Tree Roots

July 08, 2009

Earlier this week the drains in our bathroom started acting funny. During my shower Monday morning the toilet started gurgling and partially drained itself. Flushing the toilet didn't help to raise the water level in the bowl, which had retreated to just above the outflow opening.

Tuesday it happened during my shower again, and also for Sibylle. The tub wouldn't drain normally after her shower either, so she called our landlord. He promptly came out and pour a whole bottle of commercial grade drain opening down the sink drain and let it percolate for a couple of hours. After running hot water down both the tub drain and the sink everything appeared to be working properly again.

Tuesday evening Sibylle took a shower before going to bed and the tub wouldn't drain at all, and the toilet started its gurgling again. Flushing the toilet brought the water level up to the lip of the bowl. Obviously something was plugging the works.

Today the landlord came out to the house with a plumber in tow. They discovered that there were some tree roots blocking the oldest part of the plumbing. Our house is new construction on the foundation of a much older house that burned a couple of years ago. The new plumbing (all PVC) is tied into the old cast iron pipes at some point under the house or yard. Tree roots can't penetrate the PVC pipe, but can (and do) penetrate cast iron. They were able to cut the roots away and everything is draining properly again.>

As he was leaving, Sibylle asked the plumber how often we'd have to repeat today's root cutting to keep our drains working. He said that if we put a cup full of rock salt down the toilet once a month that it would seep into the cast iron and surrounding earth where the roots had broken through, and that the roots would grow away from the "salted" ground. Hopefully that proves to be an effective solution as it is much easier to do, and much less expensive than having the plumber out.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.