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Tree Roots In Your Boston Home's Main Drain

Mature trees take up as much space underground as they do above ground, and over time, trees can do substantial damage to your sewer connection. In their search for water, tree roots can crush your home’s sewer connection, causing sewage leaks and backups in and around your Boston home. While most sewer lines are susceptible to damage from tree roots, other things can cause damage to your sewer line, allowing tree roots to invade more easily.

Often, the first sign of trouble is a sewage backup inside the home. Raw sewage can back up into the basement and appliances, leaving a hazardous mess to clean up. Tree roots represent a serious problem, and one that’s not going to be resolved by adding a chemical to the sewer line.

Tree roots usually invade from the top of the sewer line, while wastewater flows in the bottom of the pipe, rarely filling it to capacity for more than a few seconds. Chemical additives will never reach the roots that are causing your sewer problems. Some foaming agents fill the sewer pipe and kill the tree roots they contact. This will only provide temporary relief. The tree will keep sending roots into the damaged sewer line.

If tree roots have invaded the sewer line of your Boston home, you’ll need to respond not only to the immediate problem – a clogged sewer line – but also to the long-term issue of new root growth, as well as the damage to the sewer line itself.

Mechanical removal of the obstruction will clear the sewer line immediately and allow bio-hazardous materials to flow freely into the sewer system. If this is the only step you take, however, you can be sure that the tree roots will grow back very soon.

You’ll also want to assess the damage to the sewer line. Badly broken lines will allow waste materials from your home to escape into the surrounding soil without ever reaching the sewer line. This can cause problems if the break is near the foundation of your home, or under the driveway, sidewalk or another structure.

The professionals at Boston Standard Plumbing can help you determine the location and extent of the damage. Complete repair may entail replacing the sewer connection or placing a protective shield over the broken line. It may also be necessary to poison the soil around the pipe with copper sulfate or a similar compound to prevent the tree roots from invading the line again.

If you’ve experienced a sewage backup in your home, your first step should be to contact the Boston Water and Sewer Commission, the sewer authority in Boston. They will determine (usually at no cost to the homeowner) whether the breach is on your side of the sewer connection or the utility’s side. BWSC also offers a one-time financial assistance program to homeowners and commercial property owners to help offset the cost of replacing a sewer connection. To receive this one-time aid, the problem must meet certain conditions.

If the damage to the line is on your side of the connection, contact Boston Standard Plumbing. We are fully licensed and bonded, and provide 24-hour service for plumbing emergencies. We can help you correct major problems with your Boston home’s main drain.

Photo Credit: Aaron Escobar, via Flickr

Boston Drain Cleaning

Clogged drains in Boston are nothing new. For the most part, drains become obstructed for just a few reasons, so provided that you know why the drain is clogged, clearing it out can be a relatively easy job. What you put down the drain will most likely determine the kind of clog you have, and will dictate how you treat the problem.

Kitchen drains handle a lot of organic material – mainly food scraps and grease – that promote the buildup of organic matter in the drainpipe; joins, bends and traps are most vulnerable to these kinds of obstructions. Eventually, the mass of organic matter may partially or completely obstruct the flow of water through the drain. Even the largest household drainpipes are only a few inches in diameter, so it doesn’t take much to clog a drain once organic matter starts to accumulate.

Bathroom sink and shower drains handle a lot of soap and hair, so clogs in these drains are most likely to be made up of a combination of hair, soap and organic material that can thrive in this environment. Toilets can become clogged with waste material, toilet paper or other items that are flushed down the toilet. Plumbers recommend that only waste material and toilet paper be flushed down the toilet. Other items, like soiled diapers and tampons should be disposed of in the household garbage.

Utility tub drains tend to collect a lot of lint and pet hair. Clogs here are more similar to bathroom drain clogs. One note: over time, powdered soap flakes can sometimes reconstitute in the utility tub drain or in the home’s main drain. Reconstituted soap flakes form a very hard ball that can eventually occlude the entire drain. If you use powdered soap flakes in your washing machine and/or dishwasher, do not over-soap your laundry or dishes. Liquid soaps do not reconstitute in the way that powdered soaps do.

Main drains – the connection between your home and the municipal sewer system (or your septic tank) – can get clogged for any number of reasons, including organic buildups, tree roots, and major damage to the main waste pipe. A clogged main drain is a plumbing emergency and a health hazard that must be cleared or repaired immediately. Generally, a problem in the home’s main drain requires special equipment to diagnose and correct the problem. If you suspect a problem in your main drain – indicated by sewage backflows into the home – call your municipality first. They will help you determine where the problem is located and who is responsible for fixing it.

If the problem in your main drain is on your side of the line, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing. We can assist with backflow testing, sewer cleaning, installation of new plumbing and fixtures, leak repairs and clog removal.

Depending upon the material your drainpipes are made from, a drain can also become clogged from a buildup of minerals in the pipe. This buildup normally takes years to occur. Pipes can also become corroded, and debris from corrosion can also clog the drain. You may be able to clear mineralization from pipes, but corroded pipes cannot be cleaned or repaired and must be replaced.

Finally, drains can become clogged if an object is dropped into the drain. If you have small children in your home, they may entertain themselves by flushing small toys or other objects down the toilet, or throwing things down the drain. Irregularly shaped objects can become caught in the drain or trap and can catch other materials that are later disposed of. Removing an object from a drain or toilet may require you to dismantle a sink, shower or toilet drain.

For most clogs that occur as the result of organic material buildup, Boston Standard Plumbing recommends the use of Bio-Clean, an enzymatic drain cleaner that is non-toxic, environmentally friendly and highly effective at removing organically based clogs.

Bio-Clean contains no harsh chemicals that can damage your pipes or potentially contaminate your drains. Bio-Clean will not harm your skin should you come in contact with it. Bio-Clean is a combination of bacterial and enzymatic agents that literally eat the clog, eliminating it outright. The bacteria are all-natural and are not harmful to humans or pets. The bacterial and enzymatic agents in Bio-Clean eat food particles, hair, grease, soap film and organic materials that contribute to drain clogs.
The enzymes in Bio-Clean break down your clog into components the bacteria can digest. The bacteria, once active, can eat their own weight every minute, and the bacterial population doubles about every 30 minutes under the right conditions. Activating the bacteria in Bio-Clean takes nothing more than mixing it with warm water, and we recommend that the Bio-Clean have at least six to eight hours to work. Cleaning your drain with Bio-Clean is the perfect overnight activity.

Bio-Clean is safe for drainpipes made of all materials, and is absolutely safe for septic tanks. In fact, Bio-Clean outperforms most strains of coliform bacteria in septic tanks. Bio-Clean can also be used to eliminate foul odors that may come from drains or garbage disposals, and is safe for use in RVs and boats.

If you would like more information about Bio-Clean, or would like to try Bio-Clean in your drains, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing at (617) 288-2911.