Rooter companies all want to re-line my sewer pipe

dasistgutDecember 3, 2006

Ever since we moved in to our 1964 house 15 years ago we've had to clear the main sewer line of roots about every 3 years. It used to be no hassle, a guy would come & run the router with blades, charge about 100 bucks and go. Now they all start with a hard sell about how we must "re-line" the pipe with epoxy resin. The cost is between $3000 and $5000. Two different router companies gave us the same sales pitch, complete with dire warnings of what would happen if we don't act now. I think we're going to try some of the chemical treatments like RootX before we plunk down that much. Anyone else have their pipe re-lined? We're in California and I've been calling the major router service companies. Maybe I should stick with local independent plumbers who haven't invested big time in the lining equipment?

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I'll admit right out that I'm no expert on this, other than what owning homes for 40 years has taught me. But I do have some reactions:

1. Sounds like a nice way to turn a big profit.
2. Might not even work in the long run. (Have you seen what roots do to sidewalks?) Does it come with a guarantee?
3. How much would it cost to just excavate the whole line and replace it with something new? (Perhaps less than this little project.)

If it were me, and I was at all interested in at least learning more, I'd be talking with the guys at the local water department to get an unbiased assessment.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2006 at 3:05AM
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This process was featured recently on "This Old House". If the pipe is totally sealed, nothing would prompt the roots to invade. It looked like a viable process to me.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2006 at 1:32PM
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Bus Driver - I saw that show too! I was quite impressed with the process. Also, I was appalled at how the existing pipe had been invaded by roots--the damage was so extensive I don't think an annual routing would have helped. It was clear in the show that the re-lining for that home's pipe was absolutely necessary and beneficial. BUT, they also had to dig up the sidewalk, and then replace the sidewalk. That's great if you're "This Old House" with all its resources. I don't know where the OP's pipe is, but I wonder if the quoted amounts include putting the groundcover/sidewalk/lawn or whatever back to its original condition after being dug up.

On the This Old House resources page, they list the Sewer Pipe Relining System contractor and the manufacturer (Maxlinerusa) . Perhaps the OP can check out the Maxlinerusa website, or even contact the contractor for more info.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2006 at 5:18PM
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The city on This old house dug up the sidewalk. the fitting where the line went into the main sewer was also broken. So that was the city's to fix. The main line happened to be under the sidewalk. The line had sunk in the middle because it was made out of vitrified pipe. Vit pipe is a clay pipe with a glaze baked on it.

If I had a sewer that kept clogging I would first get a camera ran down it and a videotape of the procedure. Review it for the type of pipe and the reason the roots keep invading. Then find out how deep the pipe is in the ground.
My parents had their sewer line replaced years ago and when they did they found it was down about 12 ft. Major excavation which required a tree to be cut down.

I would not go into a reline job without first getting a camera run down it. Then I would do a thorough search for contractors and get multiple estimates. Then check the company with the BBB and if available in your area Angies list. You might not need a reline at all just the root killer on a regular basis. If you have a maple tree nearby, they are well known for root invasion. Oak trees very rarely invade sewers.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2006 at 7:46PM
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We were thinking it was our oak tree, I'm happy to hear they are not usually a problem. Other trees in the area are pine. We're in a semi-desert area, so the pipe probably attracts roots from all over. We had a video inspection 5 yrs ago that showed fine roots coming in at the joints of the clay pipe. The pipe looked to be in good condition. We should have been better at having it routed regularly, prior to a problem arising. I researched all the chemical treatments and ordered some RootX. I'm thinking of adding copper sulfate at the same time, so it will distribute with the foam. Can't think of a reason the copper sulfate would interfere with herbicide. The company that just did the last router job planned to come back for a "free" video inspection ($375 value). I don't want to deal with another sale's pitch, so we'll see how it goes with the chemicals for a year. Thanks for the suggestions on getting multiple bids. Next time we have a problem we'll pay for the video inspection and use the information for bids. I assume if we pay for it we're entitled to keep the video.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2006 at 1:58PM
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Call me Old-Fashioned. But I think videos are best used for weddings and graduations. If I had a video of my sewer line I would have to have a very special shelf to keep it. Hey, when will I need it again? How about when I go to my Eternal Reward?

Great! There is me, lying next to a sewer line and neither is in the frost zone. The chief difference is that when dug up, I might be disinterred, while the sewer is diss in turd. WhatÂs with these sewer cameras? You donÂt do gastroenterology on a sewer. People who understand sewers are capable of making them work again, when they fail.

Those who need a camera are ADHD. Once in a great while, it would make good sense to video-tape a trip thru your sewer. Most of the time, if the provider doesnÂt know whatÂs wrong, it is pure stupidity to train them on your nickel.

I recently had a sewer line rodded and discovered a defect. It was an error about forty years old. The saved expense of deciding that was spent in fixing it. I donÂt say there is no good use for the sewer line videos. I just think it would be better spent on your own sewage system. See your internist.


    Bookmark   December 4, 2006 at 9:17PM
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When a tree root enters your sewer line it begins as a single filament finer than a human hair, carefully working its way through a crack or crevice in the pipe or a joint. Once it reaches its goal of the water in the pipe it begins sending water back to the tree, ever growing in the process. And as it grows larger it expands the crack in the pipe or joint allowing more roots to enter until finally your sewer if full of hair like fibers like a mat of hair. If we then pour a chemical in to kill the roots we are left with a birds nest of dry twigs clogging the pipe.

Rather than a pour all those drain additives in the line, about once a month when you are in the bathroom just open your wallet and take out a $20 bill and flush that. It will have exactly the same effect on your house sewer but at least you save the 1/2 tank of gas running to the hardware store to get the chemicals.

If you want to hear a testamonial about relining the pipe call your local sanitation engineer. Most cities are now saving the taxpayers millions upon millions of dollars by relining sewer pipes instead of digging up the streets and laying new pipe.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2006 at 12:17AM
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I can attest to that. I have seen the relining of the mains by where I live, and actually talked to the crew doing it. The liners bridge cracks, misaligned/seperated joints, even small sections of 'missing' pipe.

As for your concerns about the cost, it is alot cheaper than open cut excavation. I had a quote one time of $4000 to dig in one spot (wasnt necessary thankfully)not even replace a whole line.
Consider the company will either need to bring in a backhoe or small excavator, these must be trailered in so there is maintenance for the truck and trailer, besides the machine, fuel etc. Then there is material costs, labor costs (minimum of two men, easily a full day)for the excavation and pipe work. Plus restoration, and trust me if you are lucky it will return to a rough grade (often costs extra).

    Bookmark   December 5, 2006 at 3:56AM
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Ha Ha. Applying herbicide to roots is not exactly flushing money away. The line has already been cleared, so the objective is to prevent the invasion of new roots. Here's the math: Herbicide for 1 year = $25-$50, plus a little copper sulfate ($5) for a total of $55 max. The treatment is highly effective, according to government and university publications. It is used by numerous municipalities in their main sewer lines. I have no doubt that re lining is a great technique when all else fails. Cost = $3500 on average, equivalent to 63 years of chemical treatments. D'OH, as Homer would say.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2006 at 10:33AM
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Do'h.....what you are failing to understand is that when the herbicide is put in the municipal lines it is injected in with a hydroblaster that coats the entire pipe wall.

Sewer and drain pipes are sized so the pipe will only be 1/2 full at full load, which leaves the upper half of the pipe open for the transfer of vent air.

When you attempt to apply the chemicals by pouring them in a drain then flushing with water, at best you can only coat the bottom half of the pipe which in most cases serves very little to reduce the roots.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2006 at 11:27AM
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Double D'oh, The most popular herbicide for the treatment of sewer lines (RootX) comes as a wettable powder that produces a high volume foam when moistened. It is applied in the cleanout opening outside the house. The foam distributes the compound to the top of the pipe. If I dissolve copper sulfate in the water that I use to hydrate the foam I should be able to get the copper to the top of the pipe too. Copper kills/repels roots but is not transported systemically. Likewise with the herbicide. However copper, as a heavy metal, persists all the way to the sewage treatment plant. It shouldn't be used large scale.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2006 at 2:20PM
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Yes! You are going to kill a lot of fish and other wildlife in the process - and limit the usability of the sewage for other purposes, like irrigating golf courses or whatever.

Stuff that'll kill roots like that is NASTY. Plan instead to fix the 'root' of the problem, if you add up the annual expense of the clearing, which you'll probably have to do, and the aggravation etc - and don't forget the gaps and/or cracks in the sewer'll still be there - you might as well bite the bullet and get it fixed properly - then you'll have no further problems.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2006 at 4:45PM
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Just mixing an additional chemical another compound into the water used to make the foam does not mean it will be distributed in the foam especially not evenly. Plus the idea of mixing an additonal compound in is unproven and dangerous.
As for this high volume foam...consider how much of it you mix up....I seriously doubt it adequatelly coats the entire pipe wall interior for the entire length of the drain. In municipalites and colleges the treatment is sprayed onto the pipe wall as it moves along. Plus once the root enters and is killed, the dead fibers are still there.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2006 at 5:51PM
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Hi all!
I work at a company that do pipe inspection and pipe relining every day. We also dig up streets, gardens, sidewalks and so on where pipes need to be replaced due to collapses, capacity problems and so on.

It's interesting to see all of this interest from ordinary people that has nothing to do with pipes in the first place and can offer a outside view of things.

Now over to the nerdy stuff.
1. Old clay pipes that has no sealing in the joints are leaking in every single joint.
You might not be allowed to dump chemicals into the ground and possibly into your drinking water in the long run.
Same goes for your sewage, new laws are coming every now and then in most countries, including environmental hysteria ones.

2. Old pipes are not getting any younger.
Expect more rather than less problems in the future.

3. Digging up stuff is messy and expensive.
Power lines, Cable TV, water lines, Phone lines, drain pipes and a few other things might be encountered and possibly damaged in the process and add to the "horror" (cost/time/responsibility) of digging.

4. Have you checked your insurance papers?
It might be covered in full or at least partially by your insurance company.

So there you have it, a biased view from Norway.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2008 at 5:17AM
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I am the guy who operates one of those video sewer camera for a major plumbing company. I do agree that no root killer can foam the entire length of a sewer line and coat the entire pipe with all of the normal down tubes, 45 degree's and bends that a pipe normally takes. Also if roots are penetrating the joints of your pipes internally they have more than likey spider cracked the top of the old pipe and damaged its integraty. We use a bursting technology that replaces the old line with an entirely new line pulled through teh old pipe and is seamless so it carries a 50 year transferrable warranty. I would look into a pernament fix as opposed to trying to chemically fix a root problem. Just doesn't work.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 11:59AM
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you may not know but this pipe lining ws started over in europe the last 3 decades maybe 4? their infrustucture is way older than ours. where I am, it is all slab homes
(no basements) mostly 1970's and 80ty's were made of cast iron. PVC started to make it way into the mainstream after that. These pipes are rotting away! when I say rotting I mean the base is gone.fractures are 1/2 inch and wider that are all over the place.sides,bottom, top, in lentghs that are in feet. Now you also have water lines in there.where? who knows. pipe bursting is not good because at every place a 2" or 4" pipe comes into the main line you have to dig up a section of floor to have a repair done et every interval. short of digging up the home and it had been done, pipe lining is the only real way to avoid a total rehab of the home. the co's that do this have a limited 50 year warranty on materials. it seals every joint,fracture all drains coming into the line and thats where they call reinstateting comes in. they have to open up all drains that where covered over by the material. so if europe started this,30 or 40 years ago and did all their streets (no digging up the streets all over europe) and I have not read anything bad happening I would not have any fears. like anything else,price and convience,where I am located sarasota fl this is the only way to fly! I am talking infustructure. if you had a cobblestone driveway the cost of lining would be cheaper than having someone come in to do the repair on top of the repair. also pipe pulling would in that case should be looked at too. BTW I also do this work

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 12:19PM
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Since you know where the problem is via the video, why not just dig up that area, clean it out then pour cement around the joint, seams then don't worry about it anymore.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 4:28AM
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Ok, so one thing that has confused me so far is we had massive root invasion. It makes sense that relining is the recommendation, but since most sites, including this one, mention costs vs. open excavation. In order to remove the root, it was massive excavation. The yard is massively dug up. So, if it's already dug up, how come they must now, for the tune of $7,500, reline instead of repalce pipe? Are we being taken for our $11,000?

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 3:48PM
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I am a Licenced Plumber in NC and folks you are not being taken cost wise. Companies that install sewer relines have money invested in their equipment. There is nothing wrong with companies charging a customer $11000 to do a job. They also provide service tech jobs use state of the art technology and pay their taxes.
If a home owner wants to go pay 20k-50k in equipment and materials to install their own sewer liner knock yourself out.
Unless you work with sewers for a living you have no idea what is involved!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 6:12PM
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We're in the inspection process of buying a 100-year-old house. During the initial home inspection, the inspectors pointed out what looked like water erosion around a downspout that dumps into a pipe in the ground. We decided to have a plumber in to camera the pipe, and the pipe out to the street (which runs beneath an oak the same age as the house) shows a lot of root intrusion, including one huge root ball with a perfect small hole drilled through it probably by a recent roto-rooting job.) The plumber said at minimum, the pipe needs to be "jetted" (about $800) and that they really recommend it be relined (about $10,000). They said the problem would only recur, almost certainly worsen, and that eventually the pipe would likely collapse which would entail trenching and removal of this old tree (it's a 50' wide city lot and the tree is smack in the middle of it at the sidewalk.) We're willing to do the work necessary to maintain this house well if we buy it, and we'd really hate to lose this tree, and the plumbers said relining would solve the problem for decades. But of course $10,000 is a lot of money, so I thought maybe I'd see if anyone could advise whether this scenario seems reasonable.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 8:30AM
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