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  • Drain Field repair with Roto Rooter?

    I would appreciate the advice of this group regarding a problem I am having with a septic system which I have on a home which is hardly occupied. The basics are as follows: Had full septic tank pumped out and saw that the outlet pipe was totally clogged up with what looked to be roots that had grown down the pipe from somewhere in the drain field. I dug up pipe from the tank to about four feet out from tank and discovered a crack in the pipe where it had collapsed. By the way, this is an old system (at least 50 years) and the pipe leaving the septic tank immediately becomes the beginning of the drain field. I cut out the cracked piece of pipe and discovered more roots growing within the pipe. I was able to run my flat iron snake around 70 feet into the drain field pipe although I suspect that the roots exist all the way down the pipe, at least as far as my snake would travel.

    My question is, will one of the Harbor Freight drain machines allow me to cut the roots out of the pipe even if it takes me all day to do it? The pipe is the old black 4” drain field pipe with ½” holes in it every 6 inches or so. I’ve owned Harbor Freight power tools before and I know how to baby them in order to make them last beyond the first job one uses them for. I just don’t know if its feasible at all to try. The roots are not packed in too tight within the pipe, are not real big, and, I figure if I can cut them up with the cutters and keep on pulling the tool back out, that eventually I may be able to clear enough of the pipe so that water will flow and dissipate. The system is used very lightly. Maybe only once every month or so for a couple of days at a time. If “jetting” will work, I would consider that also, but, from what I can tell, “jetting” can help a drainpipe where solids have gone in from a filled septic tank but may not work well for roots.

    Any help from you “experts” will be appreciated. larryn

  • #2
    Re: Drain Field repair with Roto Rooter?

    When it comes to drain cleaning, I do not recommend a DIY person to attempt it at all. Call a professional, these machines can seriously hurt , and kill a person.

    Its just like a person can represent themselves in the court of law, but is not recommended at all.
    Ron Hasil Lic #058-160417
    A-Archer Sewer & Plumbing specializing in:
    Tankless Water Heaters | Drain and Sewer Cleaning
    Sump and Ejector Pumps | Backflow RPZ Testing

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    • #3
      Re: Drain Field repair with Roto Rooter?

      I would not use that type of machine on roots, Nor would I use the Ridgid K375 / K400 on roots, which is a similar type and size machine, the cable is not heavy enough to keep from flipping or possibly flipping in the pipe and getting so one can not retrieve it,

      Yes I have ran my Ridgid K375 in a pipe and have pulled out roots but I was very lucky, and I nearly got it stuck and it took a lot of working to free it. (yes one can be lucky), but I would not recommend it.
      I have never done what your talking about, (in a drain field) but I would use a larger machine with a 3/4" cable, and a spiral saw, I do not know if I would try to find the ends of the line and open it up to push the roots out or try to go in and retrieve them after cutting, some times the cable will catch them and they will come back and some times then just get pushed down the line,
      (since I do not have a large jetter), and then would probably treat the field with some type of root killer.
      the small jetter heads one can buy to convert a power washer to a jetter, normally will not hardly touch a root, but they make some heads that will tear roots out, (but they are not low cost), and are normally used on machines that are more than what a converted home power washer would be.

      as said the machines can be dangerous, and roots can create the conditions that make them very dangerous,

      regardless that size of machine is not what one would want to use for the job your describing IMO.
      I think you will just be wasting your money in trying that machine. or a machine of that size/type.
      Push sticks/blocks Save Fingers
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."
      attributed to Samuel Johnson
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      PUBLIC NOTICE: Due to recent budget cuts, the rising cost of electricity, gas, and oil...plus the current state of the economy............the light at the end of the tunnel, has been turned off.

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      • #4
        Re: Drain Field repair with Roto Rooter?

        If the pipe is full of roots, so is the leech field. Call a septic guy regarding repairs (if any) to the leech field and pipe.

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        • #5
          Re: Drain Field repair with Roto Rooter?

          As an Attorney, have you ever had a client that insisted on suing someone that had no traceable assets?

          This is basically what your trying to do with this leach field.
          Your "that" client and the leach field is the defendant.

          Without the benefit of checking out your system first hand, I'm guessing your leach field is done.

          Depending on soil conditions, use, and maintenance, 50 years for any leach field is pretty much beyond a useful lifespan.
          INSIGHT PIPE is now Maine Drain Serving most of ME with no charge for travel! 207-431-6232 is nolonger a working # our NEW # is 207-355-1476
          Sewer main snaking (roto rooting). Sink clogs. Sewer backup. Pipe inspection/locating. No Dig trenchless repair. Root clog removal.We are NOT to replace your local Plumber, as we do not do plumbing. WE ARE YOUR DRAIN CLEANING EXPERTS!!! www.sewermaine.com waterville winslow bangor augusta skowhegan fairfield pittsfield oakland

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          • #6
            Re: Drain Field repair with Roto Rooter?

            As a former septic install and repair guy I can tell you if that line is full of roots then replace it. You don't want to snake out a drain field you will just make it worse in most cases. You will likely damage the pipe and depending on the type of pipe and age it may be time to replace it anyways. As one that is not experienced with a snake I would say to not attempt it. If you can't afford to replace it right now. I would suggest having a plumber come out and asses the situation see if they may be able to snake or jett out the line but if you have roots it will just keep coming back with the perforated pipe. Your entire septic system will fail if they start clogging up the leach field lines then you will have to pay some one to pump it frequently.

            I usually recommend that there are no trees with in 100ft of the leach field if possible so keep that in mind. If you are able to open the line then you can try a chemical root treatment but do not use products that will kill the bacteria in the system. Still this is only a temporary fix until yo can afford to replace it.

            More info would be helpful

            1. What size of tank do you as far as gallons?
            2. How long is the sewer line from the tank to leachfield?
            3. Do you have a distribution box?
            4. How many lines do you have in the leachfield and how many feet?
            5. What kind of pipe is your system?
            6. How old is it?

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            • #7
              Re: Drain Field repair with Roto Rooter?

              what caused you to have the tank pumped?

              routine maintenence? or because the house backed up?

              if the former, jet the line to the field to remove the roots and open it op a little and wait and see

              if the latter, jet the line to the field to remove the roots and open it up a little and wait and see, but you field is probably done and you'll need a rip and replace.
              This is my reminder to myself that no good will ever come from discussing politics or religion with anyone, ever.

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              • #8
                Re: Drain Field repair with Roto Rooter?

                I'm in NC. Worked on MANY septic system as my father has owned/operated a septic business for 40+ years. Installation, repairs, pumping.

                Do not put any kind of machine with a cable on it in the lines.

                Based on the age of your system, it is also a waste to put a jetter of any kind in the lines.

                99% of drain companies and plumbers are not septic contractors, don't work with the systems, and don't know how to repair or replace them. Any one of them that tells you cabling or jetting will correct the problem has a much higher percentage to be incorrect.

                Call a septic contractor in your area.

                Good luck.

                J.C.

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                • #9
                  Re: Drain Field repair with Roto Rooter?

                  First, thanks to all of you that replied. I have learned at least one thing, and that is not to attempt to remove the roots with a harbor frieght tool. It looks as if that would be a futile and perhaps a dangerous operation. I do have a lot of respect for a spinning metal cable. In reply to Dan Lawrence's questions, here is my response. 1. 1000 gallon tank. 2. The leachfield begins right after the pipe leaves the septic tank. After a couple of feet, the pipe has 1/2" holes in it. 3. I don't think there is a distribution box since the leachfield appears to begin right outside the tank. There may only be one long line. 4. I have no idea how long the line(s) are, but I did put a flat iron snake in about 70 feet before it wouldn't go any further. 5. The pipe is 4" black pipe, kind of thin wall pipe with 1/2" holes every 6 inches or so. 6. System is at least 40 to 50 years old, but, like i said, only used perhaps 40 to 50 days a year, at most. I would certainly like to attempt a "fix" of some sort which would delay a major replacement of the drain field. Thanks again to all replies. I am sure glad I found this forum. larryn

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                  • #10
                    Re: Drain Field repair with Roto Rooter?

                    what matl is the pipe made of? abs plastic? I'm worried from the vintage that it may be orangeburg, which is kind of like tar paper spiralled up into a pipe. Honestly don't know if they even made leach lines out of it. I bring it up because that stuff is fragile.

                    again... what caused you to begin this? did you just discover the roots by accident when pumping the tank on maintenance, or did the system back up?
                    This is my reminder to myself that no good will ever come from discussing politics or religion with anyone, ever.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Drain Field repair with Roto Rooter?

                      Originally posted by larryn View Post
                      First, thanks to all of you that replied. I have learned at least one thing, and that is not to attempt to remove the roots with a harbor frieght tool. It looks as if that would be a futile and perhaps a dangerous operation. I do have a lot of respect for a spinning metal cable. In reply to Dan Lawrence's questions, here is my response. 1. 1000 gallon tank. 2. The leachfield begins right after the pipe leaves the septic tank. After a couple of feet, the pipe has 1/2" holes in it. 3. I don't think there is a distribution box since the leachfield appears to begin right outside the tank. There may only be one long line. 4. I have no idea how long the line(s) are, but I did put a flat iron snake in about 70 feet before it wouldn't go any further. 5. The pipe is 4" black pipe, kind of thin wall pipe with 1/2" holes every 6 inches or so. 6. System is at least 40 to 50 years old, but, like i said, only used perhaps 40 to 50 days a year, at most. I would certainly like to attempt a "fix" of some sort which would delay a major replacement of the drain field. Thanks again to all replies. I am sure glad I found this forum. larryn
                      Sounds like corrugated black plastic. Based on the age you say and that it is this pipe material, odds are favoring that the system has been repaired before.

                      If you have any trees near (elm, maple, weeping willow) the lines can be infiltrated and typically must be excavated to be repaired. And the fact that it seems
                      they have been worked on more recently than the original installation, your soil could be failing and/or the system would not be approved for todays code & "normal" use by people.

                      I say again ask around for a reputable septic contractor. And you may have to contact your local health department jurisdiction.

                      Good luck.

                      J.C.
                      Last edited by BobsPlumbing; 11-28-2009, 07:57 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Drain Field repair with Roto Rooter?

                        Sorry, I neglected to answer "ace plumbers" questions. The pipe a flexible plastic, maybe ABS, definitely not orangeburg. I discovered the problem after a year or two of kind of smelling sewage once in a while around septic tank. System never backed up into basement, but, when upstairs toilet was flushed, it always gurgled in the lower floor toilet. But, everything went down and out, at least somewhere. I dug up the cover at the inlet end, and pipe looked good going into tank. Had the tank pumped as it was full. Lots of solids down below and water the rest of the way up. Then dug up the cover at the outlet to see what was do'in down there and thats when I discovered the blocked outlet pipe and the crack in the pipe about two foot out from the tank. I cut the cracked piece of the pipe out, removed the remaining piece from the tank, and dug another foot or two and cut the pipe again, and the roots are still in pipe. There were no roots growing into pipe at the tank so I assume that the roots are coming into the pipe somewhere down the line and growing back toward the tank. There are a couple of 50 year old maple trees within 25 feet of the drain field line which may be the cause of the problem. These trees were probably very young at the time the system was installed. Also, even without the trees, the system is old and obviously, the best thing to do would be to replace it all. But, money is tight and I always try to fix anything before replacing. I was raised in a home where we fixed everything when it broke. Not the way things are done now a days.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Drain Field repair with Roto Rooter?

                          As a septic professional, I recomend replacing the drainfield and possibly getting rid of the trees. The tank may need to be replaced as well depending on an inspection. Go to www.nawt.org and look for an inspector in your area.

                          Good luck.
                          www.ClinkscalesSeptic.com

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                          • #14
                            Re: Drain Field repair with Roto Rooter?

                            trees don't have to be close. i had a job with roots once. the closest tree was 179' away. no trees had been cut. you sound like my dad. he had me dig the whole thing out when i was a kid. there is an easy remedy, but it is illegal so i will not be able to tell you. breid...........

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                            • #15
                              Re: Drain Field repair with Roto Rooter?

                              did the gurgling in the lower toilet go away after the tank was emptied?

                              what was the wter level in the tank relative to the outlet when you exposed it?

                              has the tank refilled?

                              if so what is the water level now relative to the outlet?



                              You pumped the tank, and when you exposed it to do so you found some problems, but nothing that's been said thus far indicates that the field has ceased taking water.

                              if it has, it may be due to an issue in the outlet line, or because the faield is failing, or both.

                              the expense of a new system is such that spending a few hundred to have the outlet line cleaned and tv'ed might be worth it.

                              if it turns out that the field has gotten slow, there are a variety of options for revitalizing it, none of them cheap, none of them certain, but maybe things to consider given the greater expense of a new system.

                              but before planning a solution, it makes sense to understand the problem. might be wasted effort given the age of your system, but I'd be figureing out what I had before just replacing it all.
                              This is my reminder to myself that no good will ever come from discussing politics or religion with anyone, ever.

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