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Thread: Big Root Problem - Keep Cleaning or Replace Line?

  1. #1
    DIY scratch-pad engineer leejosepho's Avatar
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    Default Big Root Problem - Keep Cleaning or Replace Line?

    My wife and I just moved 900 miles and into my mother-in-law's house for the purpose of trying to get my mother-in-law out of a nursing home and back into her own home. We are inside the city limits, and we have a straight 70' line of root-(Magnolia and Oak)-infested 4" clay pipe 2' below the surface and with plenty of fall between the house and the curb. We knew that line was blocked before we moved here.

    The house is on a slab, and we have another 4" line of about the same length running at 90* all the way to the other end of the house where the washing machine and kitchen are located. The bathroom is at the business end of the house where everything turns to go on out to main in the center of the street.

    One company I called has already come out and run a small cutter throught the line to get it flowing again, and that cost us $179.00. Their camera showed the worst cluster of roots at 12', then more at three other spots all the way out to 62'. That company wants $1800.00 to install 70' of 4" PVC, and I think that price ($25 per foot) is way to high. The connection at each end is nothing beyond a simple coupling, and nothing needs to be done on past the curb.

    A local plumber has us on his schedule for next week, and he says he can run a 4" cutter through the line to completely clear it for $125.00. Overall, he says to just leave the clay pipe alone as long as it only needs clearing about every year or year-and-a-half or so.

    Thoughts? The past 17 years of that would have already paid for a new line.

    Along with all of that, our tub would not drain yesterday. So, we went and bought an inexpensive 25' snake to run down through the tub vent through the roof. That got the tub draining again, but I pulled up a small piece of root ... and that means the line under the house is also infested.

    The plumber coming out next week plans to put a cross at the turn outside the house so we can have a cleanout going under the house as well as out toward the street.

  2. #2
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    The line under the house may have roots in it, but they are growing back from the section outside the house. Running a "small cutter" through a line is completely worthless. You have to run a BIG cutter through it to remove a many roots as possible. I also recommend snaking periodically, until it reaches the point where the stoppage is occurringat less than one year intervals. HOWEVER, from you description, a new line could be installed very easily and usually for a lot less than the costyou were quoted. WHERE 100 miles East of Chicago?

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    DIY scratch-pad engineer leejosepho's Avatar
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    I thank you, hj, and I just changed my profile location. My wife and I have moved from northeren Indiana to northern Louisiana, between Shreveport and Monroe.

    The "small cutter" (as I describe it) the first company used only had two blades and looked like it came out of a blender in a kitchen somewhere. At first, I did not even consider it a cutter, and I asked the man whether he had a cutter he could use ... and he told me that is his cutter! His cable had a slight bend about 6" back from those blades, so I suspect he thought all the flopping around inside the pipe would prove sufficient without risk of getting stuck in the line.

    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    The line under the house may have roots in it, but they are growing back from the section outside the house.
    This house is on a slab, and the Magnolia roots are everywhere along that end of the house. I do not know how deep the foundation goes, but I suspect and hope you are correct there.

    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    Running a "small cutter" through a line is completely worthless. You have to run a BIG cutter through it to remove a many roots as possible.
    I will not mention that company's name, but I did fill out a "customer satisfaction" survey at their corporate website.

    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    I also recommend snaking periodically, until it reaches the point where the stoppage is occurring at less than one year intervals.
    The plumber that is coming this week said to flush a cup of rock salt and let it sit overnight once each week to keep the roots at bay. Do you think that will do any good?

    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    HOWEVER, from you description, a new line could be installed very easily and usually for a lot less than the cost you were quoted.
    Yes, and I had tried to have that done even before we got here.

    Are there any northern-Louisiana plumbers here?

    My wife and I also need a little inside work done before we can get her mother back in the house.

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  5. #5
    DIY scratch-pad engineer leejosepho's Avatar
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    Update:

    Well, it looks like I might end up doing this myself. The first plumbing company I had called had said they were too busy to even put me on their schedule, but I have since seen some of the work they had done for my in-laws here in the past and I would not want them back again anyway. Another company did some inside work for me last week and I was planning to have them do the new sewer line, but now I have also seen their quality of work. The plumber who had told me to just keep cleaning the old line every year or so is now willing to go ahead and replace it, but he wants to bring in a backhoe and that would raise my cost unnecessarily as well as destroy a large planter and some concrete curbing. I have already trenched down to the top of the old line, and there is no reason to not just lift it out and lay new PVC in its place.

    The "plumbing Guide" PDF someone posted was very helpful to me, and now I understand the correct use of fittings for joining horizontal drain lines ... and I have two of them (cast iron) coming out from under the house (on a slab) at 90* to the line to be replaced. One of those lines from under the house comes all the way from the far end to drain the kitchen and the washing machine, then picks up the toilet from a 90 just inside the foundation. It has a 4" vent through the roof right next to the toilet and above where that 90 joins, and that line also has a 2" vent for the washing machine and kitchen at the far end of the house. The second line coming out from under the house is also 4" and comes directly from the shower/tub, and the drain for the vanity sink runs over into that and has the vent for that line going up through the roof. So overall, my only uncertainty at the moment is how to be able to fully clear the shower/tub line that has always been troublesome, but there is room outside the foundation for placing a cleanout tee in that line just before joining it to the line going out to the street.

    I am still looking for a practical-minded, quality-work plumber somewhere between Monroe and Shreveport to come give me a hand, and I am willing to pay him or her very well. But, there is just no way I am going to pay some cowboy with a backhoe a lot *more* money to come tear up my yard and planter and curbing just so he does not have to lay on his belly and reach down into a narrow trench!

  6. #6
    DIY scratch-pad engineer leejosepho's Avatar
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    Got 'er done!

    The plumber never showed but his helper brought a laborer and the three of us had no problems. We simply pulled the clay pipe then cleaned the loose dirt from the impression it left in the bottom of the trench and laid new PVC pipe in its place.

    I have learned a lot on this forum over the years, and I thank everyone here! We only used right fittings in right ways, and now we have easy-access cleanouts for the entire system. In the past, the only way to get the tub flowing again was to auger the main line and hope some of the roots would be pulled from the lateral ... but no more!

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