Common Sewer Line Problems


Common Problems in Sewer Lines – Tree root problems

Tree roots are a very common problem for sewer lines constructed prior to the early 1980’s. This is because these sewer lines were built using VCT (vitreous clay tile) pipe.  Clay tile pipe is a ceramic product dating back to the Roman aqueducts and is an ideal material for transporting water since it is inert. Clay tile pipe is also an ideal material for use in difficult environments since it is amazingly strong, has nearly a 3/4″ thickness, and is virtually impervious to deterioration from normal use. We have documented hundred-year-old clay pipe that looks as if it were installed last month. However, it does have a downside, namely … the joints. Clay tile pipe tends to leak water at the joints, making a wonderful water source for thirsty trees and shrubs.

With the advent of indoor plumbing in the late 1800’s, clay tile pipe in 2-foot lengths was immediately adopted for use by plumbers to construct the new sewer lines. These 2-foot lengths continued to be used until about 1930 when they were replaced by 3-foot or 4-foot lengths. These longer lengths continued to be used into the early 1980’s when they were replaced by PVC or SDR plastic pipe and superior joint sealing systems.

When originally installed, plumbers “sealed” the numerous joints in the clay tile sewer line with materials such as concrete, coal tar, oakum, or rubber gaskets. Unfortunately, all these sealing materials deteriorate over time, allowing water to escape, beginning an underground “drip system” attracting tree roots. Once tree roots get between the joints, they continue to grow, spreading the joint. As the joint spreads, it leaks more water. If tree roots are allowed to grow large enough, they will eventually break the clay tile pipe. Inside the clay tile pipe joint, tree roots initially act as a filter, allowing water to pass through while straining out other products sent through the line. As soon as the roots have trapped enough material, all water flow is stopped, resulting in sewage backup.

If you are having a tree root problem, you can have the line properly “snaked” out for around $125-175 dollars. Also, choose a company that uses a 4″ blade on the snake machine. By using the same size blade as the inner diameter of the sewer line, you will et the maximum root removal for your money. Research whether Vaporooter is a better answer for your tree root problem. Hydro Physics is the only authorized company to provide Vaporooter in Colorado.

In addition, many drain companies give a 90-day warranty on the cleaning work versus the industry standard of 30 days. If they don’t offer a 90-day guarantee without an additional charge, call somebody else. Finally, keep in mind that many sewer and drain companies pay their employees on a commission basis, usually 25-40 on all additional sewer line repair or replacement work sold. If they tell you the sewer line must be replaced because of tree roots alone, we highly recommend that you get a second opinion.


Hydro Physics is the technology leader with more than 20 years in the pipe inspection industry. We are  the only company licensed to apply Vaporooter in Colorado. We are committed to providing high-quality, camera pipeline inspection videos/reports. We offer highly trained inspection experts for a safe, cost effective, environmentally-responsible service. You benefit from this unbiased, accurate report, perhaps saving you thousands of dollars. We saved our clients $257,000 in just the first half of 2014 in unneeded sewer line repairs. We create value to our customers by supplying high-quality color videos and written reports for better pipe analysis. We offer

  • Pipe inspection,
  • utility locating,
  • odor detection,
  • leak detection,
  • pressure testing and
  • root removal using Vaporooter.

Our company goal remains the same, to expose fraud in the pipe inspection business estimated to be $20,000,000 (million) a year in the Denver area.