It’s a common problem, especially in older neighborhoods, for sewer lines to become clogged with tree roots. This problem occurs because of cracks or fissures in the sewer line. If your sewer lines aren’t cleaned periodically, the problem can get worse and the roots will have the potential to grow as large as the sewer line itself. Some plumbers may have the camera equipment required to make a videotape of the extent of the damage.
There are a few ways to deal with this problem, and unclogging a sewer line and cleaning a sewer line with a snake are two ways to handle it. A snake can remove anywhere from 50 percent to 60 percent of the roots.
One of the most common techniques which you should ask your plumber about is using a mechanical auger. A powered sewer auger is sent down a sewer line with a rotating spiral head. The head has teeth on it much like a reciprocating saw blade. The rotating action cuts the roots, but many remain within the sewer line.
This clears the roots from the sewer line, but doesn’t solve the problem. The roots will grow back. At this point, you’ve simply removed the symptom. The root that’s now cut off will immediately start to grow again, quickly becoming another problem. In order to kill off the root structure so it doesn’t grow back, you need to use some sort of chemical. Copper sulfate crystals are effective because the copper in the copper sulfate crystals creates a poison zone within the soil outside the pipe. Roots will die if they try to get into the pipe.
Another option, which is more costly, includes clearing sewer lines with a Hydrojetter. This machine uses a pump and water and produces up to 4,000 psi, up to 17 to 18 gallons per minute. The trailer jetter is the size of a small truck, and basically has a 500-foot reach. After the Hydrojetter does its job, the sewer line can be flushed with a chemical to kill any roots still present. Sometimes, a sewer line can’t be cleaned or cleared if it has been damaged too badly—it may have to be replaced.