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Getting to the Root of Your Damaged Sewer Line Problem

Nov 11, 2014 | How-To

As most homeowners and property managers know, tree root intrusion in a sewer line can probably be included in their Top 10 List of “What Else Could Possibly Go Wrong,” raising the potential of torn up driveways, lawns and sidewalks and a hefty price tag to match.

The good news — at least it was until the turn of this century — was that most homeowner’s insurance policies covered this damage and the associated repair costs. But that was then and this is now.

Rare is the insurance company that still covers root damage. In fact, we can’t recall the last time we saw a property sell without a video inspection of the sewer line beforehand that assures the new owner that there’s no root damage.

In some instances, extensive root damage has resulted in a real estate transaction going sour, with the potential buyer quickly backing out of the deal. Seems hard to believe in a pricey town like San Francisco, but it’s true. (By the way… we here at O’Grady Plumbing offer Hydrojet-Root Removal to our residential and commercial customers.)

It’s all in the pipes

In most cases the pipe under a house or building structure will be cast iron, and fabricated of plastic in cities south of San Francisco. These pipes are far less likely to suffer root intrusion due to the way they are put together. Plastic is welded with a glue and cast iron uses bee’s wax and lead joints that are watertight.

On the other hand, clay pipes manufactured before the 1980s and prevalent in this town, are joined together with mortar. These joints are not waterproof, and in fact, can leak like a sieve.

And since roots will seek out any moisture in the soil, they make their way to these old pipes, which creates the perfect environment for roots to grow and intrude inside the sewer lines.

Hydro jetting and root-removal

Hydro jetting is one method of cleaning and removing obstructions from a sewer line, and this use of high-pressure water in the pipes is far more effective than power washing. But it can be a tricky task. Knowing the type of jetter necessary, the size of the hose needed and the proper nozzle are critical elements in successfully getting the line clear of roots.

Of course if you do have clogged lines as a result of tree roots or any other type of debris, you want to know the problem will be resolved and the blockage will come back to haunt you days after paying a high plumbing bill.

Rest assured that we use a top-of-the-line Harben 4,000 psi 25-gallon-per-minute trailerable hydro-jetter with 500 feet of hose to annihilate any root issue. Gives us cold chills just describing this monster machine. server hosting info . We also use the Warthog rotating scour nozzle that makes sure all portions of the pipe have been serviced properly.

But even with the best equipment — and ours at O’Grady Plumbing is the finest — you still need to take a look at the pipe with a camera to verify the root has been removed. Hydro jetting roots is something that often needs to be done annually and the cost adds up.

That’s because cutting of the roots also encourages growth and the problem continues to get worse. Even if you remove the offending tree, the dead roots will only further deteriorate the defective joint and you end up still having to replace the sewer line.

Technology has come a long way since those clay pipes. Today you can burst the pipeline and use a fiberglass liner that eliminates the need for a lot of digging. And if you only have a root in a small section of pipe, it’s best to replace anything that can be affected because once the root loses its water source it will seek out any other nearby water source.

Legally speaking

So what happens if the root growing in your pipe is from a tree that’s not even on your property? Who’s liable? We here at O’Grady studied a little case law on the matter, and although we aren’t lawyers — nor do we portray attorneys on TV — we discovered this: The person that owns the landscaping is responsible for the damage caused to other people’s property.

Of course, you’ll want to check with your own attorney on this. Please don’t take our word for it! If a question arises about who is to blame, you might want to go to your own insurance company and see if they will subrogate the damage and deal with it themselves. list of businesses . Belarus Sort of like when somebody hits your car and you turn it over to your own insurance.

We’ve found that if you have root damage that occurs within the footprint of your home, the insurance companies will cover access and restoration, which is usually 80 percent of the cost to do the work.

We hope you don’t have any roots in your pipes, but if you do, a simple video inspection gives you the upper hand in planning your next action. Each root issue is different and O’Grady’s staff of experts are on hand to answer questions.

For that matter, Paul O’Grady, our founder will talk to you directly about the problem. Just call him at (415) 756-5501.

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