OK, you have roots in your sewer line, now what?

There is a misconception on the part of many homeowners that believe having roots in their sewer line is normal, and that having a plumber or sewer and drain company come out and “clear” the line once or twice a year is to be expected.

Sorry to say, both of these are just not true.

  • First, homeowners should never look at roots in their sewer line as normal, it is a failure of the sewer system.
  • Second, having a plumber or sewer and drain contractor out to your home to “maintain”, or do regular maintenance, should not be necessary.  If your sewer pipe is water tight, as it should be, there will be no way for roots to penetrate it.
  • Third, snaking, or cabling the line will remove all the roots from the pipe, except for perfect circumstances cabling a line merely opens the pipe temporarily.

The problem with “clearing” a sewer pipe is that in order for the cable cutter to completely clear the line of all root intrusions a special root cutting tool needs to be used that is the same diameter as the interior of the pipe itself.  This blade needs to be the proper size so that the blades can hold tight to the interior wall of the pipe as it is inserted through, thus cutting these roots as it passes and allowing them to be washed down stream.

Issues arise when the access point into the sewer line for the cable is either smaller than the diameter of the main line pipe, as is the case when snaking the line from inside the house, or when the turns are too tight to allow for the cutter to maneuver around the fittings.

Usually when a snake is run from these lines a single cutter blade is used rather than the optimum size blade for the job.  In these cases, rather than cutting the roots the cable twists the roots up and pulls them away, breaking them off rather than actually cutting them ahead of the blade.  In such cases the roots are wrapped around the cable like spaghetti on a fork, and after so many roots are wrapped up on the cable it can then become stuck in the line, like a Chinese finger trap.  This allows the cable to move forward but not backward. This leads to the probability of sticking the cable in the line eventually breaking the cable and forcing the issue of digging up the line to retrieve the cable and roots.

In some cases if the root intrusions are small enough they can be controlled by chemicals put down the drain lines to kill or at least discourage root growth so they won’t be using your drain lines as a fast food joint.

I have heard some of the remedies that include but are not limited to flushing rock salt down the drain  or putting lye down the drain, and I’m sure there are many more.  Some advertised products that we have seen used are Copper Sulfate or Metam Sodium which are both harmful to the environment and to the bacteria/fungi, which normally decompose dead roots.  These two chemicals also have harmful effects on waste-water treatment plants.  They obviously can create some issues that I think may be worse than the roots themselves, and would probably have limited effect on the problem.  There are some products available that we have had some success with over the years.  Root-X is one of these products, it contains Sulfamic Acid which is widely used to feed and preserve waste-water treatment plant biology.  This product also has a foaming agent that allows it to expand in the pipe, coating the upper portion of the pipe, the area that usually has the most root penetrations.


However, no matter what one of these methods you use to control the root intrusion into your homes sewer line, one fact remains, the cracks or penetrations still exist and the roots will continue to grow and attack that weakness.


Read our next post for more permanent solutions to the problem.


If you have roots causing problems in your home’s sewer line you can always call Patterson Plumbing & Heating, Inc. at 719-544-4922 or schedule on line at www.pattersonplumbing.com.

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