The drain cleaner has found roots in your sewer line and you have been given the bad news The plumber told you the only way to get rid of the roots is to replace the sewer line. That is true, however, depending on the condition of your line and how many roots are coming into it there may be an alternative treatment that can buy you some time. Roots in a sewer are most often caused by a leaking joint in the line. These joints typically have a hub which fits over the pipe and is sealed with lead and oakum on cast iron pipes and cement on vitrified clay pipes. Clay is much more susceptible to leakage and root intrusion. These joints leak a small amount of waste water into the soil which attracts the roots. The roots then grow fine roots in through the leaking joint. They then grow larger and with the same force that can raise a side walk they can eventually break the pipe. They also branch off and grow larger into the sewer eventually causing a blockage. This is what brought you the bad news.
In a sewer which has large roots at every joint or broken joints it is often best to replace the line, especially if the cleanings are required frequently like yearly or every couple of years. On sewer lines that that have small amounts of root intrusion into the line and drain cleanings are less frequently required there is an alternative. A yearly application of Root-X into the line can kill the roots entering the pipe before they grow large enough to break the pipe and damage it. It then will take a year before the grown of new roots can intrude into the pipe sufficiently to cause a concern and require a reapplication of Root-X.
Root-X is a two part foaming chemical containing the aquatic herbicide Dichlobenil. The two parts ar mixed together immediately before application and foam up in contact with water. The foam completely fills the pipe and comes in contact with roots even at the top of the pipe. Root-X will only kill the roots that have entered the pipe and will not hurt the tree. Root-X treatment dosages are 2 lbs. for 4″ pipe up to 50′ in length and 4 lbs. for a 4″ pipe up to 100′ in length. The Root-X foam must remain in contact with the roots for 4 – 6 hours to be effective and will wash away with water usage. With the contact time requirement for the Root-X to be effective it is wise to plan the application for a time when no one will be home for that time period, it is very easy to forget the Root-X is in the line and flush a toilet washing the treatment away. So plan on doing the application on a day when everyone will be gone for the day and make applying the Root-X the last thing you do before driving away.
The best time of year to apply Root-X is naturally in the seasons where the tree is active. It is also best to apply it within one hour of the roots being snaked from the line. After the golden hour the tree forms a protective coating on the cut root to treat the injury to the root. It is best then to wait 6 – 8 weeks for the protective coating to dissipate before applying the Root-X treatment. Follow up with additional Root-X treatments on a yearly basis to help retard further root intrusions into the line. This treatment may postpone replacement of the sewer line. Ask your plumbing professional for Root-X.