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Two different plumbers have stated that we have, about 3 feet under the house, a sewer pipe that has tree roots invading, and that this is the reason for our frequent clogs.

The fix for this is not something I can afford right now. In the meantime, I would like to know what less expensive temporary fixes exist, either DIY or professional, should a clog happen again.

I'm a little confused because the three times the clog has happened in the last three years, the plumbers did things that cost me upwards of a thousand dollars, but they told me if I had an external cleanout it would be cheaper. So I got an external cleanout. But the latest plumber who came for a routine camera sweep through the pipes, stated that once the clog happens again (and we have started hearing gurgles, so it's coming), if we're not repairing the pipe itself, it'll be jetting (which I swear is what the plumbers did before as well) and will cost upwards of $1000.

Am I likely doomed to pay $1000 a year or so until I finally pay for the thing to get actually fixed? No cheaper temporary bandaids available?

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    Most of the work should be cutting concrete/digging and replacing the pipe. All DIY with rental tools. Getting rid of tree/s probably the hardest part, unless you like redoing the work every few years.
    – crip659
    Mar 12 at 22:43
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    $1000 sounds like a lot to pay for a straightforward drain cleaning. We've paid $350-$500 to get the drain cleaned in our minister's house. This seems to need to be done very 2 years, so maybe $300/year tops.
    – SteveSh
    Mar 13 at 0:16
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    You know the whole bit about how we don't do prices because they vary too much by locale? That probably applies here, .vs. where you are, @SteveSh (or the ministers house is getting the religious discount, depending...)
    – Ecnerwal
    Mar 13 at 1:14
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    Can you clarify—I'm assuming the pipe is under the house, but the roots are not actually under your house? Can you remove whatever tree's roots are causing the problem?
    – Huesmann
    Mar 13 at 13:28
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    "Plumbers overcharge you and don't know how to do their jobs, Exhibit Q". Mar 13 at 16:01

6 Answers 6

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Buy a snake and learn how to use it. You can buy a fairly decent main-line cable and motor unit from discount import tool retailers. A couple hundred bucks and some time to practice and learn will be your investment. This would be the cheapest way to keep the "stuff" flowing until you save up for a complete replacement or re-line operation.

Hopefully you watched (and presumably learned a bit) when the line was cabled previously. It's a bit physical, and there is some risk when operating powered rotating equipment, but it was one of my best investments until I invested in replacing our old clay line (which had continuous root incursion at every 6' joint over a 30' distance).

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    Wouldn't hurt to get a camera as well so you can see what the snake has to deal with. They aren't expensive nowadays.
    – KMJ
    Mar 13 at 1:05
  • And by "not expensive", we're talking like $20 for a cheap USB endoscope that can be plugged into and viewed from your laptop or smartphone. Mar 13 at 15:59
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    You can rent a full-size drain machine from big-box home improvement stores. Last time I did it it was $60/day.
    – user71659
    Mar 13 at 17:35
  • @R..GitHubSTOPHELPINGICE Those USB endoscopes are really dodgy... IME the software is proprietary and may or may not be supported on the next version of Android/IOS, and may or may not have any desktop support. Even ignoring that issue, the camera heads don't articulate on the cheap ones so it's really hard to guide them around and kind of bend.
    – Z4-tier
    Mar 14 at 0:44
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    Sewer Rodder with Root Cutter. "snake" ain't gonna cut it.
    – Mazura
    Mar 14 at 2:04
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Have you considered doing part of the labour yourself for the permanent fix? If you can locate and safely dig down and around the sewer pipe (ie being sure there are no gas/water/electricity lines above it) by hand that should reduce the quote for the replacement.

The quote for the permanent fix involves not only purchasing and laying the new pipe, disposing of the old pipe but also the digging to the pipe including the rental of a digger and other associated costs. You're paying a specialist a specialist wage to dig a hole.

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    It would be nice if it worked like this but the amount of savings this will give you will be minimal to none.
    – jesse_b
    Mar 13 at 12:31
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If it's only tree roots, you can go to the nearest TSC and pick up a bottle of Foaming Root Killer for about $25. Put that in the cleanout and chase it with a bucket of water. Do it every 6 months and you'll never have roots in the pipe again.

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    Sounds bad for the environment. I imagine local environmental regulations might restrict this? Can sewage cleaning plants deal with this? What if it ends up in the groundwater?
    – gerrit
    Mar 13 at 7:51
  • @gerrit Just don't dump it into any storm drains. Mar 13 at 16:57
  • In most places storm drains and sewage plant outflow end up in the same place - a river or bay. So unless your WWTP has the capability to break down Foaming Root Killer, don't think that putting it down the toilet is any better than just dumping it into a stream.
    – SteveSh
    Mar 15 at 21:00
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This is a tough situation but ultimately a perfect example of penny wise and dollar foolish. As you said your temporary fixes are just causing you to incur a reoccurring fee indefinitely which obviously will end up costing much more than the proper fix in the long run.

Most companies will offer financing, often completely interest free. Once the roots get into your pipes the problem is only going to get worse over time.

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    Thank you for the financial advice, can you remind me what my income is? Mar 14 at 22:14
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    @user3752935 I sense sarcasm but your income literally doesn't change the advice. You can either pay $1000 per year for n number of years until you eventually have to pay the I'm guessing $10k+ for the real fix, or you can just pay the $10k for the real fix now. One way costs $10k, the other way costs $11 to $20k+. The real fix is unavoidable so every dollar you spend in the meantime is just added to the cost of the real fix, not avoiding it.
    – jesse_b
    Mar 14 at 22:39
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    @user3752935 and like I said almost all companies will offer financing so if you can afford to pay $1000 a year you can afford to pay $10k on a finance plan.
    – jesse_b
    Mar 14 at 22:44
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I'm not sure how common it is but I've seen solutions where a flexible hose pulled through the pipe, which is inflated and hardened chemically (kind of like a 2-part epoxy.) This breaks the old pipe and creates a new seamless pipe in its place. Again, I'm not sure whether this kind of service is generally available in any given area, but it might be worth looking into as an alternative to digging.

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When I bought my 300+ year old colonial, I too was plagued by roots. Purchased a machine and clean the line every 2 yrs.

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