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How Do I Unclog Tree Roots?

Unclog Tree Roots

To unclog your tree roots choose the right equipment for the job.

Important: a Clog Hog sewer jetter is not recommended to clean drains that could have tree roots, because it can't cut or flush out roots, and could get stuck in a preexisting crack made by the roots.

If you suspect that your drain could have tree roots or another solid object clogging the line, and you believe that the drain is in good physical condition, the best solution is usually to use a large drum auger (also called an electric sewer snake or rooter) with a root cutting blade to clear the line, or to hire a licensed plumber to do the job.

  1. Use a large drum auger to clear the tree roots.
    • Electric-powered drum augers can range in cost from under $500 for entry-level machines with around 50 feet of cable, to well over $2,000 for professional quality machines with longer reach.
    • Mechanical Drum AugerIn most areas you can rent a professional-quality drum auger with a 100-foot cable for around $100 per day.
    • Before choosing to rent a large drum auger, be aware that machines with 100 feet of cable can weigh over 150 lbs. and have likely been exposed to sewage on previous jobs. You will need a vehicle with a large, protected cargo area that's easily cleaned. You may also need tie-downs, along with a strong helper to move the rooter.
    • Before you begin, locate the drain cleanout opening closest to the problem area and an alternate opening on the opposite side of the clog if available. Estimate the distance from the problem area to both openings to determine the length of drain auger cable you will need, and then call the rental store to confirm availability of a snake with a root cutting blade and a long enough cable.
    • When you call the rental counter, also ask for the manufacturer and model of the drain cleaner, and before you go to the store find and read the user's guide online – including all safety information. If the guide is not available online, ask the shop for the user's guide and safety instructions.
    • While at the rental shop, check to make sure that different root cutting blades are included with the rental, and inspect the drum, motor, controls, and all visible portions of the cable for any excessive wear that could signal problems with the equipment.
    • Important: turning electric auger cables can create a powerful cutting force, so you'll want to read and follow the safety instructions for the machine. Always wear thick work gloves, eye protection and protective clothing when operating the machine.
  2. If you're not comfortable performing one of these steps, hiring a good, licensed plumber could save you money in the long run. To find a good plumber in your area:Licensed Plumber
    • Start by asking family, friends and co-workers to recommend a licensed plumber who has performed similar services for them.
    • If you are unable to find a good recommendation from someone you know, search local directories like Google Maps, Yelp and CitySearch for licensed plumbers nearby who have good online reviews. Don't always trust reviews from individuals who published very few other reviews, or from people who give only positive reviews to everyone. Be aware that good service providers sometimes get a small number of negative reviews for reasons that might not be relevant to your situation. Look for a company with several reviews that tell a positive, believable story about repairs that are similar to yours.
    • After you find one or more licensed plumbers who seem to have a good reputation, search online for the company name and the names of individuals at the company, if known. Take into account both the positive and negative information that you find about the company.
    • Be aware that good plumbers sometimes have a backlog of several days during peak times when there are low temperatures, heavy rainfall or holidays. Sometimes heavy demand can be a sign of a company with lots of repeat customers.

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