I’m having problems with roots in my main sewer line. I’m planning to rent an auger to chop them up sometime later this week. This isn’t the first time I’ve had problems. A few years back they caused me some grief as well. Some people were asking about that, so I decided to put this writeup on the blog so that others can read and be amused by it. I certainly wasn’t amused at the time, so hopefully it can give others some joy. This occurred in May of 2002. I was working on some other projects at the time as well, so bear with me. The amusing stuff will happen if you keep reading.

Hey hey.. Well.. It’s been an interesting weekend.. Mostly negative, but a positive thrown in here and there just for grins..

All my stuff got delivered last wednesday night for the privacy fence that I’m putting around the backyard. I now have a garage full of lumber, etc. I’m estimating about 3 tons or so of stuff. I
could be off by a little bit, though. I’ve got over a ton of concrete and rock, though, so I don’t think I’m off by much.

Anyway… That came on Wednesday… I’ve had a slow drain in the toilet/shower area the past week or so.. If I flush the toilet a couple of times, water builds back up and it won’t flush again for a while. And, at the end of my shower, shower water isn’t draining down
into the shower drain. (That’s background information.. Will be pertinent here in a bit…)

When I saw it was going to be nice this weekend I decided that I would work on replacing the soffit/fascia on the house. I planned to start on the back side of the house, so that I could mess up back there and it wouldn’t be as noticeable as messing up on the front. So, the first step was to tear
down the old junk that was there. It appeared that they had used plywood for the soffit. However, once I started ripping into it, I discovered that it wasn’t plywood. Rather, it was that old paperboard
sheathing stuff, which doesn’t come down well _at all_. A hammer can hammer right through it, and most of it came down in chunks of less than one square foot each. I had to dig it out around all of the
nails, etc etc. And, in previous lifetimes, old fiberglass insulation had gotten shoved out on top of the soffit (from the attic) and that all came down on top of me, etc etc. I had to tear down some trim
before I could get to that part.. (and carefully take the staples out of some phone line that some former house owner attached to the trim) And, I took down an old light or two (not currently working) that had
been mounted in the soffit. Let’s see.. the house is 56 foot long.. I got about 40 foot tore down friday evening.

Took a shower, and went to bed. Woke up saturday morning planning to finish demolition and start construction on the soffit/fascia. Walked into the bathroom and discovered…. brown water (and shards of toilet paper)…. in the bathtub. Decided it was time to fix the plumbing…. A while back I had purchased some killer drain cleaner from the local hardware store. The jug came in its own protective thick plastic bag (it is 93% pure sulfuric acid) and I figured it was time to “take care of the
problem”. So, I got my scissors out, cut open the plastic bag, put on some plastic gloves (I can be sensible when we’re talking about pure
acid) and poured the recommended amount down the bathtub drain (after bailing all of the brown water out like the instructions said). Waited the recommended 15 minutes, the water had drained down (yippee!) and proceeded to “flush with cold water for 5 minutes”. 5 seconds into the 5 minute period, the water filled back up into the bathtub and that was
that. So, it wasn’t draining very well. Put more acid in, repeated this process for a while and ended up with a lot less acid, and not much progress on the problem.

Put a fair amount of water in, tried plunging various pipes.. (toilet, bathtub.. ended up squirting water out around the wax ring on the toilet.. Got fed up, decided to work outside for a while..

Went outside, finished tearing off the last 16 or so foot of the paperboard, also knows as the newest
building material that Kirby hates.. Climbed up on the roof, took off the hangers on the guttering.. Came back down, very carefully managed to get the 20 foot sections of gutter to the ground and was pretty well ready for demolition. About that time, my girlfriend showed up. So, we started working on putting up the 12 foot long pieces of F-channel for
the soffit. I discovered that the hammer that I was using had entirely too big a head to fit into the area that I had to nail into so, a trip to walmart was in order. Since it was supper time about
this time we stopped at sonic on the way. We got a hammer at the store, and she got some allergy medicine. Got back to the house; she
went inside at some point while I was working on nailing in the f-channel and came back out and asked me if I knew that none of the phones were working. Needless to say, I didn’t know that, and I can
only assume that when I was taking the staples off of some of the phone line that I screwed something up. Yippee! So, over the course of the
rest of the evening we got the rest of the F-channel up; I snaked the sink in the bathroom hoping that would fix some of the problems.. It didn’t; the sink drains really well now, though. And, I filled the
bathtub up with a bunch of water. When I tried to plunge the bathtub, the water would squirt out of the overflow hole. So, I filled the tub up some. Figured I’d let it sit that way over night and see what it

Woke up the next morning bright and early. The water level in the tub hadn’t dropped a millimeter. So, I tried to snake the bathtub. That didn’t work.. Couldn’t get the snake more than about 6 inches down the drain. And that water was cold… So, I figured it was time for more drastic measures. Dismantled the toilet, took it off its base and sat it aside. Snaked down the toilet hole. Got the snake down 10-15 foot,
it caught on something and wouldn’t budge. Dead end…. Figured I was going to need a new wax ring.. Went the Lowes.. Got a couple of wax rings and some Drano Max drain cleaner.. I’ve had good luck with the
Drano in the past.. Figured I’d give it a shot.. Got back, poured the Drano in the tub.. waited the standard 30 minutes, no drop in the water level,
repeated this a couple of times.

In the meantime, I was out working on the soffit. Hauled the table saw around behind the house; put the metal cutting blade in it (technically its a blade
made to cut the metal studs you can get now.. Works wonderfully on aluminum soffit, btw) Starting cutting soffit pieces and nailing them in. Scooted along quite nicely until I got to the first vent.. Slowed
down a lot as I had to cut holes for the vent (using a rotozip.. worked nicely, if a bit aggressive) But,
all things considered that moved along well.

So, it had been 30 or so minutes since the last Drano pour, and I went back in to check on it again; and, of course, nothing new had happened. So, I started plunging the bathtub again. Plunge, plunge, plunge… Wait.. is the water level dropping?! It is! Yippee! Cool.. drop drop drop.. Hmm… what’s that sound coming from the toilet hole.. Hmm.. the sound of rising water.. Hmm.. this isn’t
good.. Oh my gosh.. this isn’t good at all… So, as water started draining out the toilet hole onto the bathroom floor I started frantically looking for a way to stop the tub from draining. The little drain plug that I have doesn’t work very well, but I tried to
get it to work as best I could. I quickly learned that wasn’t working and started damage control. Towels, towels and more towels. As the water drained across the bathroom floor I attempted to keep ahead of
it, pulling magazines, etc out of the way of proceeding flood. I threw every towel I own into the effort and about this time I noticed the
overwhelming chlorine smell.. (apparently from the Drano… or the sulphuric acid… or one of the other sixteen drain cleaning products I had tried) and figured I had best get out of there. So, I got out. I walked around a little light headed in the front yard for a while and could smell the chlorine
in my nose for a good 5 minutes..

I was pretty down at this point.. Decided I’d call the girlfriend.. So, I got out the cell phone and called her. She was eating lunch, and said she’d finish that up and come over in an hour or so. I wandered around outside some more, not feeling really really well… poked my head in the bathroom, and noticed that the towels I had put down were all
bleaching out…. and decided I needed to use the bathroom, so I headed over to her place and figured I needed to get there before she left.. So, I did that, we came back, and the bathroom was still smelling pretty strong. I put fans in. and went back to working on the soffit again. We put a piece of the fascia cover on so we could see what the finished thing would look like.. and it looks _really_
nice. It looks so much nicer than the old version it isn’t even remotely funny. So, I continued on with the soffit and she started pulling the towels out to dry.. about 6 or so were bleached pretty good.. and she mopped in there.. I continued with the soffit.. Hit another vent; slowed down a lot.. And, to come to the close of a long story.. Ended up finishing the soffit on that side; we put the fascia covers on.. and I put the old roof edge back up (I’ve got new
purchased, but it seems to me that should go inside the gutters, so I’m going to get ahold of the gutter people and get their guidance before I put it on permanently.

I dug out the old wax around the toilet ring.. Put a new ring on, set the toilet back in place.. Verified that it wasn’t leaking (amazingly, it didn’t leak.. After the events of the weekend I was fully expecting it leak like mad)… Finished everything up.. Took a shower.. Noticed that the porcelain on the shower tub has been destroyed by the chemicals I’ve assaulted it with.. The water started backing up again at the end of my shower.. Poured some Drano down the drain before I went to bed.. Tried out all of the phone jacks I’ve got in the house..
Still no phone service..

I’m going to go under the house tonight.. follow all of the phone lines.. see if anything is obvious.. If not I’m going to give the phone company a call tomorrow and see if their little line test shows anything.. While under the house I’ll probably try to do some plumbing from the little emergency drain area down there.. We’ll see how it goes..


The phone line was actually messed up between the pole and my house, so the phone company came out and fixed the problem. I’m not sure what aggravated the problem. Likely it was me pulling on the cord at some point. Oh well. When I got under the house, I couldn’t do anything with the plumbing. The old cast iron pipes were rusted too tight for me to make any progress. So, I ended up calling a plumbing company (Mr. Rooter) and they came and instantly said “tree roots”. I didn’t have a drain access / cleanout point outside of the house, so they had to dig down to the main sewer line (about 2 feet), break a hole in the sewer line (which caused the majority of the hole to fill up with water that had been trapped behind the roots), and then put the auger into the sewer line. Sure enough, they got a few feet down into the sewer line and hit roots. They got it all cleaned out and put in a drain access point so that they (or me!) could easily get into the sewer line again if needed. And, for all this fun work they managed to charge me $691.67. $547.53 for putting in the clean-out, and $144.08 to do the snaking.


This time around, I’m going to rent the power auger from the local rental place and take care of the roots myself. I’m guessing I’ll save a hundred bucks or so.

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