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Repairing a blocked drain full of tree roots under a building
Tree roots are a very common reason for blocked drains or pipes, We explain how we solved the problem for a building in Brighton Le Sands, Sydney.

Repairing stormwater drain blocked by tree roots

The Instaplumb plumbing team was called out to a building that had a blocked drain in Brighton Le Sands. The building manager had been receiving complaints that the stormwater drains would always overflow and the car park would get flooded constantly. Initially they thought the stormwater drain might have been full of debris that was preventing water to flow corrrectly.

They had a handyman look inside the stormwater drain and clean it out although the problem persisted which means there was a blockage somewhere else in the line.

The only way to identify if a drain is blocked by tree roots or some other debris further down the line is to get a CCTV inspection of the pipes to literally see what is inside them.

Looking inside a blocked drain with a CCTV inspection camera

Our licensed plumbers have CCTV camera inspection equipment on board their vehicles that can be used to look deep inside the plumbing of a house, building, apartment block or business. Instead of putting lots of chemicals down the drain hoping it will remove the blockage you can get a plumbing contractor in Sydney to look in the piping.

As the CCTV camera is pushed down the pipes of your plumbing system you can view what is inside them via the external screen. As it gets pushed further into the plumbing system it will eventually reach the area there the pipes are blocked. Once our plumber can see that we can work out how to remove the blockage.

In the case of this building what we found was lots of tree roots inside the plumbing. Tree root ingress is one of the most common reasons drains get blocked in Sydney either for homes, buildings or even factories that have been built with nearby greenery planted. 

How can tree roots be removed from a blocked drain

There are a few different ways a plumber can remove tree roots from a blocked drain. 


1. Get access to the pipe and pull them out. 

The simplest way is to literally pull them out if it is possible and this can be the fastest solution to repair the blockage. To achieve this might require excavation to be able to break into the plumbing system and this may not always be possible (or financially sensible) if the property is surrounded by concrete or other hard surfaces.



2. High pressure water jet blast

For this building in Brighton Le Sands that had a blocked drain it was decided to get the plumber to carry out a high pressure water jet blast because it didn’t make sense to dig up all the piping. The high pressure of the water can cut through any debris that is in the plumbing so that it can wash down the pipe,  it is a bit like a high pressure saw just blasting or cutting everything out of the way. If the root build up isn’t too bad this might be all that is needed. We can normally work this out once we look inside the pipes with our CCTV camera system before we pull the high pressure system out.


3. Chemical based root treatment

For this building once we completed the high pressure jet blast, we followed it up with a chemical root treatment. By clearing the entire sewer line using the high pressure water then using the special chemicals it can slow the tree’s root growth so that it takes longer before the next blockage occurs.

Depending on the situation the tree may grow roots going in other directions but normally it will find the source of water again so over time they may eventually grow back. Alternatively they may even get through in other locations along the line. So really removing the tree is the only 100% guaranteed way to solve the problem. 

Getting a local licensed plumber is a good idea as they can use a product like ROOTX  thatcan help keep the pipelines free from live root blockages for up to 12 months and if required, get it done again annually for regular maintenance. RootX is a patented formula that foams on contact with water, reaching the top of pipes where 90 percent of root growth typically occurs. RootX sticks to pipe walls and can potentially prevent re-growth for up to two years, so that the pipes keep operating at a high capacity.


4. Replacing the plumbing

This sounds like a drastic repair solution to solve a blocked drain problem caused by tree roots, but sometimes the piping can be so damaged that it collapses. Some trees are so strong and the surrounding earth may also be moving that it puts so much pressure on the pipes that they can simply break and collapse, with the tree roots inside. We see this with older clay type pipes that have less tolerance compared to PVC piping which is more commonly used these days. If the plumbing system collapses then you have to replace it otherwise water will simply run into the ground and cause flooding.

What is the alternative to using chemical tree root treatment in plumbing?

Depending on the situation the other alternative to stop tree roots getting inside your plumbing is to get the pipes relined. This is a pretty common repair choice that is done for locations that have old style clay or ceramic plumbing.

Pipe relining provides a lot of benefits and is an excellent method for pipe repairs when they have cracks or damage from tree roots. Pipe relining can repair these situations and can be more cost-effective in some situations compared to pipe replacement or drainage excavation. 

The other benefit for a site like this is that it will be harder for the tree roots to make their way into the plumbing system because all the cracks, even tiny hairline ones, will be blocked by the new lining.

What does tree root removal from sewer pipes or drains cost in Sydney?

Firstly it is important to remember that no two situations are the same – therefore there is no single, standard price for tree root removal in Sydney. If anyone quotes a fixed price or a flat price like $195 inc gst for tree root removal we would suggest ignoring this.


How is it possible for a plumber to determine the extent of the work required & amount of time it will take to solve the blockage without even seeing the blockage itself?


That’s right, it is utter marketing rubbish that some plumbers in Sydney will use to try and lure people into booking them. What happens is once they are on site they make up other service items to then recover the costs of visiting the site.


For this specific job, the costs included;

a) CCTV Camera Inspection of the pipes

b) High pressure jet blasting of the plumbing

c) Chemical tree root treatment


all up it came to $660 ex gst which is a cost effective way to manage the problem compared to removing the tree completely or replacing the piping. Fortunately the tree roots weren’t too far into the piping system otherwise the job may have been more extensive. The plumbing wasn’t damaged to the point of needing replacement either.

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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