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Blocked Drain Clearing Process

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The following blocked drain clearing process has been used by all Plumbers in Australia for over 100 years. The only differences are the type of drain clearing equipment used and the introduction of CCTV drain cameras. In the beginning drains were cleared in a 3-step process using manual hand rods up until the mid to late 1970's at which point mechanical electric drain clearing equipment (electric eel) was introduced which was also a 3-step process with the only difference being the rods or cables were turned by an electric motor rather than by hand and used up until the mid-1990's.


Up until this point in time Plumbers did not have the ability to see inside drains to check the effectiveness of their work which meant they were literally carrying out their drain clearing work with a blindfold on. We cleared blocked drains this way for over 35 years until eventually in the mid to late 1990's high pressure water jet and CCTV drain camera and location technology made its way into the plumbing industry. The blocked drain clearing process hasn't changed in all that time with only the addition of another step in the process being a CCTV drain camera inspection so Plumbers can now actually see what they are doing.

Manual drain clearing hand rods and mechanical electric drain clearing equipment are still available today and used by a small percentage of Plumbers.

Blocked Drain Clearing Process In Detail

Sewer lines block up for many different reasons however we can put most sewer blockages into two groups.

  1. Waste blockages

  2. Tree root blockages

Waste blockages

If your drains are in good condition with no defects, you ​won't have any tree roots growing into your drains which means the blockage will only consist of waste material you have flushed down the drain such as sewage, toilet paper, grease, food waste, sanitary and personal items, paper hand towels, plastic toilet cleaners, wet wipes, or other foreign objects that can make their way into your sewer system causing blockages. Waste blockages are easy to clear, are a 3-step process and account for approximately 30% of all sewer line blockages we clear.

Tree root blockages

If your drains are defective in some way or another such as cracked, broken or damaged sections, displacements, misaligned pipes, or failed joints you will most likely have tree roots growing into your sewer pipes. Tree root blockages can sometimes be more complex to deal with, are a 4-step process and account for approximately 70% of all sewer line blockages we clear.


On arrival we will carry out an assessment of the blocked drain. 

  • Discuss the blocked drain symptoms and any history of drain blockages

  • Visually inspect the blocked drain symptoms you are experiencing

  • Determine the location of your sewer system on your property

  • Locate where your sewer connects to the Sydney Water Sewer Main Line

  • Estimate the location of the blockage within your sewer system

  • Look for suitable cleanout access to your underground sewer line

If suitable cleanout access to your drains is available, we will start the drain clearing work. If suitable cleanout access is not available or existing cleanout access is not suitable further work to access your drains underground may be required.



Assessing The Blocked Drain



Once we have gained access to the underground sewer line, we will setup our high-pressure water jet and CCTV drain camera equipment at the point of entry into the sewer line and proceed to clear the blocked drain using high pressure penetrating and flushing nozzles to clear and flush away all backed-up waste material to allow for a CCTV drain camera inspection to confirm a clear drain.

How long this will take will depend on whether we are clearing one line or multiple lines, how many metres of drain we are servicing the design of the sewer system and whether we are dealing with a simple waste blockage, or a more complex tree root blockage.

Clearing The Blocked Drain



After the drain has been cleared of all backed-up waste material, a CCTV drain camera inspection of the sewer line will be carried out to confirm the following.

  • Confirm the drain is clear and if further drain cleaning is needed

  • Determine whether the blockage was caused by tree root intrusions or something else

  • Inspect the drain for any faults or damaged or defective pipes

If our CCTV drain inspection shows a clear drain with no tree root intrusions our work is finished. If your drain is affected by tree root intrusions, we will move onto step - 4 below.

Inspecting The Cleared Drain

Why don't we carry out a CCTV drain camera inspection first?

We can only carry out a CCTV drain camera inspection first if your sewer pipes are clear. It is important to understand blocked sewer pipes are full of dirty wastewater consisting of floating or suspended faeces, urine, pulverised toilet paper, grease, food particles and everything else you have flushed down your sewer line creating a cloudy, dirty, and murky liquid environment inside your drains. If we did insert our drain camera into a blocked sewer line, we would not be able to see any further than a few millimetres in front of the camera head. Inserting a drain camera into a blocked sewer line is like putting goggles on then sticking your head in a bucket of mud! If the drain is blocked the first step is to always clear the drain of all wastewater and solids to create a clear pipe with no dirty liquid in it so a proper visual inspection can be carried out. The video below shows what you get when a Plumber tells you he will carry out a CCTV drain camera inspection of your blocked drain first! 

Clearing a waste blockage is a 3 - step process.

This is what A CCTV drain camera inspection of a cleared drain looks like.




After the blocked drain has been cleared of all waste material and visually inspected root cutting is performed by visually positioning a tree root cutting nozzle at the point of root entry inside the pipe with the aid of our CCTV drain camera then cutting and clearing the tree roots from the drain. We will then carry out a final camera inspection to confirm with you a clear drain. How long it will take to complete the root cutting process will be determined by the individual circumstances of each job and influenced by the following.

  • The length of the tree root affected drain - Are we clearing only 5 metres of drain or are we clearing 50 metres of drain or more?


  • The number of tree root entry points - Are we dealing with only 1 or 2 tree root entry points or 20 or 30 tree root entry points?

  • The number of drain lines that need clearing - Are we clearing the main drain, or one branch drain from one access point or are we clearing the main drain and multiple branch drains from multiple access points?


  • The diameter or size of the pipe - Are we clearing only 100mm or 150mm diameter pipes or are we clearing both 100mm and 150mm diameter pipes?

  • The piping material - Tree root intrusions in PVC pipes are usually isolated to one or two locations while tree root intrusions in earthenware pipes can impact an entire sewer system from one end to the other.

  • The structural condition of the drain - Are we dealing with a drain that is in reasonably good condition with only 1 or 2 defects or a drain that is extensively damaged and failing with multiple defects?

  • The design of the drainage system - Do we have to negotiate multiple bends and vertical shafts or are we working only inside straight pipes?

  • The degree of tree root impact - Are we removing a few small light roots from 1 or 2 locations or are we removing extremely heavy multiple root intrusions from 20 or 30 locations?

  • The species or type of tree - Are we cutting and removing small diameter or soft tree roots or are we cutting and removing large diameter or wiry tree roots?

Removing Tree Root Intrusions

Clearing a tree root blockage is a 4 - step process.

Free drain camera inspection

On selected jobs we also provide a free complementary 12-month preventative CCTV drain camera inspection to monitor tree root regrowth so you can avoid another full-blown tree root blockage. 


Before Root Cutting


After Root Cutting

Who Is Responsible For A Blocked Sewer

Who Is Responsible For A Blocked Sewer Line?

The Sydney Water Corporation owns, maintains and is responsible for its own sewer Wastewater Network (Sewer Main Line). Sydney Water provides homeowners with a point of connection (junction) to Sydney Waters Sewer Main Line for each property. Where your private sewer pipes connect to the Sydney Water Sewer Main Line can be located anywhere on or off your property - In your front yard, back yard, side of house, in your neighbours' property, parkland, reserve, bushland, under the footpath or road or other public area. The homeowner owns all of their private wastewater pipes and therefore is responsible for any maintenance, drain clearing, repairs or renewals needed to maintain a proper functioning private wastewater system including all internal branch drains under the home and all external main drains that run all the way to and including the point of connection with the Sydney Water Sewer Main Line even if that point of connection is beyond the property owner's land boundaries. If a blockage is anywhere within a private sewer line it is the homeowner's responsibility to contact a Licenced Plumber to clear the blockage in their sewer pipes. If you are not sure if the blockage is in your private sewer pipes or Sydney Waters wastewater network, you can call Sydney Water directly on 13 20 90 and they will ask you some simple questions to help you identify the location of the blockage. You can follow the link below to Sydney Waters website for more information on wastewater blockages.

If you require more information about our blocked drain clearing process, call us anytime!

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