteriorating, probably several cracks and erosion. Running a camera will tell the story. The sleeve is more economical since there is less trenching required, but there comes a point where the damage is too bad to sleeve it. If you just try for the quick fix now, you may miss the opportunity to sleeve it, and that will add about 50% to the cost (to trench and lay new pipe a couple years down the road)

I think these people told me that the plumbing crew claimed the typical service life for these clay pipes is 40-50 years.

Topic Author
protagonist
Posts: 6081
Joined: Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:47 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by protagonist » Wed Apr 08, 2015 10:00 pm

sarahjane wrote:
The Wizard wrote:I'd look into having that tree removed for $500 or so and then call RotoRooter to chop up whatever roots got in there.
Once the aboveground part of that tree is removed, the roots die. They don't have to be dug out...
I've done this successfully

I was told that the root system of the maple tree is probably at least as wide as its canopy, and that roots continue to grow for many years after the tree is chopped down. It's a very large, old tree and removing its root system, according to the city workers from the dept of public works, would likely be more invasive and expensive than laying new pipe. It's not just a matter of chopping down the tree.

What is the risk of opting for periodic RootX treatments (with or without power auger reaming) if I don't experience any significant plumbing problems? If it works it would cost me around $40-80/year for the RootX (annual vs semiannual treatments)....it would take about 100 years or more of that to pay what people online are quoting for excavation, and it would save my driveway and landscaping. If I have to excavate or put in a lining in the future I have not lost much (figure $500 or so per decade), but it may last the rest of my life. I suppose at some point I might find I will lose the lining option, but maybe not. It seems like a risk worth taking, no?

What am I missing? Why do something draconian if inexpensive maintenance may do the trick?

jasper
Posts: 118
Joined: Wed Aug 21, 2013 12:26 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by jasper » Wed Apr 08, 2015 10:27 pm

I'll give you my experience

1925 house. Roots in original clay line causing backup. Several plumber visits to ream it out. RootX several times. Eventually dug (by hand by me - huge mistake with bleeding hands from going down 8ft down) a clean out access line to ream it out easier. Eventually my best efforts failed. On a god-knows-how-many-scopes-later found with a significant break in the line. My brother with similar aged house got by with a liner. Due to the break and sag in the line I had to get it replaced. Liner was not an option at that point. That $8000 to definitively fix it was by far the best money spent in the whole process. I wish I did that from the start.

Piece of mind not worrying if sewage was going to back up into my house was priceless. And I was told tree roots can go horizontal so chopping down your tree may not settle the issue. It could be coming from a neighboring tree.

Pathologyguy
Posts: 25
Joined: Sat Jan 31, 2015 9:44 am

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by Pathologyguy » Wed Apr 08, 2015 10:29 pm

madbrain wrote:
protagonist wrote:So far I only notice my problem when using the washing machine. The clothes come out unusually damp. When the washing machine flushes (large amt. of water rapidly flushing), water bubbles up in the toilet.
You should feel lucky. For us the way we noticed is that there was about 6 inches of semi liquid poop backing up the the bathtub on the first floor ...
The bathtub? You lucky duck. :happy

For us, we had showers on the first floor, so the result was washing-machine impelled poop overflowing the shower pan and making it all the way to our carpeting. Kids and women screaming - was not a pretty sight. Ah, the joys of home ownership.

We had the pipe section dug up. Once bitten, twice shy.

I think that's probably a severe outcome, but definitely not a matter to treat lightly!

User avatar
tuningfork
Posts: 480
Joined: Wed Oct 30, 2013 8:30 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by tuningfork » Wed Apr 08, 2015 10:44 pm

Similar problem here. I was having to call a roto-rooter company every 2 to 3 years to clean the line. RootX didn't work for me. Camera inspection revealed the clay pipe was severely broken at one spot. Had a 6 ft section replaced with PVC for about $3600, but it was that costly only because the broken spot was under a concrete porch. Had the break not been under the porch, the estimate was about $2200.

saladdin
Posts: 535
Joined: Wed May 05, 2010 5:45 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by saladdin » Thu Apr 09, 2015 7:28 am

Have a very large water oak tree that happens to sit about 2 feet to the left (and above) where my house sewer section connects to the city's section of pipe. The 2 pipes (both cast iron) are connected with a rubber boot where roots had grown into the seams. I dug it up, ripped the roots out, replaced the boot, placed some root killer and no problems since. I envisioned future problems so I took an old plastic drum and cut it down a few feet. I inserted the drum into the hole and covered the rest with dirt. Now, if it happens again I it will only take 45 minutes to get to the boot and not 6 hours of me digging.

Call your city department, mine allows you to borrow their camera to look into pipes.
If replacing pipes put in an extra clean out or 2, especially if your pipe isn't a straight shot. I added one myself.
In my city, if clog is in the city section it's their responsibility. They gave me a replacement boot because it was the city's boot that had been root invaded and actually shoveled for about 45 minutes ( I had already gone 90% myself before they finally showed up).

Grt2bOutdoors
Posts: 21725
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 8:20 pm
Location: New York

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Thu Apr 09, 2015 7:35 am

protagonist wrote:Thanks, jsl and whatu!

Would Root-X be a permanent solution if applied at regular intervals? Does it work well?
It's not a permanent solution, the issue with applying either copper sulfate or a foaming root remover is it needs to be re-applied about every 6 months, the roots are a continuing grower seeking out water. The other issue with the copper sulfate is it does not coat the entire pipe instead it will sit on the bottom of the pipe until it is fully dissolved down the road. I know this, because I've been applying it to my sewer pipe 2-3x a year to keep the roots at bay. Regardless of the method you use copper sulfate or foamer, you need to have the roots removed from the pipe first using a roto-rooter type device to chop those roots up and let the water pass. Which reminds me, I've got to dose my pipe this week.

This is the stuff I use - http://www.amazon.com/Roebic-FRK-6-Foam ... oot+killer
"One should invest based on their need, ability and willingness to take risk - Larry Swedroe" Asking Portfolio Questions

Topic Author
protagonist
Posts: 6081
Joined: Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:47 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by protagonist » Thu Apr 09, 2015 7:42 am

It's very interesting how many people posting here have had similar problems.

My in-home problems have so far been trivial compared with some of the experiences others have posted. It was a one-time (the last time) regurgitation of water (not excrement) from my washing machine into my downstairs toilet (both are downstairs in the same room....my shower/tub is upstairs).

I've read many testimonials online by people who have successfully used Root-X for several years and never experienced recurrent problems. $40 via Amazon and one flush down the toilet does it.

If I was experiencing excrement in my shower or overflowing onto my floor I would certainly want to be more proactive. But given my situation, is it not reasonable to try the annual maintenance approach? Why perform major surgery before trying a pill once or twice a year to see if it cures the disease or at least keeps it at bay?

User avatar
ResearchMed
Posts: 9434
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 11:25 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by ResearchMed » Thu Apr 09, 2015 8:23 am

protagonist wrote:It's very interesting how many people posting here have had similar problems.

My in-home problems have so far been trivial compared with some of the experiences others have posted. It was a one-time (the last time) regurgitation of water (not excrement) from my washing machine into my downstairs toilet (both are downstairs in the same room....my shower/tub is upstairs).

I've read many testimonials online by people who have successfully used Root-X for several years and never experienced recurrent problems. $40 via Amazon and one flush down the toilet does it.

If I was experiencing excrement in my shower or overflowing onto my floor I would certainly want to be more proactive. But given my situation, is it not reasonable to try the annual maintenance approach? Why perform major surgery before trying a pill once or twice a year to see if it cures the disease or at least keeps it at bay?
Here is one potential problem that I mentioned, but no one else has, and I doubt it is really isolated.

If the roots - the little newbies - are weaving their way into the sewer piping through joints or cracks... where are the larger roots?

Without a doubt, they are nearby or approaching.

We lucked out, by having it noticed that the roots were apparently beginning to twist the entire sewer line, boa constrictor style (or something similar).
That was *not* going to end well, and there was no treatment from within the sewer line that was going to stop that.

Hence... the tree removal.

It was *much* less expensive than replacing the sewer line.
Even the large cherry tree we put in was cheap by comparison, and cutting down the old one was even less than that.

And we did end up with sewage on the floor of the garden level kitchen (adjacent to the bath (where the sewage back up into the shower) which started the entire investigation.

The chemicals worked for a while, but sort of masked what was happening on the outside of the sewer line from those roots.

RM
This signature is a placebo. You are in the control group.

Topic Author
protagonist
Posts: 6081
Joined: Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:47 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by protagonist » Thu Apr 09, 2015 8:53 am

ResearchMed wrote: We lucked out, by having it noticed that the roots were apparently beginning to twist the entire sewer line, boa constrictor style (or something similar).
That was *not* going to end well, and there was no treatment from within the sewer line that was going to stop that.

Hence... the tree removal.

It was *much* less expensive than replacing the sewer line.
Even the large cherry tree we put in was cheap by comparison, and cutting down the old one was even less than that.
Fair enough, RM. I see your point, and the potential risks involved. I wonder about probabilities. For example, I had an ice dam on my roof this winter with some leakage into the walls (first time since I bought the house in 2009- horrible winter this year), and the roofers told me it may happen again next year or may not happen again in the next 50 years. As with stock market crashes, there is no way to accurately assess probability based on (limited) past data. So do I spend $9000 to have them remove my slate roof, install a metal underlayer and replace the roof? Or do I take my chances? I haven't figured that one out either- I don't have sufficient information to make an informed decision. Is it likely that I will experience something like what you experienced a few years down the line, or will I more likely outlive the problem with annual RootX maintenance and maybe occasional reaming? (I am 62 yo).

My tree's canopy is quite large and significantly extends over my roof. If the root system is as large or larger than the canopy (as the city DPW workers suggested is usually the case), I would guess that they would have to go under my house to remove it. That could be much more disruptive and expensive than laying new pipe I would think, no? But I intend to look into all possibilities.

User avatar
ResearchMed
Posts: 9434
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 11:25 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by ResearchMed » Thu Apr 09, 2015 9:06 am

protagonist wrote:
ResearchMed wrote: We lucked out, by having it noticed that the roots were apparently beginning to twist the entire sewer line, boa constrictor style (or something similar).
That was *not* going to end well, and there was no treatment from within the sewer line that was going to stop that.

Hence... the tree removal.

It was *much* less expensive than replacing the sewer line.
Even the large cherry tree we put in was cheap by comparison, and cutting down the old one was even less than that.
Fair enough, RM. I see your point, and the potential risks involved. I wonder about probabilities. For example, I had an ice dam on my roof this winter with some leakage into the walls (first time since I bought the house in 2009- horrible winter this year), and the roofers told me it may happen again next year or may not happen again in the next 50 years. As with stock market crashes, there is no way to accurately assess probability based on (limited) past data. So do I spend $9000 to have them remove my slate roof, install a metal underlayer and replace the roof? Or do I take my chances? I haven't figured that one out either- I don't have sufficient information to make an informed decision. Is it likely that I will experience something like what you experienced a few years down the line, or will I more likely outlive the problem with annual RootX maintenance and maybe occasional reaming? (I am 62 yo).

My tree's canopy is quite large and significantly extends over my roof. If the root system is as large or larger than the canopy (as the city DPW workers suggested is usually the case), I would guess that they would have to go under my house to remove it. That could be much more disruptive and expensive than laying new pipe I would think, no? But I intend to look into all possibilities.
We got to it before anything "needed to be removed", fortunately.
In our case IF we'd needed to replace the line, or actually remove roots, we'd have needed to first remove (and then replace) what was then a newly hand-laid paver driveway. Not a nice thought. It would have cost a fortune.

We had the stump treated, and a while later, bored down so some low shrubs could be planted on top.
The new tree was positioned far enough away (supposedly!) so that it wouldn't cause the same problem (or, er, not in our lifetimes in this home?).

We had the same ice dam situation.
Slate roofer strongly urged us NOT to go overboard "in case the second storm of the century happens in the next year or so".
We were expecting him to try to sell us something expensive, one way or another.
All we are doing is normal maintenance, replacing the odd slate that was shed, with some special attention to two places where the dam water seemed to be far worse than along the rest of the roof edge line.

By the way, $9k to replace a slate roof??
(Maybe we need another slate roof guy!? :happy )

RM
This signature is a placebo. You are in the control group.

Topic Author
protagonist
Posts: 6081
Joined: Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:47 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by protagonist » Thu Apr 09, 2015 9:18 am

ResearchMed wrote: By the way, $9k to replace a slate roof??
(Maybe we need another slate roof guy!? :happy )

RM

I got that vague estimate on the phone, calling him from Venezuela, so I didn't get details. I assume what he was talking about was replacing the exact same tiles, not putting in a new slate roof. I will probably take the same approach towards my roof that you did.

For the most part, when it comes to insurance (protecting sensitive information, property, etc), I tend to be a gambling man. I've been pretty lucky so far (for example, I figure what I saved on a lifetime of life and disability insurance invested instead in the stock market has already protected my offspring way better than the insurance would have). Dentists had been telling me to have my impacted wisdom teeth removed since I was a teenager. I finally did so age 55 or so when they became mildly symptomatic. With my luck I might have made it to my grave.

One of these days something will come back and bite me, like boa-constrictor twisted pipes bit you. Or maybe my luck will not run out that quickly.

The guy who came by to talk with me today about my sewer line certainly tried to sell me on excavation, but it is his job (it was "free advice" from Roto Rooter). If every homeowner used RootX the excavators would be hungry. Testimonials for RootX online are pretty convincing (based on Amazon reviews, posts in plumbing blogs, etc). I don't know who to believe or what to do. I'm just a Bozo on this bus (anybody recognizing that quote is my age +/- 3 years or so).
Last edited by protagonist on Thu Apr 09, 2015 9:45 am, edited 5 times in total.

User avatar
HardKnocker
Posts: 2063
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2008 11:55 am
Location: New Jersey USA

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by HardKnocker » Thu Apr 09, 2015 9:19 am

Two possible solutions:

1) Have the line reamed out professionally. Not cheap. Roto-Rooter in my area charges $400 minimum. You can do it yourself with a rented power auger for $50 for 4 hours from Home Depot. You can get augers with 100 foot snakes. You need to access the line somehow. Can you access it be removing the toilet and running the auger down the drain hole? Through an access in the main drain stack in the basement?

I had the same problem and did it myself via the toilet drain hole in the downstairs powder room which led directly to the main drain. I am pretty handy and not afraid of getting my hands in toilets and sewer lines.

2) You can try a chemical root killer/dis-solver down your toilet. You can buy them at Walmart in the plumbing/hardware section. It might work if you do multiple treatments. Will this work? If the roots are thick probably not. After a power reaming it would be a good idea to do a chemical flush once a year as maintenance.

This is a good product.

Roebic Foaming Root Killer http://www.walmart.com/ip/Roebic-Labora ... r/17163531

Image
“Gold gets dug out of the ground, then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility.”--Warren Buffett

Topic Author
protagonist
Posts: 6081
Joined: Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:47 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by protagonist » Thu Apr 09, 2015 9:29 am

HardKnocker wrote:Two possible solutions:

1) Have the line reamed out professionally. Not cheap. You can do it yourself with a rented power auger from Home Depot. You can get augers with 100 foot snakes. You need to access the line somehow. Can you access it be removing the toilet and running the auger down the drain hole? Through an access in the main drain stack in the basement?
I assume I can access the line via the drain stack in the basement.
I got two estimates for reaming so far- a recommended drain guy quoted $190/hr (?!...divorce lawyers charge less than that!) and said it usually takes about 2-3 hrs but he could not accurately estimate until he gets in there. The Roto Rooter guy quoted $471 for the job without looking at it but I am not convinced that he would do as good a job for $471., or would not suddenly find reason to charge more once he got inside. I would lean towards the recommended drain guy.
I hadn't considered renting an auger and doing it myself but I could look into that. I think the first time around I would rather have a pro do it and see what is involved. My guess is that there is a pretty massive ball of roots in there.....I don't know that attempting it is a great idea if I don't know what I am doing.

User avatar
VictoriaF
Posts: 19051
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 7:27 am
Location: Black Swan Lake

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by VictoriaF » Thu Apr 09, 2015 9:31 am

protagonist wrote:I got two estimates for reaming so far- a recommended drain guy quoted $190/hr (?!...divorce lawyers charge less than that!)
Here is another idea: Hire a divorce lawyer to divorce your tree, no roots attached.

Victoria
WINNER of the 2015 Boglehead Contest. | Every joke has a bit of a joke. ... The rest is the truth. (Marat F)

Topic Author
protagonist
Posts: 6081
Joined: Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:47 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by protagonist » Thu Apr 09, 2015 9:34 am

VictoriaF wrote:
protagonist wrote:I got two estimates for reaming so far- a recommended drain guy quoted $190/hr (?!...divorce lawyers charge less than that!)
Here is another idea: Hire a divorce lawyer to divorce your tree, no roots attached.

Victoria
Or talk one into reaming my pipes (no pun or irony intended but the humor is not lost on me), charging his/her normal hourly rate.

User avatar
HardKnocker
Posts: 2063
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2008 11:55 am
Location: New Jersey USA

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by HardKnocker » Thu Apr 09, 2015 9:56 am

$190/hr does seem like a lot but remember the guy has his truck, equipment & tools (which break and have to be replaced. A good pro power auger is quite expensive). Transport to and from the job. Wages, benefits, insurance, licenses, permits, etc.

Not too mention it is an unpleasant job quite often performed in cramped, dirty and vile locations.
“Gold gets dug out of the ground, then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility.”--Warren Buffett

buckstar
Posts: 231
Joined: Wed Jul 06, 2011 9:38 am

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by buckstar » Thu Apr 09, 2015 10:02 am

Count me in the camp that had to have my front yard dug up and a section of pipe replaced. $4000!

User avatar
HardKnocker
Posts: 2063
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2008 11:55 am
Location: New Jersey USA

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by HardKnocker » Thu Apr 09, 2015 10:06 am

It's often best to consider the least invasive/drastic/expensive options first.
“Gold gets dug out of the ground, then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility.”--Warren Buffett

delrinson
Posts: 257
Joined: Tue Sep 06, 2016 11:46 am

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by delrinson » Thu Dec 05, 2019 6:50 pm

Glad to discover this thread....happy to resurrect it.

We had roots cleaned out of our main sewer line 1.5 years ago then again a couple of months ago. Then hired a company to come in and send a camera down the pipe. $200 well spent. We have 20 ft. of clay and then it turns to PCV. The video of the pipe shows a cleaned out pipe but root intrusion at several points. Sent the video to a plumber friend of mine and he thinks the pipe looks to be in good shape and that my best bet is to use a foaming product twice a year to mitigate root growth.

The quote for the line-the-pipe approach was $4600. 50 year warranty. I think I might prefer the dig-up-the yard approach...assume it would be less, but perhaps not.

At this point our inclination is to try the chemical regimen and hope for the best. Sobered, though, by the horror stories in this thread.

The joys of home ownership never end...

drawpoker
Posts: 2809
Joined: Mon May 19, 2014 6:33 pm
Location: Delmarva

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by drawpoker » Fri Dec 06, 2019 7:16 pm

delrinson wrote:
Thu Dec 05, 2019 6:50 pm
....this thread....happy to resurrect it.

We had roots cleaned out of our main sewer line 1.5 years ago then again a couple of months ago. Then hired a company to come in and send a camera down the pipe. $200 well spent. We have 20 ft. of clay and then it turns to PCV. The video of the pipe shows a cleaned out pipe but root intrusion at several points.......
Just yesterday shelled out $873 to Roto Rooter people. 3 hours at $250 per (that was for 2 men) plus parts for $123.
Leaping for joy as the original estimate was $1,200 -$1,400 the G.M. had figured more hours for the job.

What they did (after doing a complete look with the camera) was dig into the clean-out located near the foundation. That is the only place in the entire line that showed root intrusion. As others here pointed out, the joint, or "hub" where the clay pipe joins the PVC is a prime place for roots to get in. Just the design makes those spots vulnerable.

So they created a new joint with PVC pipe. They showed me the old section with the roots really, really embedded. Impressive looking. :shock:

Incidentally, maybe this will be helpful to others, it is not always tree roots the culprit. In my case it was a wild phlox shrub that had caught hold there many years ago. Even tho I didn't plant it, it would bloom with pretty white and pink flowers every summer. Thought, how nice, got some free perennial planting. :oops: Big mistake, shoulda killed that sucker when still a baby :twisted:

But, in my defense, I did not know where the sewer line was located. The idiot builder who put up my house 40 years ago buried that clean-out without putting up the cap so it could be spotted easily. The cleanout nearest the street has always had one of those caps. I never could understand why plumbers who came for various jobs over the years would always act puzzled when they asked where the cleanout next to the house was, and I would wrongly tell them "I don't think there is one".

Fortunately, besides the video cam, the Roto Rooter people also carry a nifty little gadget called a locator. Similar to a metal detector, makes funny noise that draws keen attention from cats, but locates sewer lines instead of metal.

In this area, Roto Rooter's business model is to do jobs at hourly rates, not flat rates. Maybe that's true for them all over?
Anyway, when they sent just one guy here in May, it was $175 per hour. So, I guess I came out better by paying $125 each for 2 guys yesterday. Since 2 could finish the job much quicker than one guy.

Before I got wise to benefits of Roto Rooter - was using a more local and very large plumbing indep. company. They actually charged more for reaming out the roots, never explained or showed me anything, had to constantly ask to get answers to my questions. I really think that company told its techs to not volunteer any information, just keep the customer in the dark. To ensure repeat service calls probably. They never, never mentioned the simple remedy that Roto Rooter did.

My advice - no matter what the age of your house or sewer lines - If you see and hear water bubbling up in the toilet when you are taking a shower, or doing a load of laundry, you better call for professional help quick. Unless you have a chamber pot handy. Or don't mind driving to McDonald's or Arby's to use bathroom. Because those sounds are telling you that you have only a few flushes more of the john before it overflows all over the floor.

And, of course, these events always happen on a Sunday or the eve of major holiday.

HomeStretch
Posts: 3433
Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2018 3:06 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by HomeStretch » Fri Dec 06, 2019 7:34 pm

protagonist wrote:
Wed Apr 08, 2015 4:16 pm
Also...is $190/hr a reasonable price for a drain company to ream pipes from the inlet in my basement (including camera inspection)? It doesn't sound unreasonable for colonoscopy, but these are just sewer pipes.
I think your quote is reasonable. I just received a quote for something similar from a drain company of $1,400 for a minimum of 4-hours for 2 workers using camera and water jet to clear blockage in house footing drains.

Have you talked to your city about the options? They might have useful feedback. You might look more into a firmer quote for the permanent fix. If you try to sell your house in the future, you might end up fixing this just to get the house sold.

User avatar
unclescrooge
Posts: 4155
Joined: Thu Jun 07, 2012 7:00 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by unclescrooge » Fri Dec 06, 2019 7:44 pm

whatusername? wrote:
Wed Apr 08, 2015 4:33 pm
The "plastic from inside" is actually a pretty slick solution. They use an epoxy-coated inflatable liner that they insert down your sewer line. It hardens into a seamless line which keeps the tree roots from gravitating toward the water source. I think This Old House did a segment on it a few years ago that you may want to try and find. If this is likely to be a recurring problem, I'd look seriously at this.

[I live in one of the few houses on my street that hasn't had to have the sewer line dug up and replaced - YET - so I actually am looking seriously at this.] :happy
This is what I did. I had the existing pipes relined from the inside.

Other quotes were $10k+ to dig up the driveway and into the street. Plus we'd need to get city permits.

This was relatively painless, $4500 and took about 4-5 hours.

JW-Retired
Posts: 7154
Joined: Sun Dec 16, 2007 12:25 pm

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by JW-Retired » Fri Dec 06, 2019 8:55 pm

protagonist wrote:
Wed Apr 08, 2015 4:16 pm
I just got bad news from the city....roots growing into my sewer line in my front yard. The consequence was water backing up into my toilet when my washing machine drained and standing water in the washing machine. The toilets flush ok....sink drains are slow.

Also...is $190/hr a reasonable price for a drain company to ream pipes from the inlet in my basement (including camera inspection)?
Do the camera inspection to see where the problem is. We futilely funded a ream out the sewer pipe deal every couple of years for many many years. The sewer line was like 80 feet long of 50 year old terracotta pipe. Under a concrete walk for half of that. Finally, about 10 years ago a good camera inspection told us that there was just one bad joint in the pipe under a flower bed where tree roots from somewhere got in. Reaming them out from the clean out and they just kept growing back in the next root growing season.

Since the plumber could measure pretty close to where the bad joint was, a tough young guy dug 4-5 feet down to the leaky place by hand in half a day. They sawed out the bad joint and replaced it with a heavy rubber contraption that would not leak. Not one more roto-rooter visit has been needed since that was done. :beer

They pulled a dense root ball about a foot long out of the pipe. I recall the cost was $1000 but it was fixed!
JW
Retired at Last

smitcat
Posts: 4598
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2016 10:51 am

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by smitcat » Sat Dec 07, 2019 10:19 am

We had roots in the sewer lines for many years which had been reamed by mechanical means a number of times at about one+ year intervals.
When they reamed the distance was always the same and we also knew the depth of the pipe (5') that was being clogged.
We mapped where the roots were clogging the pipe and made a grid above the area - a mark every 18" or so for an area of about 10 feet square.
With a long steel digging bar we made holes on each spot of the grid about 4 feet deep.
Then we added a few ounces of copper sulfate crystals to each hole and back filled the holes lightly.
No problems with roots since we did that - took about 1-1/2 hours total time and maybe $20 for the Copper sulfate.

malabargold
Posts: 583
Joined: Fri Aug 08, 2014 8:16 am

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by malabargold » Sat Dec 07, 2019 4:45 pm

Few will want to buy your home down the road if
they find the problem was not definitively addressed
when it first arose.

Too easy to find these things on line now.

As is often the case, the most expensive option is the cheapest in the long run. (Usually get what you pay for)

jucor
Posts: 210
Joined: Tue Jun 02, 2015 8:35 am

Re: Tree roots growing into sewer lines

Post by jucor » Sat Dec 07, 2019 5:00 pm

We live in a 100+ year-old house with its original sewer line, and several large trees. Two years ago we had to have a leaking water line replaced, new one bored in from basment to hole dug by city at the street -- $2500. Occasional issues with the equally aged and leaky sewer connection, will likely be $10k + to put in a new one. Ouch...

Then last year our city offered an insurance plan for $7/mo -- it will pay for line replacement up to $15k when needed. Yippee! :beer :moneybag

We signed up right away -- now I'm rooting (pun intended) for the trees to complete their work of collapsing our sewer soon -- hopefully it will happen soon enough for us to only pay a couple of hundred dollars in premiums. Come on, pipe, collapse! :P

Good luck, OP!

Post Reply