I have a natural spring on my property. Without proper drainage, my backyard quickly turns into a mud pit.

The pipes we put in filled within two years as you can see from the photo below. I have since learned how to correctly put in a French drain (so no need to inform me of that) and have replaced the bottom hundred feet of pipe.

But the first 25 feet or so of the drain is under about 3 feet of dirt and I do not want to dig it up, at least until summer comes and things dry up. So for the time being I was wondering what the cheapest, easiest, best solution is to removed roots from the pipe.

If I shove my arm up the pipe and spread my fingers out and grab around the entire ball of roots, it is fairly easy to pull them out. But if I just grab from the center (if that makes sense) the roots will just break and come out in small chunks.

I was thinking of maybe making a homemade roto rooter, but had no idea of where to start... It would also work a lot better if my homemade device could grab the entire diameter of the pipe and pull the roots out that way.

Thank you for your ideas and comments :)

pipes filled with roots and mud - please ignore snarky Snapchat comment

  • Sorry - a home-made device will not work anywhere near as well as a commercial machine designed to succeed. Either hire a professional rotorooter fellow or get that backhoe going. Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 15:06

1 Answer 1


Is the pipe completely clogged (water doesn't flow)? If so, I would attempt to find a solution quick, especially if the temperatures where you are at are below freezing. Standing water would not be your friend in the near future, and you may end up having to replacing some drainage pipe.

I am going to have to agree with Carl Witthoft on this one. I'm not sure a home-made solution would be of best practice here unless you have a manufacturing shop and an engineering degree. I would suggest renting a drain auger from a home improvement store, or local rental supply company, and feed that down the pipe. That thing will make quick work of any loose roots and get water flowing.

In the warmer months, I would look at root killer. There are some that you can poor down the drain and it will coat the pipe in a film that will prevent some of the nasty roots growing in the pipe.

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    Naturally one thinks about root killer, but then the water with the excess root killer will flow somewhere else. There are environmental regulations that must be respected. What are the plants whose roots are growing into the drain? Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 16:37
  • What about abandoning the French drains and going to surface drainage? I see some people in my area of Dallas installing underground drains when I think that the excess water could be managed by modifying the ground surface. This could even be made into an interesting feature lined with gravel, cobbles, and boulders. Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 16:41
  • @JimStewart. I could be wrong, but surface drainage seems only effective against runoff and rain, it won't help a spring or somewhere else where the water is saturating the ground.
    – ench
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 16:51
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    If there is a point source or small area source, it seems one could excavate to make a small pond and have that lead to a swale overflow channel. Was a natural spring filled and covered at some point in the past? If so this might be forcing water laterally through permeable soil and saturating it. You might be able to restore a little brook fed by this spring. Where does the underground drain deliver its flow to? Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 17:56
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    What is the quality of the water coming out of this "spring"? For ten years there was a "spring'" flowing out of a hillside into a creek near out house. Then the city repaired the water main under the street and the "spring" disappeared. Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 21:40

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