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Blocked drains – The intrusion of tree roots into sewers is probably the most destructive single element that faces those maintaining an aging wastewater collection system – Sanitary Sewer.

Blocked drains – There are almost thirty thousand kilometers of privately owned sewer pipes in the Sydney area and most of all these collection systems are made up of pipe with a diameter of 150mm or smaller that has already reach or exceeded it’s service life.

The potential for root intrusion to produce blocked drains and to damage valuable pipe is enormous. Roots normally do not grow underwater and seldom cause problems where ground water covers the pipe. But in most areas, this is not the case.

It is very unusual for tree roots to physically break drains and associated pipe work. However, tree roots are opportunistic by nature and if an old pipe with poor joints is leaking into the surrounding soil this will stimulate the tree roots that may then exploit the existing weakness. Then, when repairs are required, a proliferation of tree roots often leads to the blame being placed with a nearby tree. In a properly constructed and sound drainage system tree roots should not be able to get in. Tree root ingress should always be taken as indicating existing defect(s).

One Cell at a Time

When a seed germinates, it adds one cell at a time toward the best environment from which it might extract nutrients and moisture. The growing point of the root, the meristem, moves best through loosely cultivated soil. The most common practice to lay sewer pipe is by open trench. The back-filled soil offers a good growing medium for roots.

The flow in sanitary sewer lines is at a higher temperature than the surrounding soil; this causes condensation to appear on the crown of the pipe. The crown of the pipe is the top outside surface of the pipe. This process begins from the very first day the sewer line is used.

As the warm moisture from the sewer pipe evaporates up through the soil, the vapors offer an excellent trail for the root to follow. If even a tiny vapor leak exists in the pipe, the root concentrates its efforts at that point. Since some pipe joint compounds are of nutrient materials themselves, the root may entirely girdle the joint before entering the pipe.

Accumulating Debris

Once inside the sewer pipe, the root takes on the appearance of either a “veil” or a “tail” type structure. If flows in the pipe are fairly constant, the root mass hangs down like a veil to the normal flow level where they accumulate deposits of grease, slime, toilet paper and other debris.

Conventional methods if removing roots by cutting or tearing with mechanical or high pressure water jet machines tend to INCREASE REGROWTH similar to pruning a hedge. Removing roots inside the pipe solves the immediate problem of stoppages, but does nothing to retard the growth or kill the root outside the pipe where the more serious and costly structural damage may take place.

It is important to understand that once a sewer line has been compromised by tree root intrusions the affected pipe work is doomed and there is really only two actions that can be taken to deal with the problem –

1) regular maintenance and inspection or

2) total rehabilitation or renewal.

Regular maintenance and inspection is not a long term solution and should only ever be considered as a temporary fix at best. Long term drain cleaning year after year is false economy and to be honest, bashing away at old, damaged and deteriorated pipe work time after time only encourages more root growth and helps to accelerate the eventual demise of the sewer system.

DRAINS ‘R’ US offers a one stop drainage shop specialising in everything drains. From drain cleaning to drainage excavation and pipe relining, we do it all. Call us today to speak to a licensed professional.


There are a few different types of drain pipes commonly used in Australia. Each has their own different strengths and weaknesses, and vary in their use.

Clay or earthenware drain pipes:

DRAINS 'R' US Drain PipesThe drain pipe to the right is a typical 100mm diameter clay sewer pipe 1200mm in length and weights approximately 30kg. Needless to say these old clay pipes are very heavy, rigid and brittle. The importance of a solid dry base for these types of traditional clay drain pipes to rest on is paramount to the stability and proper functioning of the drainage system.

When you mix water with dry dirt you get mud! When a drain leaks into the environment surrounding the pipe the supporting ground around and under the pipe turns to mud and the heavy clay pipes start to sink further into the ground. As these clay pipes are very rigid and brittle it only takes a small shift for the pipe work to start breaking and cracking and for joints to separate which in turn produces more leakage and stimulates more tree roots.

As mentioned above drainage systems are installed underground at grade or sloping down hill which means that when a pipe leaks at an already damage section the water leaking from the pipe starts to run down and under the outside of the pipe inside the trench and starts to undermine and destroy any good sections of pipe work downstream. This is an insidious process that usually develops over a long period of time and unfortunately in many cases renders the drain unserviceable with complete rehabilitation being the only long term solution.

PVC or plastic pipes:

PVC or plastic drainage pipes have been in use in Australia now for over 40 years and provided these types of pipes are installed correctly they will give trouble free service for a life time. Unfortunately from time to time we find PVC pipes that have been damaged due to ground movement, building or landscaping works or even through substandard installation. In any case, the results are the same as with damaged clay or earthenware pipes. The system leaks into the environment stimulating tree root intrusion leading to blockages and further damage to valuable pipe work and property.

If you already know what kind of pipes you have, you can let us know during your call to us. Otherwise, our excavation team will diagnose your pipes on site and will be equipped to rectify any problems you have.

The following is a list of common drain problems our Plumbers find in homes and businesses.

Broken, cracked, collapsed pipe:
Damaged pipes due to shifting soil, tree root intrusion, settling, building or landscaping works.

Drain problems such as:

Grease build up, tree root intrusion or foreign object is restricting or prohibiting proper flow.

The pipe has deteriorated and/or broken, causing collapses in the line and restricting or blocking proper flow.

Bellied pipe:
A section of the pipe has sunk due to ground or soil conditions, creating a valley that collects paper and waste.

Leaking joints:
The seals between pipes have broken or perished, allowing water to escape into the environment surrounding the pipe.

Root intrusion:
Tree or shrub roots have invaded the sewer line through existing pipe defects causing blockages and backups.

DRAINS 'R' US Drain Problems

Each and every home and business has its own unique drainage system and design and as such each and every drainage problem will also be just as unique in its own way, that’s why being specialists in the drainage field and having a wide range of different processes available and many years of experience to back that up gives us the edge over our competitors. Once a problem drain has been diagnosed we will always consider every possible process for the job and determine the best and most cost effective process or combination of processes to get the job done with the least amount of disruption to your valuable property and family or business routines.

There are a number of options you have if you have a blocked broken drain. Some of these require specialist equipment depending on the size of the problem.

Here are a few ways you can deal with the blocked broken drain:

Mechanical drain cleaning for blocked drains: Mechanical cleaning is carried out with a heavy piece of equipment commonly called an “Electric Eel” that has long cables which hook together to reach up to about 30 metres. The end of the cable has a cutting head attached to it to cut through roots and debris in the blocked broken drain. There are many sizes and styles of cutting heads for different diameter pipes and different types of blockages. Sewer and storm water lines are usually 100mm – 150mm in diameter so a 100mm – 150mm cutting head is needed to thoroughly clean the pipe.DRAINS 'R' US Blocked Broken Drain

High pressure water jetting for blocked drains:  Jetting is performed by high pressure water which can cut through tree roots (similar to power washing). Jetting is used to clean out other debris such as grease and solids in sewer lines and dirt, silt and other debris in storm water lines. We will suggest which tool is needed to take care of your specific needs.

Drain spot repairs: Sewer and storm water drain spot repairs are often made by excavating and replacing a small section of the pipe at the site of the damage or tree root intrusion. This is the best solution and a permanent fix for that section in most cases wether it is an earthenware or PVC pipe requiring repairs. We will suggest to the homeowner to install a clean-out pipe at the time of the repair. This is a vertical pipe the same diameter as the sewer or storm water pipe and it is installed in the yard so if any future cleaning or inspection requirements are required there is adequate access to the pipe work.

Drainage excavation and replacement: Complete sewer or storm water replacement may be needed to replace a larger section or the whole drainage system if it has deteriorated over the years or has collapsed or several breaks are seen. This can be done by excavating the area along & above the pipe and replacing it with a new PVC pipe. Provided there is adequate access, mini excavation equipment can be used which will dramatically reduce the costs over hand excavation. Sometimes there is no choice but to dig.

Structural pipe lining – Trenchless technology: If excavation is too difficult or not even an option then pipe lining or relining may be the answer. Instead of removing the old pipe this technology lines the inside of the old pipe. The pipe lining option can be a cost affective alternative by eliminating the need for major surface restoration. The lining material once in place is cured and the semi soft material becomes a new hard pipe within the old one with no joints to breakdown over time. A CCTV camera inspection of the affected pipe work is required first to determine its suitability for lining. DRAINS ‘R’ US has the equipment, experience and licensing to line underground drainage.

CCTV drain camera survey to visually identify and electronically locate drain problems: CCTV camera surveys are carried out using a lighted sewer camera on a long cable. A video of your sewer or storm water drain is DRAINS 'R' US Blocked Broken Draintaken to determine what your needs are. We will look into the pipe work and discuss the options once we see what we are dealing with. We will be able give you a copy of the tape or CD once we can download the information. We can show you the root intrusion on the monitor screen while we are there and provide location, depth and direction information. Pipe cleaning must be performed first in order to get the camera through the sewer or storm water system. If you have been experiencing frequent blockages then this tool can explain why.

Whatever the problem, blocked broken drains can be fixed. It’s a matter of know what application works best in each situation. If you would like advice on your drainage problem, you’re we’d love to assist. You can give us a call if you’re in Sydney, or send us an email.

Tree Root Pipe Blockages

Older homes in Australia are notorious for problems with tree root pipe blockages in sewer lines, septic and storm water drains because older pipes were made of clay or earthenware and joined together with mortar or rubber rings. Mortar crumbles over time under ground just like the mortar around bricks above the ground and rubber rings perish and simply disintegrate. The pipe work starts to leak into the environment surrounding the pipe which in turn stimulates tree root growth. Tree roots grow into the pipe at the broken connection and may cause your sewer, septic or storm water drain to back up, sending raw sewage or storm water into the house or yard.
Clearing the drain and cutting the tree roots away is the only short term solution to get the drain working again however cutting tree roots inside a pipe is a similar process to pruning a hedge, it promotes growth, so where one tree root is cut another 2 or 3 will grow back. Over time as the roots multiply and grow big enough, they can rupture and destroy pipes, forcing you to repair or replace the sewer, septic or storm water drain.

In conclusion; tree roots generally don’t invade drainage pipes unless those pipes are already damaged and leaking and water is seeping into the surrounding soil (environment). Tree roots are opportunistic by nature and will always be stimulated by water and nutrients.

Older drainage pipes (usually clay or earthenware) are at least fifty years or more in age and will inevitably start leaking at some point in time. This is usually the time when tree roots will penetrate into a drainage network. This problem can easily be resolved by structural pipe lining technology or the replacement of old clay or earthenware pipes with modern PVC pipes.

Drainage pipe maintenance should be a part of overall property maintenance and should take place when pipes show the first signs of leakage or tree root intrusion.
People often mistakenly believe that simply removing a tree growing near to where a drain blockage is occurring will fix that problem – but this is usually not the case.

The overriding consideration should always be to treat the cause (pipes), not the symptom (tree roots).

Once the pipe is broken or the drainage line blocked there are only a few options:

How Drains Work – Sewer & Storm Water

How drains work – Sewer, septic and storm water drainage systems work on the principle of “gravity”. This means that the liquid and solid matter moving through the underground pipe gets to the other end by simply running down hill under its own weight on the bottom of the inside of the pipe. Depending on the location most drainage systems only have a slight or minimal down hill slope or what we call grade. For example the minimum grade for sewer lines is 1 in 60 which means a 60 metre sewer line will fall only 1 metre over that length. Considering these design factors it soon becomes obvious that for drains to operate without blocking up the inside surface of the pipe must be smooth and free of obstacles such as breaks, cracks, misaligned joints, tree root intrusions, foreign objects and other abnormalities or defects.

It is also very important that drainage systems do not leak into the environment. This is particularly true for sewer and septic systems as they convey human waste, house hold chemicals and other waste products away from the home or business to be treated. Once a drain has been compromised in one form or another it will inevitably start to leak contaminates into the environment which can make their way into our creeks, rivers and water ways and can also become a health hazard.

Over time this leaking also contributes to the ongoing demise of the whole drainage system and can cause structural damage to valuable surface structures such as drive ways, swimming pools, tennis courts, retaining walls, structural slabs and landscaping etc.

It is important to keep your drains structurally sound as any structural fault can allow tree roots a way into your pipe work. Once roots are in your pipe work they are likely to eventually cause a blockage and in the long term can completely destroy the drainage system. The best way to prevent on going blockages is to rectify the affected section of pipe work. Conventional excavation and structural pipe lining technology are the most common methods for rectifying underground drainage. You may wish to have a CCTV camera inspection of your drainage system to determine its condition and if any repairs are needed.