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Blocked Drain Clearing Process

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Introduction To Blocked Drain Clearing Process

Waste Blockage

Sewer lines in Sydney can block up for many different reasons however we can put 90% of sewer pipe blockages into two groups. Sewer blockages are also known as a "Wastewater Blockage" or "Sewer Choke".

  1. Waste blockage

  2. Tree root blockage


Interesting fact: Clearing a blocked drain is not a Plumbing repair, it is a remote drain cleaning process.


1. Waste blockage

If your drains are in good working condition with no structural damage, defects, broken or cracked pipes you ​will not have any tree roots growing into your sewer pipes underground. This means the blockage will only consist of backed-up waste material inside your sewer line such as sewage, toilet paper, kitchen grease or food waste, sanitary or personal items, paper towels, solid laundry waste, wet wipes, or other foreign objects flushed down into your sewer system. This solid waste matter blocking the drain has simply accumulated inside the sewer pipe in one location, is not attached to anything and only requires clearing and flushing nozzles to move the waste on and down the drain (water jetting). Waste blockages are easy to clear and only require lower water pressures up to about 2000psi and a single drain camera inspection to confirm a clear drain and there are no other issues. 90% of waste blockages are normally cleared within 30 - 90 minutes, are a 3-step drain cleaning process (1-assessment, 2-water jetting, 3-camera inspection) and account for approximately 25% or a quarter of all sewer line blockages we clear.

2. Tree root blockage

If your drains are damaged or defective in one way or another with cracked pipes, broken or damaged sections, misaligned pipes, displacements, or failed pipe joints you will more than likely have tree roots growing into your sewer pipes. This means the blockage will consist of both backed-up waste material and tree root intrusions causing the sewer blockage. Tree root blockages are different to waste blockages because the tree root intrusions need to be inspected with a drain camera before, during, and after being cut and removed. Drain cameras do not work inside drains that are blocked with waste material so the backed-up waste will need to be cleared and flushed away first (water jetting). Unlike waste blockages that only block in one location, tree root blockages can impact a drainage line over many metres and multiple locations and require root cutting nozzles using higher pressures of at least 4000psi and multiple drain camera inspections to cut the roots back to the inside wall of the sewer pipe at each tree root entry point (root cutting). 90% of tree root blockages are generally cleared and tree roots removed within 1 - 3 hours, are a 4-step drain cleaning and root cutting process (1-assessment, 2-water jetting, 3-camera inspection, 4-tree root cutting), and account for approximately 75% or three quarters of all sewer line blockages we clear. Tree root intrusion is the number one cause of drain blockages in Australia.


Interesting fact: You cannot clear a drain blocked by tree roots in one process. Water jetting (drain clearing) and tree root removal (root cutting) are separate processes requiring different equipment. 

Note: Homeowners with tree root affected drains carrying out scheduled drain servicing to avoid blockages to keep their drains flowing only require a 2-step process (1-camera inspection and 2-tree root cutting) because they get their drains serviced before they block up so they don't need water jetting to clear the drain of backed-up waste and the Plumber doing the servicing will have been there on previous calls so no assessment is required as he will already know everything about the homeowners drains and access to their drains underground should be easy. All of this means a quicker service at a lower cost. Scheduled drain servicing for tree root affected drains you do not want to permanently fix is a no brainer!

A word of warning about tree root blockages and Plumbers up-selling

We get many calls each week from homeowners looking for advice because they believe they have been taken advantage of by a Plumbing business they have employed to clear their blocked drains. 

Interesting fact: Most people getting themselves into trouble with tradespeople are simply uninformed.


Sneaky Plumbers up-selling expensive drainage repairs and pipe relining work prey on unsuspecting and uninformed homeowners experiencing tree root blockages. They will only provide a lower price for a simple waste blockage (the bait) as they do not intend to carry out proper root cutting to clear your drain properly and may also substitute step-4 (root cutting) in their advertising with a suggestion of a permanent solution instead. That is fine, if in fact you are looking for a permanent solution, however most homeowners are not, and just want their drains cleared properly which means, if possible, removing all tree roots from all drains on every call. These Plumbing businesses have contempt for their customers, engage in misleading and deceptive conduct, make false representations about the Plumbing industry, "bait" uninformed homeowners with ridiculous "offers too good to be true" and "special deals" and pay their licensed Plumbers and unlicensed "technicians" (salesmen) commissions and bonuses to peddle their blocked drain scams.


Case in point: Plumbing business fined $75k for using Plumber to up-sell electrical Work.

To hard sell or coerce the homeowner into the drain repair or pipe relining work they first must gain access to your property and your trust. This is normally achieved by "baiting" the unsuspecting homeowner online or over the phone with an "offer too good to be true" which is usually a cheap price, a special deal or making false or misleading claims about the drain clearing process, which means their intent starts elsewhere and some time before they knock on your door. Once on your property the Plumbers will attempt to switch from the drain clearing service you think you are getting costing hundreds of dollars to a drainage repair or pipe relining service costing thousands or tens of thousands of dollars by trying to prove to you that the drain cannot be cleared, the tree root intrusions cannot be removed or your drains are too badly damaged so it is too dangerous to put their root cutting equipment into your drains by showing you the devastation inside your sewer pipes with their drain camera. This means "not" removing the tree roots to create a bigger impact on their customer is the desired result for the Plumber. Unfortunately, it is at this point you cannot win, and the Plumber cannot loose, regardless of your decision. You must either accept the expensive drain repair, or you decline the repair, the Plumber leaves with hundreds of dollars of your money for a substandard drain clearing service, which explains the "cheap price" or "special deal", you are left with a drain still full of tree roots and another blockage just moments around the corner. Meanwhile, the Plumber has moved onto their next victim who also thinks they are getting a "special deal" to get their drains cleared. Let's be clear, it's not opportunism, it's premeditated.  


All Plumbers who clear blocked drains come across tree roots that cannot be removed or blockages that cannot be cleared for one reason or another and that has always been a part of the blocked drain clearing business, however for honest Plumbers who clear blocked drains properly it is a rare occurrence, not on every call. Our policy is to arrive at your home with the sole purpose of only providing the service we have been asked to supply, clearing your blocked drain thoroughly, removing all tree roots if possible and providing professional advice. Any discussion regarding drainage repairs will be initiated by our customer, not us.


We are just not wired that way, probably because we are old school, or shock horror, we are just honest. We either clear your drain properly or quite frankly, we are not interested, and anyone foolishly looking for an "offer too good to be true", is unlikely to find it here. From our experience we have found the most susceptible homeowners to these types of plumbing scams are "price shoppers" or "deal hunters". To avoid being ripped off by ridiculous "offers too good to be true", "bait advertising", unrealistic "cheap prices" or "special deals" is easy, stop looking for them.

Interesting fact: To reline a drain, all the drainpipes must be totally clear and clean, and all tree roots must be removed, meaning you cannot reline a blocked drain with tree roots still in it. If you have been told that your drains need relining because the drain cannot be cleared or tree roots cannot be removed, just realise that before they reline your drains, they will have to completely "clean the drain" and "remove all the tree roots".

Interesting fact: Camera surveying a blocked drain is no different than putting goggles on and sticking your head in a bucket of mud, so inserting a drain camera into a "blocked drain" achieves nothing! CCTV drain cameras are a "visual" aid designed for Plumbers to "see" inside pipes that are buried underground after the drain has been cleared, so they only work in clear drains not blocked drains. So why do many Plumbing businesses say in their advertising that the first thing they do when they arrive at your home is to insert their drain camera down your "blocked drain"?

Assessing The Blocked Drain
Tree Root Blockage
Plumbers Up Selling

Blocked Drain Clearing Process in Detail


Assessment Of the Blocked Drain

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 underground 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.



Clearing The Blocked Drain - Water Jetting

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


CCTV Drain Camera Inspection

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.

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

Clearing a waste blockage is a 3-step process.



Removing Tree Roots from Drains

If you have tree roots growing into your sewer line, once the blocked drain has been cleared of all backed-up waste material to allow for a visual inspection inside the drain, root cutting is performed by visually positioning a tree root cutting nozzle at the point of root entry inside the sewer pipe with the aid of our CCTV drain camera then cutting and clearing the tree roots from the drain. We will then conduct a final drain camera inspection of the sewer line 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 your 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 in your drain or 20 or 30 tree root entry points?

  • The number of drain lines that need clearing - Are we clearing your main drain, or one branch drain from one access point or your 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 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 your drains in reasonably good condition with only 1 or 2 defects or are your drains extensively damaged and failing with many defects?

  • The design of the drainage system - Is your drainage system complex with 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 tree roots from 1 or 2 locations as in the video below or 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 as shown in the root cutting video below or cutting and removing large diameter or wiry tree roots?

No one can see underground. The above ground symptoms of a blocked drain underground are exactly the same whether the blockage underground is a simple waste blockage or a more complex tree root blockage, or something else entirely. So, it is important to understand that before we attend their home, we do not expect our customers to know what is going on inside their drains that are buried underground somewhere on their property. Likewise, Plumbers will not know what is going on inside a blocked drain underground until they have cleared and flushed away the backed-up waste material inside the drain (water jetting) and carried out a CCTV camera inspection. We also appreciate homeowners taking this information into consideration before questioning how long it will take to clear their blocked drain.

Removing Tree Root Intrusions

Clearing a root blockage is a 4-step process.


Before Root Cutting


After Root Cutting

Scheduled Drain Servicing

Scheduled Drain Servicing

If you are one of the many homeowners who already know you have established tree root intrusions growing into your drains and have been servicing your sewer line or stormwater drain on a regular basis to remove the tree roots to keep your drains running, our tree root blockage service will apply to you.


50% of our drain clearing work is providing blocked drain services to existing customers who require regular root cutting to remove tree root regrowth to maintain a clear and functioning sewer or stormwater system because they have made a decision not to repair the damage to their pipes which is allowing tree roots to regrow back into their drains. Continually cutting tree roots regrowing back into your drains is like pruning a hedge, once the tree roots have been cut and flushed away, they will grow back again over time causing recurring tree root blockages. Regular servicing of these defective drains before they block up will keep your sewer or stormwater system clear and flowing and extend the life of your drainage pipes without experiencing inconvenient and annoying full blown tree root blockages.

Why Is Scheduled Drain Servicing Important?

Tree roots grow into ageing drainage pipes through failed joint seals between pipes and small hair line cracks. Once the tree root has penetrated the pipe it grows both in "length" and "diameter" until cut back by the root cutting process. Blockages are caused by tree roots growing too long inside the pipe by catching waste material flushed down the drain line. Cutting or trimming roots back before they get too long will avoid blockages.


What destroys or rips the drain line apart is the growth in diameter of the tree root where it enters the pipes at the failed joints or small cracks. Not carrying out regular drain cleaning encourages too much root growth in diameter making cracks much bigger, wider and longer and displaces pipe joints which increases leakage from the drain that in turn attracts further root penetration which accelerates structural damage until eventually the drainage line completely fails or collapses many years or even decades earlier than it would have if regular drain servicing had taken place. Blockages caused by collapsed or failed drains cannot be cleared and cannot be saved or rehabilitated using pipe relining processes. The only option is excavation and removal of the damaged section of drain and renewal with the installation of new PVC piping.


Servicing sewer and stormwater drains with tree root intrusions on a regular basis by continually trimming the new regrowth back when needed will stop the roots growing long enough to create blockages and also stops the roots from growing in diameter which significantly slows down the ongoing structural damage to the underground pipes giving a much longer service life.


If you have decided not to rectify defective drains then regular drain servicing for sewer and stormwater lines can extend the life and serviceability of your drains for many years if not decades, potentially saving you thousands or tens of thousands of dollars on drainage repairs, service renewals or pipe relining costs and just simply makes sense.

Interesting fact: Experiencing a tree root blockage then letting the problem fester into another full-blown drainage nightmare can lead to an expensive disaster.

It is also possible to have damaged pipes without tree root intrusions causing recurring blockages however if you do have tree roots growing into your drains you will also have damaged pipes as in this instance you cannot have one without the other. If you are sick and tired of having recurring sewer line or stormwater drain blockages and continually clearing tree roots from your drains, you can talk to us about permanent sewer and stormwater drain repair options to stop this from happening.

Undoubtedly, all damaged, broken or defective drainage pipes at some time in the future will need to be fixed by someone, the question is, will that someone be you or someone else? Or! will that someone else be you? People buying and selling older homes with aging drainage pipes is like playing "musical chairs", when the music stops someone is left with a considerable expense. I am guessing you want that someone not to be you.

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 clearing blockages within its own sewer Wastewater System (Sewer Main Line) and is responsible for nearly 27,000 kilometres of public wastewater pipes while homeowners own another 20,000 kilometres of private wastewater pipes within the Sydney, Illawarra and Blue Mountains area. 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, blocked drain clearing, repairs or renewals needed to maintain a proper functioning private wastewater system to AS/NZS 3500* standards 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 System, 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 also use the following links to the Sydney Water website for more detailed information on wastewater blockages and general plumbing information.

*The AS/NZS 3500 series of Plumbing and Drainage Standards play an integral part in setting out design and installation requirements for plumbing and drainage systems both in Australia and New Zealand.

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

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