Sewer Line Tree Root clogging the pipes Issue

22 Replies

Hello BP Nation:

I have a clogged sewer line issue in a rental property as there are roots growing in the pipes. There is big tree near by in the front yard!! ( I hate trees :( )!!

The plumber did a rodding job and found the problem and suggesting that I have to do rodding every few months ( at least twice a year!!).

So I am trying to getting advice on what are the options to fix this root infestation problem.

1. Keep rodding every few months? how often?

2. How much you typically pay for a rodding job. Paid $300 as it was kind of emergency!

3. Is the chemical treatment works?

4. Do you suggest to replace the old pipe with new ( about 50 ft from house to city sewer line?

Any estimate for this replacement? it just runs like 6ft below ground.

5. I have a big tree close by - may be cut the tree ( May cost like $1000 - not sure).

It is rental property that I want to hold 5-10 yrs or more.

Let the ideas coming...

Cutting down the tree won't help.  Not sure what you mean by rodding, but if you mean running a cutter through the line (i.e. "roto-rooting") that will help for a while.  If that just mean running a rod through the line it will help, but not for long.  Chemicals may help for a while, too.

But, the bottom line is you need to replace this line.   I've done three of these in the last 10 years or so.  Costs are going to vary from area to area.  If you have to dig up any of the street, that significantly increases costs.  Around here I would expect to pay $5000 +/- for a line of the length you describe, as long as I didn't have to cut the street.  Cutting into the street could double that cost.

If your plan is a long term hold, do this ASAP.  Otherwise you're running the risk of having sewage in your house.  Tenants can get upset about things like that.

I agree with @Jon Holdman You need to replace the line. Chemical aren't going to work and you will be just fighting as loosing battle rodding the line. The next emergency will likely be on a holiday when your tenant is throwing a party and the bathrooms experience heavy use.

@Jon Holdman yes, I think the rodding and roto-rooting is the same thing.

I found this article helpful to understand all the blockage issue in sewer:

Also this PDF from U of KY also have some in depth info - if you want to digg deeper in your research!!

I have to get a quote for the pipe replacement, I guess :(

Oh, believe me I understand sewers and drain piping.  You don't have to be in this business very long to get an education.  Around here the issue is clay pipe.  Like cast iron but clay.  Over time the joints separate, water leaks out and roots get in.  The ground under the pipe settles and creates bellies.  Once you get roots coming in, you can't keep them out.  My preference is to just dig and replace.  Depending on the situation, there are some other techniques that don't involve as much digging.  But they don't tend to be much cheaper.

Get multiple bids!   I've had bids that were more than double other bids for the same job.

@Jon Holdman , The links are really not meant for you:)

I did found them helpful to understand the root infestation problem in sewer pipes and just listed for reference for other BP newbies like me who might be looking for some insights on what it entails to attack these kind of issues!

I understand, for long term BnH property, the best option is to replace the pipe.

Any suggestions on what type (materials) of pipes are suitable for cold weather, like Chicago?

A lot of people think (and I thought too) that tree roots are the cause of these problems. The truth is that they are a symptom of a pre existing problem. Tree roots don't grow into pipes unless they are already leaking, as @Jon Holdman described in his example of deteriorated clay pipes. I like trees.

I just did this job on one of my houses. As mentioned, clay pipe was leaking, and roots have a way of seeking out extra "nutrients" in the soil around (and inside) a leaking pipe. Fortunately, it was under dirt, not concrete, and only 3 ft down ... perhaps they go deeper in IL to get below the frost line. It is a crappy job, to be sure, but not rocket science ... if you are reasonably familiar with plumbing and getting to it won't require busting up concrete you might supervise some medium skill handymen to do the job for much less. Just be sure the line is clear and not leaking before you cover back up with dirt. I did this for $550 when the pros quoted $2600. One other tip, any Home Depot with a tool rental will have the industrial sized snake designed for clearing sewer lines ... rented for $70 when a pro coming out would charge $300+.

Hey, there a couple of things you should do. First, you might need to get a permit to to a sewer line install, most municipalities make you do that. Next if you do it yourself you will probably use 3" or 4" plastic pipe, abs, or pvc. You need to make sure the pipe has fall/grade all the way, 1/8 to a 1/4" is what is normal. So for every 20" your pipe needs to drop from anywhere from 2-1/2" to 5".  As for snaking your own line yes you can do it, but you have to be careful, I just saw pictures yesterday of a guy who tried to save money, got his hand wrapped up in the snake line and lost part of his finger. Not good. Hope this helps.

Probably somewhere around 1500-2000. We would get a backhoe to dig the old one up, and then 1-2 guys a day to put it in. It might be higher where you are. You can save money by digging the pipe up yourself and getting it ready, or not. If you do just remember to get locates of other utilities before you dig. Good luck.

This is definitely a permit job in most locations.  Its not just a matter of slapping in some pipe.  It has to be the right kind of pipe.  On the last one I did, the plumber who started the work wanted to use PVC.  The city required a different kind of pipe that was more flexible.  

You also have to start with a bed of pea gravel or squeege that's packed down and properly sloped.  Then the pipe, then more squeege.  Then you can backfill. In alleys or streets here they require to backfill with "flow fill", whatever exactly that is.

if it's city of Chicago expect $5k++ for 50 ft.  They run Clay by code and it requires a permit

Other burbs run PVC and it will be cheaper. Still probably requires permit.

I don't see cutting the tree down helping 

I did it on a SFH in so Cal maybe 5 years ago. The plumber used ABS. I used cheap labor to dig out about 25' for $200 (it took 2 days to dig out). The cast iron pipe was 4' deep until it exited the property and joined the city line at maybe 8' deep. The plumber was $800 including placing a y for easier clean out of other clogs, making the transition to the city line less abrupt, and backfill. It was less than 3 sections of ABS. The plumber's quote including for him to dig out with backhoe was $2500 so using a cheap laborer was worth the extra effort. I do not believe the plumber got a permit.

kill the   tree but Jon is right,  that won't stop the roots for a long time. 

there is a chemical that supposedly you dump in the toilet late at night and it works.  never used it,  so I don't know.  it's on around 30 bucks I believe. 

if u are handy,  do it yourself once every 6 most it's only 60 bucks and not 300

@Gautam S. - I believe it was an old (or maybe still used) slogan AAMCO Transmission had, that said something akin to "you can pay me now or you can pay me later."

Repair (i.e., sleeve) or replace the line.  The former requires far less disturbance to the yard - usually just a hole at each end of the pipe and at the failure point.   If you don't fix it now you'll certainly have to disclose later and pony up for it one way or the other.

Knowing that you have sewage leakage into the nearby soil could put you at risk... and it's just wrong.

Good chance that the tree roots may not come into play in the future... think of pruning a tree, the new growth shoots off in other directions and prefers the path of least resistance.  Keep in mind though, serious damage to the tree may occur if major root systems are severed while excavating.  $1,000 to remove a big tree??  You may want to double check on that... big is a relative term and will the cost to be to remove it.

Copper sulfate is the chemical that is BLUE in color and helps greatly in tree root growth nongrowth.  MIGHT be able to buy pure on epay,,never tried.

Replacing the pipe  with heavy wall 4 " PVC would be normal here.  Yes the clay tile was a problem for roots.  the roots seek water and break what they have to as they grow from hair size to huge size.  Not sure if clay tile even used mortar between them.

As to digging it, if you do it by hand its a bigger project than you think.  HERE if you go thru the city terrace you have to have a city tamp back.  Usually have to cut some street which is not cheap either.  Doesnt cost much to find out where the main is your running to.  Other side of the street,middle of street,your side of street,,,BIG difference.

One suggestion I havent seen mentioned yet,,is to have a camera inspect this pipe and it may answer all questions.  If pipe is broken for a stretch its a replace,one small spot of roots might try the chem for a year and re look at it with camera.  Usually we use a root cutter,rooter, here and its good for about 3-5 years.  Menard(located in aisle 28 ) and all the big box stores have the pro heavy motorized rooters if you have several older homes,large trees, and somebody willing to run it!!!

I recently had to replace a sewer line. Fortunately, a friend of mine is a master plumber. It cost around 540 to rent and fuel the excavator. I paid my friend a total of $700. He dug from the house to the sidewalk. He ran rods with a corkscrew from the sidewalk to the main under the road, because there were some roots near the drop from the line to the main. He installed an additional clean-out just below the ground, near the sidewalk. Everything was done the same day. If you have to dig up the road, that is much more expensive, as you have to post a bond with the city, hire a paving company, etc.

I received a quote from another plumber for $2,500.

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I had this same problem a few years back on a rental. Tree roots invading the pipe. Roto Rooter said very quickly that they would have to tear up my drive and replace it. Starting at $3k.

Long story short that was a bit suspect to me so I got a second opinion that said to use the copper sulfate (or whatever it is) you pour down the drain. They said the trick is to do it right after the roots have been cleared and at a time when the line isn't getting use for a couple days. I'd did and we haven't had a problem since. Going on about 4 yrs now. If it were me, I'd at least give it a shot, might buy you some time.

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