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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.


Sanafoam Vaporooter II versus traditional methods of dealing with root infiltration

Tree root infiltration in sewage pipes can lead to blockage of and overflow in the draining system, the destruction of the system itself and even the replacing and relining of the pipes. The traditional methods of dealing with this problem involve short-term fixing, not long-term solutions and prevention.

The most widespread traditional method of dealing with a live root invasion problem is the cutting of the root. Although this may seem like a good immediate response, the long term result is disastrous. The cutting leads to rejuvenation and strengthening of the root, which becomes an even more forceful enemy of the pipes. Plus, some types of roots, like the ones that grow along the length of the pipe, are very difficult to cut due to their shape and position.

The modern efficient alternative is the Sanafoam Vaporooter, a combination of herbicides that leads to the weakening and later killing of the unwanted roots. The effect of the herbicides can be as long as three years, if proper retreatment is applied. Unlike the cutting of the root, which offers immediate response, the clearing of the pipes with the Vaporooter can take up to six months, as the natural decay of the killed roots cannot happen overnight. If the treatment is reapplied after six months, efficacy can be as high as 99 percentage.

While cutting of the tree roots solves the blockage problem, it does not prolong the life the pipes. Vaporooter can destroy even the small root cells which intrude into small cracks in the pipe. By removing these elements, the pipe cracks can close up under the ground weight.

Because cutting the tree only momentarily solves the problem and does not prevent further problems from forming, root invasions are dealt with only when they become an emergency. Urgent interventions, which may even involve the replacing of the pipes, are very costly and time-consuming. Vaporooter, however, is much more efficient cost and time-wise, because it solves and prevents root invasion problems, controlling them at all times and preventing them from getting out of hand.

Vaporooter is environment-friendly, as it only affects the roots inside the pipe, in the pipe wall and very close to the pipe. As it is biodegradable and non-acidic, it does not bother the trees and plants above the pipe. Cutting the roots, however, as they lead to even stronger roots, may create severe blockages which require pipe replacing, a possibly invasive method for the surrounding vegetation.

The scientific research history of Vaporooter

The infiltration of tree roots in sewage pipes has been a very destructive, time and money consuming issue for many decades. Traditional methods of clearing the pipes, including root cutting, usually led to costly emergency interventions that sometimes even included replacing or relining the pipes. As the blockages and overflows of the drain pipes recur regularly and the tree cutting solution is effective only in the short run and destructive in the long run, more efficient methods and technologies were needed.

The research in this direction started in 1966, when herbicide treatment was first taken into consideration as a solution for tree root infiltration. The research, led at The University of California, conducted trials with 17 herbicides between 1967 and 1971.

The most effective combination of herbicides, which is currently used in Sanafoam Vaporooter II, was discovered in 1971, and consists of Metham Sodium and Dichlobenil. Although this mixture did soften and kill the invasive tree roots, the method of application was faulty. Initially, plugging the line was the way to introduce the herbicide mix into the problem area – an invasive and inefficient method.

The currently used method was only discovered in 1972 by Fred Horne, who suggested the foaming method, which allows maximum exposure of the root to the herbicide, thus causing maximum efficacy. Although the method is most aggressive with the invasive roots, it does not affect the surrounding or above-situated plants and roots. Actually, the method and ingredient recipe make a great match, which does not have negative side effects or secondary victims. The biodegradable and non-acid features of the Vaporooter make it environment-friendly.

In addition, the Vaporooter method does leave room for natural processes. After killing the roots, it allows these to naturally decay within a period of six months. Due to the natural decay, the clearing of the pipes is not immediate and a retreatment is recommended. Treating and retreating your pipes with the foam gives a long-term solution to a difficult problem. Vaporooter solves the tree root invasion problem, prevents future infiltrations, blockages and overflows and prolongs the life of the drain pipes.

Sanafoam Vaporooter II

Sanafoam Vaporooter II is a widely used herbicide combination which combats mainline sewage blockages caused by live root invasions and retards the growth of new roots. The Vaporooter treats the blockage and overflow problem and prevents future problems.

The product which is introduced into the pipe fixes the blockages by softening and killing the intruding tree roots. The tree roots die right away and within six months they decay and flow down the drain. Retreatment of the pipes increases the efficacy of the product and inhibits the root growth.

This method of of treating blockages is time-efficient as only one worker is required to treat 25 branch lines per day. Also, preventing blockages from happening is a way to save time and money, as this ensures emergency interventions and pipe replacements are rare.

Because Vaporooter prolongs the life of the sewage assets by eliminating the live roots inside them, less money is spent to ensure good functioning of the sewage system. Even the rigid pipes made of concrete or clay, whose joints are usually an easy prey for root invasions, are protected by Vaporooter. By destroying the root cells inside the pipe walls, the product allows the cracks to close under the ground’s pressure.

While having an aggressive approach inside the pipe, the Vaporooter does not affect nearby vegetation. Being biodegradable and non-acidic, the herbicide is also used in fruit and vegetable crops.

The widespread use of Vaporooter by authorities throughout the world confirms its many advantages. Scientific research led in North America supports the affirmation that Vaporooter is the most efficient way of tackling the sewage pipe root invasion.

Another Satisfied Vaporooter Customer

After several trials with various chemical products, Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water (GWMW) chose Vaporooter as its aid in combating drain pipe blockages and overflows and has successfully used it since 1989.

Vaporooter, a product of the RSP Environmental Services, is a mixture of herbicides, root growth inhibitor and foaming agent which softens and then destroys the live roots which intrude into the drain pipes and causes a blockage. The product also prevents other roots from growing by slowing down their development for almost three years.

GWMW has initially used the Vaporooter in its problematic areas, where drain blockages were frequent due to shallow sewers and close vicinity of the trees and sewage systems. After solving its immediate problems, GWMW has moved on to preventing blockages and maintaining the high-quality functionality of the draining system.

A great advantage of the Vaporooter is that its efficacy causes no negative side effects on the environment. The foaming process only affects the tree roots that intrude into the pipe and those very close to the pipe. But the rest of the trees and plants in the vicinity are not touched by this non-acidic biodegradable treatment.

RSP Environmental Services do not only provide the product and the technology, but they also assist their clients throughout the different stages of the foaming process. RSP offers its assistance to identify and solve the problems whenever they occur, although this implies higher costs and efforts for them. Just as Vaporooter involves an ongoing long-term process, the RSP honours its provider and aide roles to the client.

Q&A about Sanafoam Vaporooter II

1. How does Sanafoam Vaporooter II work?

Sanafoam Vaporooter II is a foaming mixture of herbicides which prevents drain line stoppages that occur due to tree root penetration of pipes. This technology tackles the problems caused by live root infestation by attacking the roots inside the pipe.

The foam containing a combination of Metham Sodium (herbicide) and Dichlobenil (growth inhibiting agent) is introduced into the sewage pipe, so that it can have direct contact with the intrusive roots. The treatment softens and kills the live roots, leaving them to naturally disintegrate within six months.

If the pipe blockage is in a very advanced stage and requires cutting the roots, it is advisable to wait for a period of at least six weeks between the cutting and the Vaporooter treatment, so that roots have time to regrow. If the Vaporooter is applied according to instructions, its root growth inhibitor effect is valid for up to three years.

2. How can tree roots destroy pipes?

The root cells, which can be microscopic in their first stages of development, look for warmth and humidity so that they can mature. In their search, they discover drain lines, which they can penetrate through extremely small openings and this allows them to gradually grow inside the pipes.

As the roots mature inside the pipes, they create blockages. One of the least efficient methods of unblocking the pipes is cutting down the roots; this actually leads to a more forceful regrowth of the roots.

3. How can Sanafoam Vaporooter II help save time and money?

Sanafoam Vaporooter II eradicates the roots, while also inhibiting their future growth. Because Vaporooter both fixes and prevents, the costs and time spent to unblock the drain lines, make sure the live roots do not grow again and even to replace the lines, are considerably reduced.

4. Is Sanafoam Vaporooter II environment friendly?

The Sanafoam Vaporooter II technology does not affect trees and plants surrounding the sewer pipe – only the roots inside or in the very near vicinity of the pipe. The trees and shrubs above the pipe, for example, are not damaged by the treatment.

Plus, the low level of toxicity, as well as the non-acidic and the biodegradable features of the Sanafoam Vaporooter II make it environment friendly. Being registered with APVMA is proof of the non-toxicity of the products, as this body evaluates the effect of chemicals on the environment.