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Question DetailsAsked on 1/27/2016

We had our outgoing house sewer line rooted 9-10mths ago for roots. How often should it be done and/or last?

Last April my husband went into the basement and discovered a huge puddle of water when I was in the shower. We had a plumber come out and root our sewer line. This afternoon I went down to the basement and discovered there was evidence of a good size puddle (5' wide) in the same area. It's only been 10-mths since D'Angelo's rooted the main sewer pipe. I wouldn't have thought it would be backed up again. Typically how long does it take for tree roots to invade a sewer line? It's the middle of winter and trees aren't exactly sprouting, could something else be going on that we should be concerned with? For preventative measures, how often should the line be rooted? If we snake it, will that help prolong the necessity to hire a plumber?

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Depends on the tree - I have seen root clogs reoccur within 2-3 months, others take several years, but around a year or so is a common timeframe for regrowth through joints or a small crack (as opposed to a major break) so sounds like you are right on schedule. BTW, the roots commonly (unless near or above frost line) grow year around even if the tree truck/leaves are dormant. Especially around sewer lines, which are a source of warmth and if leaking, nice juicy sludge, so generally roots around/in sewer lines grow quite happily year around unless the temperature in the pipe and the soil surrounding it gets down to freezing - which should be never as the pipe should be below the annual frost penetration depth.

You do not say HOW the roots were cleared either - while they cannot safely be used on most clay tiles (especially split-tile drainfield tiles) or in severly deteriorated metal pipe where you might break through or tear it up, a full-diameter scraper head or root-cutter scraper like these -

is needed to really cut away the root mass completely. The second from left cutter in the link is a scraper for normal clog clearing and simultaneously scraping away built up grease, soap scum, and fibers that build up over time and constrict the pipe - it also clears away fine roots up to maybe 1/4" or so, but not large roots or heavy masses. The rightmost one with the teeth is used to cut through heavy mats of fine roots and smaller root tendrils. There are also special spade-shaped cutters to cut through larger roots - say over 1/2" or so.

If he used one of them, then you have an aggressive root problem - which will need constant treatment, or possibly excavation to cut the roots away and seal up the joints or cracks where they are coming into the pipe.

If he used a snake - the second from right tool is typical, or a water jet, then he may have just punched through the root mass but not cleared it full diameter, in which case another clog could occur quite soon. Generally, snakes are Ok for individual in-house drains, but they tend to just punch through underground sewer pipe clogs and not clear it out full diameter (usually 4 inch), so it is common to get reclogs - at the same point or sometimes within hours or days at a constriction further downflow - basically just pushing the clog a ways down the pipe to hang up at the next constriction.

My recommendation - have a Sewer and Drain Cleaning contractor come - one who has a mechanical cable router with specific full-diameter scrapers and root cutter heads, and also a sewer camera (color is MUCH better for seeing what the issue is). Have him rout out the pipe, then run the camera to inspect for broken pipe, open joints, intruding root locations, etc. He might or might not be willing to run the camera first to look at the problem before routing it out - his call, they tend not to like that because you run a lot more risk getting the camera caught. Also, if you have a clog from the toilets you will likely only see that - not what it is hanging up on, anyway. May be he will run it to but not through the blockage to see the issue, then rout it out to the septic tank or street as applicable - then I would have it rerun to see if there are other places where you have broken pipe, severe deterioration, open or offset joints, roots coming in (you can pretty clearly see all but the finest root hairlets where they are cut off by the router), etc.

Cost depends on local labor costs and distance to septic tank or street, but commonly for runs up to about 100 feet around $150-250 for the routing and $50-150 additional for the camera run PROVIDED you have him bring the camera and use it on the same service call, not a separate call. And let him know in advance you want a camera run - many companies run several service trucks with routers but do not have a camera for each truck. Also let him know in advance the approximate distance from toilet to septic tank or street manholes (the about 3 foot diameter ones are the sewer line manholes), so if he needs a long-reach router he can bring it - many companies have only one that can go over 50 or 100 feet in a run.

On recurring root growth - depending on whether the roots have come in through joints and broken them open or are coming in through broken clay tile or corroded out metal pipe, you might be better off digging the location up, cutting the roots back 5 feet or so, fixing the pipe, using copper sulfate or similar root killer in the backfill, and reburying it. If the camera shows the roots are coming in the joints but not as more than hairlets, you have the option of using Root-X or equivalent (though that is my go-to brand) every 3-6 months to control the roots. Will kill the intruding roots a few feet back from the pipe but except for some sensitive ornamentals and trees with a primary tap root but little other root growth, generally does not hurt a mature tree.

General routing as preventative measure - generally every 10 or 15 to 25 years to scrape out accumulated soap scum, grease, fiber mat, etc - on the more frequent end if you use your garbage disposal for active food disposal as opposed to its intended purpose of grinding up the minor washings fro the sink, dump grease down the sink or cook with a lot of oil or grease, or there is not a lot of hot water use in the house (hot showers and washing machine runs). Generally longer end of timeframe or even longer if you minimize garbage disposal use and greasy stuff down the drain (or from dishwasher) and/or there is a lot of dishwasher, washing machine, and hot shower use. Generally, houses with more people than less tend to have cleaner sewer pipes due to more frequent flushing and hot water use for showers. Baths don't really count because while they will move along debris laying loose in the bottom of the pipe, by the time the water is drained it is not hot enough to cut grease or soap scum any more.

I presume the puddle came from a floor drain or basement shower or such - one way to tell if your pipe is starting to clog up is when washing machine is emptying a full load (the highest drainagae flow rate in a normal house) listen at the lowest level drain like basement or garage floor drain - if you hear gurgling or air in the drain or see soap suds coming up, it is restricted and likely on its way to a backup in the fairly near future.

Generally, when the operator is running the router, he can feel heavy (rock or broken pipe) debris in the pipe, significantly broken or offset pipe, heavy to thick root growth, etc through the cable - so unless he feels something like that during the cleaning run, a camera run is not generally needed buring routine preventative cleaning. Most will bring it with them at no extra charge if you ask - then chargae you only if it needs to be run because he feels an obstruction in the pipe when cleaning it.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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