If you had a chance to read our post on Mainline Back Ups, you know that, by far, the most common cause of a sewer main back up is tree roots.  In this article, we are going to examine that, and try to give you a little insight into how that happens, and how to battle the problem if it should happen to you.

How Do Tree Roots Get in There?

Most people think of a sewer line as a single pipe that takes the sewage and whisks it away to the city main.  While this is partially true, it is more accurate to say that it is a bunch of smaller lengths of pipe that are joined together into one long one.  This is important to know, because those joints, where the smaller sections are connected is usually the very spot where tree roots start to get into the sewer line.

Residential sewer lines in San Jose, and the surrounding areas are typically made up of either clay pipe, cast iron, or ABS (plastic).  Different materials make their connections in different ways, and that has a direct effect on how easy it is for tree roots to get in. As a general rule, ABS is the most “root proof”, and clay is the most susceptible to root intrusion.

Basically, the smallest roots only need a very small hole to get into a sewer line – barely bigger than microscopic.  Once they enter the line, they are fed by very nutrient-rich water (sewage), and begin to grow.  As they grow, they begin to branch out and fill up even more of the line, eventually clogging up the sewer.  Not only that, but as they grow, they break away the pipe, little by little, so even more roots can get in (as well as soil, and other debris).

If you have ever seen tree roots destroy a sidewalk… it is a lot like that.

What Can I Do About Roots in My Mainline?

If you have a mainline backup, due to root intrusion, the first step is usually to try to restore flow to the line.  This is most commonly done with a specific machine that has a long cable with root cutters at the end.  It is important that the cutters are as large as possible (in relation to the pipe) so that the cutters actually cut through the roots, rather than just push them aside.

To accomplish this, the plumber should always use the largest access point possible.  Ideally, this should be done through a direct access to the sewer line, called a “Cleanout”.  Another option would be to remove a toilet, and attempt to reach the blockage that way.  This is, however, not ideal for several reasons that we will go into in our “Cleanouts” article.  Still, other than a cleanout, it is usually the only other option.

Service is Restored, Now What?

Now that you can use your plumbing again, it is time to look at why it was backed up in the first place.  By far, the best method for that is to survey the inside of your sewer line with a special camera, designed to do just that.  Combined with an electronic locator, a sewer video inspection can usually tell what the problem is and where.  This should give your plumber the information he needs to let you know what repairs need to be done.

Remember that cutting the tree roots is like pruning a tree.  They will grow back, usually bigger, faster, and stronger.  Use the time while your drain is flowing wisely, and get repairs made before it turns into a real problem.

Allstar Plumbing San Jose has professional sewer and drain experts, and some of the best diagnostic techs in the business.  If you are ready for some piece of mind, from a professional plumber that is truly looking out for your best interests, call Allstar today.