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Removing tree roots from a blocked sewer line in Sydney
Tree roots can grow inside your sewer line and eventually block it completely or even crack the plumbing. We explain how much it costs to get it repaired & what happens if you leave it too long.
Instaplumb sewer pipe repair sydney to remove tree roots

A blocked sewer in Kensington

The owners of this old home were not using the rear of their home because they had a blocked sewer lines. Our plumbing company does blocked sewer repairs in Kensington, Randwick and Maroubra quite often because there are lots of homes that were built using clay sewer piping systems instead of the more modern PVC materials used today. Repairing a blocked sewer is very similar to getting a blocked drain repaired.

The biggest problem facing any home owner that has clay pipe plumbing under their house is keeping tree roots from getting inside the sewer system. All it takes is a small crack for a root to slowly make it’s way inside, then over time they grow, expand and not only block the pipe, but can cause larger cracks or even total failures.

You might not notice this for months or years depending how quickly the tree roots grow inside the sewer line. You might be lucky and the toilet doesn’t get blocked, your shower drain doesn’t overflow & there are not any bad smells coming from your drains. 

Although once the tree root really takes hold inside, the sewer line will eventually become blocked and at some point the water won’t flow through it at all. For the people living in this old house in Kensington they put up with it for ten years. In fact they couldn’t even use their kitchen properly, they had to use a their bathroom sink to wash dishes or get fresh water. 

Our plumbers were called out to inspect the blocked sewer line & our scope of work became;

  • Hydro jet high pressure water blast of the sewer pipes
  • CCTV sewer inspection to identify what was the cause of the blockage
  • Assess any damage of the sewer pipe system
  • Provide a choice of sewer line repair options
  • Carry out the repairs to the sewer plumbing 
As we will explain below, once we did a thorough sewer line inspection of the situation we came to the conclusion that;
  • A Port Jackson fig tree had basically filled the sewer which caused the blockage.
  • The tree roots had grown so large that the sewer line had collapsed and broken.
  • The clay pipes were very old and now not repairable and had to be replaced.
  • New plumbing had to be installed to re-connect the hot water system, kitchen, toilet and laundry to create a working sewer system. 

Why is hydro jet drain cleaning used to unblock a sewer?

When a plumber arrives at a home to assess a blocked sewer pipe they will figure out the severity of the situation first. It might be possible to plunge the blockage to remove it. Although in more extreme cases, the only way to complete sewer blockage clearing successfully is to conduct a hydro jet drain cleaning service.

“You would do this before you even considered sewer pipe relining, if your plumber doesn’t offer the option of hydro jet sewer cleaning and immediately says it has to be replaced then get another opinion.”

Our licensed plumber will use the high pressure of the water to clean the insides of the sewer pipe system. We are able to push our hydro jet deep into the plumbing under the house to eventually remove most blockages. If there is debris, toys, sanitary wipes or other materials in there, our plumbing company can usually remove this with a couple of rounds of water jet blasting.


If the sewer line is either collapsed or completely blocked by tree roots then no amount of water jet blasting, chemicals or other techniques can solve this type of problem. If the sewer line has collapsed then even the hydro jet will reach a point that it can’t go any further.

For this home in Kensington that had a blocked sewer line the tree roots from the Port Jackson fig tree had grown so large it had not only collapsed the pipe, it ‘became’ the pipe. It totally cut off the rear portion of the house from being able to use any of the water services.

What is the point of using a CCTV sewer inspection company?

Once the plumber has completed the hydro jet we will test the lines again to see if water flows freely. If there is still a blockage the next step is to use the CCTV sewer camera inspection equipment to physically look inside the pipes. The high resolution CCTV camera can be pushed into the sewer system and we can view everything on a large screen to see what is inside the plumbing.

The benefit of getting your plumber to do a CCTV sewer camera inspection is you can also take a look to see what is causing the blocked sewer. It means you are not guessing & can then trust the plumber after seeing the cause of the issue yourself. This is a very common way to do sewer line inspections, in fact, we would say it is the only way to do it thoroughly, especially if you are using a licensed plumber.

For this CCTV sewer camera inspection in Kensington what we quickly discovered was the tree roots literally blocking the whole width of the sewer line. They had been growing in there for an estimated ten years and were rock solid in the sewer. There was no way a high pressure jet blast was getting them out and the line had collapsed as the roots had broken the clay piping over time.

So this meant the only blocked sewer repair option was to excavate and replace the broken sewer line sections.


Should you repair, reline or replace a sewer pipe in Sydney?

Instaplumb sewer pipe repair sydney blocked by tree root

The million dollar question we get asked every time we complete a sewer line inspection in Sydney;

  • Can the sewer line be repaired.
  • Does the sewer line need to be relined because it is broken.
  • Is it so damaged that it has to get replaced.

Unfortunately the answer is…..it depends…. let us explain

Whether you have to repair, reline or replace your sewer pipe will all come down to the existing conditions of the line and whether there is any existing damage. By carrying out a sewer line camera inspection we can see what the cause of the problems might be. From that point we can quickly figure out what the best repair solution might be. If that doesn’t give us the complete picture we might have to excavate to get a closer look at the pipe itself.

Either way we will then provide you the choice of;

  • Leaving the sewer line as it is.
  • Carrying out a repair which may require a portion of the line being replaced or installing a bypass line.
  • Relining your sewer line so that the existing plumbing is retained.
  • Replacing the sewer line system if it is completely destroyed or collapsed.
  • Installing a new sewer line that can connect to your existing services.
Sometimes we can do a mixture of these actions to satisfy your available budget, the type of building site it is & the severity of the problem.

Sewer pipes plumbing repairs

The most common job our company is called out for is to have a licensed plumber visit a home, strata unit block or business to inspect the cause of a blockage but then carry out sewer pipe plumbing repairs. In most cases we can do this on the same day while we are always available for emergency situations if a sewer line bursts for example.

The sewer pipe plumbing repairs might take a few hours or a couple of days depending on the extent of the work required and the type of site it is.

Was sewer pipe relining a possible repair option?

In some situations there isn’t any need to replace or remove the existing sewer line plumbing, instead a section can be relined to restore some level of capacity to carry water & stop tree roots getting in. For the pipe at the rear of this home in Kensington that wasn’t possible, the pipes were so badly broken and cracked that the only solution was for them to be replaced.


The front half of the house also had clay pipes running under it so these could have been relined to then connect to the new PVC plumbing pipes we installed in the back half of the home. This would give the owners a longer lasting solution to prevent the same problem from happening again.

For this home in Kensington the owners chose not to do that so it means they have clay pipes running under their home and with the amount of trees around them, there is a high chance more roots will enter their system. So we recommended chemical treatment be completed to help stop roots getting into their plumbing, similar to this unit block.

How did we repair this blocked sewer line in Kensington

hydro jet drain cleaning for a sewer in Kensington

#1 High pressure pipe cleaning

First step was to use our high pressure water jet pipe cleaning equipment to make try and clear the sewer line blockage. Clearing a blocked sewer line using this method is normally all that is needed. Although it just depends how badly blocked the lines are or if they are damaged.

Sewer line camera inspection in Kensington

#2 Sewer pipe camera inspection

Once we do the high pressure jet blast we will try and run water down the lines to test if they are working. If water doesn't flow correctly the next step will be to use our CCTV sewer pipe camera inspection tools so that we can look inside the lines.

The high resolution screen will let us see exactly what is inside the plumbing system to figure out how to repair or replace the sewer line.

Instaplumb sewer pipe repair sydney with tree roots

#3 Removing a broken sewer pipe line

As we mentioned, the camera inspection showed us exactly where the sewer line was blocked by the tree roots. This meant we knew exactly where to begin excavating to remove the broken sections of sewer pipe line in the back yard of the house.

Instaplumb sewer pipe repair sydney to fix kitchen or bathroom plumbing

#4 Installing new sewer line plumbing

Once the excavation was complete, we were able to remove the broken clay pipe section, tree roots and any other debris. This helps create the space needed to install new sewer line plumbing so that it can be connected to the rest of the existing system that was in place. We used PVC piping which will be more durable and less prone to tree root ingress compared to clay pipes.

Instaplumb sewer pipe repair sydney water overflowing

#5 Repairing the ground area

Once everything was re-connected we could back fill the excavation so that a new concrete foundation could be laid to restore the area to its original condition. This element of repair and renovation can be done to ensure the home is returned to its normal working order.

Instaplumb sewer pipe repair sydney blocked drain

#5 Hot water, tap and toilet re-connection

With the new sewer line installed and connected the last steps of this repair work was to re-connect the hot water system, kitchen taps and toilet so that everything was working as it should.

How much does a blocked sewer repair cost in Sydney?

The cost to repair a blocked sewer in Sydney will vary from $500 to $15,000 inc gst – sounds incredibly crazy right that the cost variation would be so much. Although there is absolutely no way to provide a set price for sewer line repairs in Sydney because the extent of the work needed will vary from site to site depending on the complexity of the blockage and if there is underlying damage that also needs to be rectified.


“If you see something like “Blocked Sewer Repair for just $195 inc gst” then run a million miles.”

It is impossible for any plumber to provide a fixed price on a plumbing repair service for something where the scope of work that can vary in size, complexity and time required.

What did this sewer line repair cost & how long did it take?

  • 4 days of work
  • Multiple licensed plumbers
  • Diagnosis, removal, re-installation and remedial work
  • High pressure water jet blast
  • CCTV sewer line camera inspection
  • Excavation & re-instatement of concrete
  • Re-connection of hot water system, toilet and kitchen
  • New toilet suite and piping cored through the wall
  • $8,000 inc gst
If all that was needed was a high pressure jet blast and maybe a camera inspection then it may have only been around $800 inc gst.
Could this sewer line repair cost have been avoided? Absolutely it it was repaired a lot earlier, but it had been left for ten years which made the scale of the job so much larger than it needed to be.

How can you tell your sewer line may be blocked

Like anything around your home you can normally avoid costly repairs if you pay attention to the warning signs. This applies equally to homeowners or people renting a property.



1. You notice your water bill costs fluctuate
Your monthly water usage will change over the year, especially in warmer months in Sydney. Although if there is a leak in your sewer line or other parts of your plumbing system that causes a continuous flow of water this can slowly add up to your overall water usage. A licensed plumber can identify the location of the leak and then repair it. 



2. You can hear a gurgling noise from the pipes
The occasional gurgling sound is common in any plumbing system. However, constant gurgling is a symptom of a bigger problem, such as damaged or blocked sewer pipes. When the water cannot drain properly in a blocked pipe, it releases air pockets, making gurgling sounds. You can use a plunger to release the blockage if it’s small.

However, if tree roots, grease, or calcium deposits cause significant blockage in the sewer line, you have a much bigger problem to deal with. This is why a plumber might use a hydro jet high pressure water blast to get deep into the system to clear it. If the line is damaged, they’ll need to replace the joints or sections to restore the line.



3. Water drains really slowly
When there is a problem with the sewer, the water typically takes a fair while to drain away, maybe it is just a slight delay as water washes away in a sink or a toilet. Your toilet might flush and you notice the water rises first or even stays in the bowel for a while. These are a sign of a blockage in the line.



4. Your have damp patches in your back yard
You might have noticed a second of your grass that is a bit soft as you walk on it or always seems to be a bit muddy even if it hasn’t rained. This could be from a leak rising from the sewer line. A leak that is strong enough to rise to the ground level surface means there is a pretty severe problem.



5. There is a constant smell of sewage
There is a difference between the smell of sewage outside and the smell of sewage in your pipes. If you smell sewage every time you walk outside, there is likely damage somewhere in the sewer line. You’ll need to get the line fixed to restore the line and stop the sewage smell in your yard.

If the smell is coming from the pipes inside your house, a blockage is causing the sewage to back up. The smell is from hydrogen sulfide gas, which can be toxic and lead to health issues. Regardless of where you smell the sewage, you’ll need to address the problem as soon as possible.



6. The toilet bowl water seems weird
Several things can cause fluctuations in the toilet bowl water level. For instance, if the plumbing air vent is blocked, it can affect the water pressure, which causes the toilet water to go up and down. The waste pipe coming out of the toilet bowl may not be positioned correctly. The issue could be further down the sewer line that isn’t letting water flow out from the toilet after every flush.

Dean Doncevski
Dean Doncevski

Dean is the director of Instaplumb Pty Ltd and manages his team of licensed plumbers in Sydney who can diagnose, repair and take care of any type of plumbing problem you may have at your home or business.

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