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Yearly Archives: 2010

Using Chemical Foam to Treat Tree Root Blockages

A combination of mechanical root removal and a process known as chemical foaming is one of the cheapest and most effective means of removing root blockages in pipes.

Mechanical removal, known as root pulling or jet rodding, can be used on it’s own for a short term solution to remove tree roots from blocked pipes. This process uses machinery that your plumber feeds down the obstructed pipe. The machinery clears the pipe by cutting away the roots. This leads to clear, useable plumbing, but it won’t last long.


Clipping roots is just like pruning branches, it encourages tree growth. Without other treatments, roots will grow back into the pipes faster and stronger.

Chemical foam is a sturdy version of herbicide that has the power to clear pipes of small root masses by pushing them out. The foam will then harden, creating a barrier for further root growth that’s both physical and chemical. But, The foam isn’t strong enough to push out larger root masses entrenched in pipes.

That’s why both mechanical removal and foam treatment is an ideal solution.

After the pulling or rodding, your plumber feeds a camera attached to the end of a long hose down the obstructed pipe. Pictures from the camera let the plumber know that the bulk of the root mass has been cleared, which means it’s safe to apply chemical foam to the pipe.

The pipes don’t even need to be completely clear of roots to apply the chemical foam, because the foam will do some of the clearing for you. The thick foam pushes out or kills (and then pushes out) minor root blockages. The foam dries and coats the inside of your pipes with herbicidal chemicals that keep the root from growing back into your plumbing.

Your plumber may recommend that you use chemical foam on other pipes besides just the obstructed ones. The foam will clear tree root intrusion that may cause a problem and will protect plumbing from future root invasion.

Your best solution to prevent tree root re-growth is Vaporooter. It’s been tried and tested for over 40 years and comes with a full guarantee.

Types of Tree Root Killing Chemicals

We’ve already explained in previous blog posts that physically replacing blocked pipes and removing surrounding tree roots does little to protect plumbing from future root intrusion. Chemical treatment is needed for ongoing fortification against invading tree roots. But, some chemicals not only inhibit root growth, they also may destroy surrounding trees and foliage.

The complete destruction of plants and trees due to chemicals in and around pipes is considered a “worse case scenario” because the root systems near pipes represents such a small portion of the actual tree. However, the threat of foliage destruction does exist and is worrisome to landowners concerned about the aesthetic value of their property. In some cases, the optional destruction of plants is also a concern for government environmental agencies.

Here’s a list of some popular chemical treatments for pipe and their effect on pipes, roots and trees:

Dichlobenil (a.k.a. Casoron W50): This chemical comes in both liquid and powder forms, and are both effective at killing tree roots. The liquid form does damage trees, but the powder form does not.

Endothal: This herbicide doesn’t harm trees, but it also doesn’t do much to kill root systems. It’s mostly used to eliminate aquatic plants growing in wastewater.

Metham (a.k.a Vaporizer, a.k.a. methylcarbamadithadithioic acid):  Kills some roots when used in low concentration, while higher concentrations increase the chance of killing roots; it also increases the chance of harming the trees. This chemical is highly effective when used in combination with Dichlorobenil. However, its adverse effect on trees and other plants has lead to potential banning of use by America’s Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.)

Copper Sulphate: Considered an outdated and harmful chemical treatment, copper sulfate may damage the plants without actually killing the invasive root system.

Glufosinate: Effective in high doses, this chemical is much more expensive than other types of chemical treatments. Despite the expense, glufosinate is a good alternative because is does little to damage trees.

The safe alternative, Vaporooter, is proven, tested and guaranteed with more than 40 years of evidence that it does not harm trees, foliage or wildlife.

Tree Root Removal From Pipes Without Using Chemicals

There are two surefire ways to remove tree roots from pipes and protect plumbing from further tree root intrusion. One: dig up the pipes, cut out the section that hold the roots, and replace the plumbing with new, root resistant pipes. And two: completely remove all plants that could grow into plumbing.

Unfortunately, these options are all but infeasible to the average home or business owner. This system of tree root removal is expensive, and in some cases, impossible.

On top of those drawbacks, cutting the roots can actually make the trees (and roots) grow faster. Add to that the fact that replacing sections of pipes weakens plumbing, which raises the chance that tree roots will find their way back into pipes. This method of removal could make the situation ten times worse!

Some plumbers recommend this removal method for emergency situations only.

Alternative methods might be just as ineffective. Pipes can be relined with cement or mortar, which seals the pipes and kills invasive roots. But, cement often cracks when the surrounding ground shifts and the compromised pipes become a welcome mat for nearby tree root systems.

Other, interesting, non-chemical solutions exist. One method creates a new pipe inside existing plumbing, rerouting water through the new pipe and killing the roots that live in the pipes. Plumbers feed a cloth-like, collapsed pipe down the plumbing system and then fill the pipe with cold water which expands the pipe and activates chemicals that harden the cloth. Voila! A new pipe inside your old pipe.

Another method does the exact opposite. A new PVC liner is placed around the existing damaged pipe, cutting off root access to the old pipes and forming a new plumbing system.

Inside and outer pipe replacement is often more cost effective than substitution of pipe sections, but there are many chemical alternatives that are cheaper, easier and longer lasting, including Vaporooter.

Chemically Treating Roots in Pipes

Tree roots love pipes. Why? Because of the environment. The moisture and rich soil are like mood lighting and jazz music to tree roots. That’s why pipe replacement and other mechanical root intrusion solutions aren’t completely effective. They replace the pipes and kill some roots, but they do nothing about the environment.

Chemical pipe treatments kill tree roots and make the area around plumbing inhospitable to the tree roots. Often, non-chemical pipe treatments kill tree roots in and surrounding the pipes, and eventually the dead roots around the pipe decay. That decay is rich food for living tree roots and it attracts them right back to the pipes.

Chemical pipe treatments solve the problem by destroying and inhibiting the growth of plant life, slime and fungus. Unfortunately, many chemicals will also kill the trees connected to the roots.

If you want to save your trees, it’s important to choose your pipe treatment chemicals carefully. Various chemicals have different effect on trees. Some chemicals only inhibit and kill the roots directly around the pipes, while others may attack the tree itself. Even treating pipes that aren’t near root systems could have consequences for you trees, because the roots will inevitably grow towards the pipes.

Copper sulphate, for one, is great at blocking root growth but it travels far up the root system and threatens the tree. Copper sulfate cannot be used on plumbing that contains lead, terra cotta or porcelain because the chemical is corrosive to those substances.

A 1962 test by the Engineering and Water Supply Department of South Australia[i] tested the long-term effect of different chemicals. The test showed that the best tree root inhibitors were sand set into cement, copper sulfate and a PVC chemical. However effected, copper sulfate is currently considered fairly unusable because of it’s negative effects on plant life.

For safe, reliable and guaranteed protection of your beautiful trees, choose Vaporooter to manage tree root growth in your pipes.


Tree Root Blockages: The Ongoing Problem

So, you’ve called a plumber or expert in tree root blockages, and they’ve cleared the tree roots from your pipe. They may have even replaced damaged pipes. Problem solved, right? Well, not quite because tree root blockages can turn into a constant problem.

Most drain blockage solutions are only short term; there are only a few permanent ways to deal with an ongoing root problem.

Some home and business owners choose to replace all their older, metal pipes with new pipes made out of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC is currently the number one material for preventing the leaks and cracks that lead to root penetration. PVC will virtually guarantee that roots stay out of pipes, but it can get costly. The substitution of old pipes for PVC can be time consuming, and it can cost a fortune.

Another option (one that many folks don’t really see as an option) is removing all trees within the vicinity of the home or business. But, the removal of foliage can cause aesthetic and shade issues, and lower the value of the property.

One solution for many is routine maintenance and pipe clearing. Experts can use simple pipe treatments such as snakes and high-pressure water blasters to remove tree roots before they become a full scale blockage, but that means you keep doing it over and over again.

The best alternative is to treat your pipes with Vaporooter. It’s clean, it’s quick and it’s guaranteed.

Pros and Cons of Chemical Pipe Treatments

Chemical pipe treatments are one method to both remove and prevent tree root blockages, at the same time. These treatments have a combination of binding foam and herbicides. The force of the foam can be enough to extract the roots from your pipes. The foam then goes on to seal cracks in the pipes with a material that repels tree root growth.

On the surface, this seems like an ideal solution, but the truth is a bit more complicated. Here are the pros and cons of using chemical treatments to rid your pipes of roots.


  1. Gets rid of the tree roots and seals the pipes at the same time.
  2. Just cutting out the tree roots will promote further root growth instead of preventing it. Chemical treatments will help prevent the tree roots from growing back.


  1. Doesn’t work if the tree roots or blockage is too big. This means the roots need to be cut first, then the chemical applied in a two-step process.
  2. Has to be done at least once a year, but at least the problem is solved!
  3. The herbicides may harm the trees near the pipes and surrounding foliage, unless applied by a professional applicator, then there is no risk.

It’s a fact that tree root systems will continue to infiltrate your pipes, especially drains made out of older material. Chemical treatments can be heaven-sent for some. You have to carefully look at this option to be sure that it’s the right one for you.


Preventing Damage to Trees

For the most parts, trees are a big bonus to property values. They make the land more attractive, they hold down topsoil and they provide shade. Many of the positive qualities of trees get ignored the second a root system infiltrates a pipeline. Some people will do anything to rid their pipes of root blockages, including the destruction of the intruding tree.

But, what if you want to prevent damage to the tree?

Just so you know, your trees will be safe if the tree roots are removed by rodding, cutting, or flushing methods. Unfortunately, one of the top reasons for the trees safety is the fact that cutting is good for the roots, it will cause your tree to flourish; but some of that flourishing may cause the roots to grow right back into the line.

Chemical pipe treatments contain herbicide, but it’s usually in doses that are just strong enough to kill the tree roots inside the pipe and deter further root growth in the surrounding soil.

Real damage to trees only occurs when there is multiple blockages, severe root growth, and damaged or crushed pipes. These situations are cause for an excavation of the trees and pipes. Large portions of the tree root system will have to be removed, which may end up killing the tree.

Fibrous tree roots will spread out to about 1 1/2 times the height of the tree, but they don’t need all those roots to survive. As a rule of thumb, trees generally only need roots that spread out as far as the canopy. Too much tree root removal will make the tree unstable, and it could topple over onto your home or property.


5 Things You Can Do To Prevent Blocked Drains

Here are a few measures that go a long way to prevent roots from infiltrating and destroying your pipes.

  1. Use pipes made of Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) for new and replacement drains. PVC pipes are strong enough to repel the tree roots. Experts agree that PVC is the best material for reducing the risk of tree root blockages.
  2. Don’t plant trees near pipes. This seems simple enough, but many home and business owners don’t realize what constitutes as ‘near’ when we’re talking about tree roots.   Many Australian trees have roots with an incredibly wide spread.
  3. Choose proper foliage. Eucalyptus, for example, can have roots systems that spread out as much as 60 meters. Hills Weeping Fig, on the other hand, can have a root spread as small as 6 meters.
  4. Maintain your pipes. Wear and tear, cracks, and leaks can cause nutrient-rich water to seep into the soil around your pipes. This attracts tree roots like mad.
  5. Routinely check and clear your sewer drain. Though roots can be attracted to any type of water-bearing line, they are most often lured towards sewer drains. Have an expert come by and clear roots out of your pipes before they become a big problem.


Tree Roots in Basement Drains

Blocked basement drain is the sneaky little brother of root blocked water and sewer pipes. It’s much harder to notice a blocked basement drain because they are only used during floods. You’ll notice a problem sooner if you use your basement line to drain the water from a clothes washer.

Basement floor drains are likely to get blocked by roots because they’ve been around longer and are made out of weaker materials. Some basement drainage systems are made of clay tile, which was standard plumbing when older homes were built.

Roots can easily penetrate the weak walls of older basement drains and will grow into them for years. For many home and business owners, a blocked basement drain doesn’t get noticed until a flood occurs.

By the time you become aware of the problem, it’s too late. Flooded basements have to be pumped out. Once the water is clear, there may be thousands of dollars in property damages to deal with, not to mention the still-blocked drain.

There are few simple ways you can avert disaster and detect a blocked basement drain before it becomes a huge issue.

  • First off, listen to your drain. If it makes gurgling noises, especially during rain, it may be blocked.
  • Second, you can try pouring a few buckets of water down the drain; you’ll know you have a problem if it overflows, or drains slowly. Remember to remove anything that you have stored around the drain before you try this experiment; the last thing you need is water damage that you caused yourself.


Tree Roots Block Drains

Did you know that the majority of sewer blockages are caused by tree root systems? A recent study found that tree roots are accountable for 54% of plumbing blockages; in some areas of Australia the number is as high as 93%

Plumbing blockages are a heavy price to pay for foliage. A root blocking inbound or outbound plumbing can quickly turn into a watery nightmare for home, business, and building owners.

Luckily, there are trees to avoid and trees that are okay. Trees with fibrous, or “spread out”, root can be dangerous near homes and businesses with plumbing. Trees with taproots, or roots that grow downward, can be safer for pipes. Also, some trees that are unsafe for plumbing become safer the farther they are away from buildings.

Don’t worry, if it’s too late for preventive landscaping, there are several ways to clear those pesky roots from pipes. Experts will use different methods depending on the circumstance of the blockages. Popular methods include rodding, jetting, root cutting, the use of chemicals, and a process called dig and repair.

No matter what the root blockage issue, Australia has a wealth of tree root and plumbing experts. They help our pipes live in harmony with our world-famous fauna.