• Geoff Burke

I Have Roots In My Drain... Now What?



Hey everyone, welcome to this week’s episode of “How NOT to Call the Plumber!”.


This week, we’re going to talk about tree roots. Many of you have found yourself in an unlucky situation before, leading to repairs that can sometimes cost tens of thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, a buildup of these roots in main building drains of a house are much more common than we’d like. As the perfect environment for growth, the insides of your pipes can become completely full of the roots over time, leading to eventually digging up the drain altogether. The good news is that there are things you can do to help slow down growth before it becomes an issue!


To begin, let’s talk about how these roots get into your drains in the first place. Older houses built before the 1950’s used a variety of underground drainage piping materials, but the most common in Toronto was clay. If you haven’t seen this piping before (as I’m sure many of you haven’t!), the clay piping underneath your home is about ¾” thick and is installed in 5’ lengths. Each of these lengths of pipe has one “pipe” end and one “hub” end. During installation, the pipe end was pushed into the hub end and was joined with a cement like grout. Unfortunately, in the 100 years since your home was built, many of these joints have shifted, cracked, or broken completely. It’s in these joints that those not so nice tree roots find their way in.


Now, let’s talk about what you can do to prevent this from becoming a major issue!


The most effective thing you can do is to perform scheduled maintenance of the drain. When doing this, you would have a plumber come in once every year or two to clear any buildup of roots already in the drain, before they grow and become a major issue. We use what is called a “C-cutter” on our drain snake – imagine a circular saw blade that works its way down the length of the drain, cutting away at the roots, leaving just small pieces of debris that will wash away and into the city sewer system.


Less effective, but still a good option is to use an enzymatic drain cleaner specialized for tree roots. There are quite a few on the market that you can find at your local hardware/big box store. If you choose to go this route, make sure you use it before the drain shows any signs of blockage. Enzymatic drain cleaners rely on the flow of water to disperse the cleaner within the drain, so if the drain is already blocked, this option won’t work!


The last option is our “worst case scenario”. If you find yourself with a drain that is already blocked by tree roots which can’t be cleared by a drain cleaner or professional snake, unfortunately this often means digging up and replacing the

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