Why is my Drain Blocked?

tree roots blocking up a pipeTree Roots

The most common reason why people get blocked drains is because of tree roots. Living in such a beautiful, leafy, green city has its downside. Tree roots can enter a pipe many different ways but the most common is through a crack in the pipe. Cracks in pipes are caused by ground movement, material fault, poor installation or by large tree roots putting pressure on the pipe. Earthenware pipes (clay pipes) are very common in the older suburbs of Brisbane. This type of pipe is is quite hard and brittle and will crack easily. It also is sealed using a rubber gasket which degrades over time also allowing tree roots to enter.

Many houses built before the 1980s will have earthenware pipes below the ground. Over the years tree roots enter these cracks, often making the cracks even larger allowing more roots to enter the drains. Hydrojetting unblocks the drain quickly and removes the tree roots from the full internal bore of the pipe. Our herbicidal foam treatment guarantees that the roots will not grow back for 12 months.


A drain being blocked is a common problem in both commercial and residential areas of Australia. With blockages come unique problems and causes. Some clogs are caused by sediment build-up, or dropping of foreign objects such as hair, grease build-up and more. There is one major cause that can end in extreme damages to pipes, and that is tree roots. If your home is in a green neighbourhood in Brisbane, then you are like to be affected by a tree root problem at some point.

Although trees will enhance the appearance of your land and supply you with fresh air, they can be a threat to your sewer line. Tree roots growing downwards into the ground and further into the sewer line are likely to block your system. This is an extremely difficult thing to deal with and also very expensive to fix. The amount of time, labour, and equipment needed to repair such a blockage is major, and that’s why it’s one of the most expensive plumbing repairs. The most dangerous thing about it is that before you even notice the issue, it will have done a great deal of destruction.

How It Happens

Earthenware PipesTree root drain blockage does not happen instantly. It’s a problem that builds up over a long period of time. Although there are different ways that tree roots can find their way to the pipe, they can only find their way in through a crack. First, the roots grow downwards into the soil and then make their way to the sewer line and exert pressure to break the pipe and gain access. Most cracks in a piping system come from poor piping. The plumber may have done a poor job while installing the system by leaving weak points where the roots could find their way into the pipe.

Another cause could be the material the pipe is made from. For instance, earthenware pipes are common in most old suburbs of Brisbane. These pipes are known for being hard and brittle and will easily crack with next-to-no pressure. This form of piping is sealed with rubber gaskets, which also degrade with time, hence allowing tree roots to enter. Once a small root finds its way through the crack, it will grow bigger, and this will enlarge the crack, allowing for more roots to enter the sewer system. With time, the roots will grow bigger inside the sewer system, and that’s how it’ll get blocked.

3 Signs of Tree Roots Blocking Drain Pipes

There are different ways to tell that tree roots have found their way into your drainpipes. The first thing you may notice is a slow flow of drainage into the sewer or frequent blockages. Apart from that, here are some of the signs that tree roots may have grown into your sewer system.

1. Patches of green in the leach field

If you start noticing bright green patches around the sewer line, this is an indication that tree roots may have blocked the distribution pipe. When tree roots block sewer pipes, nutrient-rich water will leak, and this will support the grass and land where it leaks. So, if you start seeing patches of a brighter green near your sewer line, it’s a good indication of tree root blockage. With time, the grass and soil beneath it will appear healthier than the rest of the surrounding vegetation. If you are having a problem with your draining system, this is something to look out for and be mindful of.

2. Spongy or Soaked Lawn

 If you notice an unusual sponginess or visible puddles of water on your lawn, this could also indicate tree roots in your drainage system. You should have the system repaired immediately to avoid worsening of the condition. Always remember that this is untreated sewage leaking and thus it’s a health hazard to your family, neighbours, and pets.

3. Odours

Untreated sewage issues are always accompanied by odour. If you spot a pool of water forming anywhere on your lawn, check for odour. If you notice odour in or around your home, make sure that you have a check for tree root blockage.

How to Deal With Tree Root Blockage

Sewer LinesThe intrusion of roots into your drainpipes can require a range of solutions depending on the extent of damage caused. If you realise that there is slow movement in the sewer and you’ve assumed the tree roots have caused it, you can use chemicals to get rid of them. There are chemicals that will stop root damage without killing the plant or tree entirely. Other chemicals will promote bacterial growth to speed the decay and removal of roots. These are simply DIY measures to unblock the drain.

In some cases, you may need a replacement of the destroyed section of the pipe if the damage done to the pipe is irreparable. The next thing to deal with is the cause. There are two ways to avoid the problem from reoccurring: uprooting the tree, cutting the roots, or realigning the sewer line. You have to find a method that will be cost effective and timely efficient. You may uproot the tree, but if it is too large, you can still stop the roots from spreading to the drain from other ways. If the methods found are too expensive for you, it would definitely be economical in the long run to have your sewer system relocated far from any trees.

How to Keep Roots from Wrecking Your Sewer Line

It’s natural for plant roots to grow downwards. It’s best to plan your sewer line so that the chances of getting in the way of the roots are minimal. Here are different ways that you can keep roots from wrecking your sewer line.

• Creating a barrier between the trees and sewer line

Creating a barrier between any trees and your sewer line will help avoid tree root damage. Some of the commonly used barriers or root growth inhibitors are copper sulphate and/or potassium hydroxide. Simply spread these inhibitors near the sewer line and your system will be safe from root damage.

• Planting sewer-safe

If there is a small tree in your compound, you can have it uprooted and relocated to create a permanent solution. Consult the best arborists in Brisbane to guide you in selecting the best trees and locations in your compound. They will advise on trees you can safely plant near the sewer line and those that should be planted at a distance.

• Inspections and maintenance

Make sure that your drainage system is inspected before installation to avoid the possibility of any mistakes and damage. Ensure that your system is regularly maintained, this is the main way to avoid these issues, consistent maintenance.

Collapsed or Damaged Pipes

Pipes can also be damaged or collapsed over time. Damaged pipes can be caused by construction processes, heavy equipment driving above, severe ground movement and many other possibilities. When this happens, we can identify the problem using our camera inspection equipment. A high definition recording of the damage can be supplied to you via USB should you require it. Using our radio frequency locator we can accurately locate the issue and even determine the depth. Old, deteriorated pipes are very common in older areas of the city, often even when there are no tree roots to promote more extensive cracking.


Collapsed PipesCollapsed or damaged drainpipes are common reasons your drain line can become blocked. Over time, your sewer piping system may be subject to forces that may damage or cause it to collapse. Apart from the blockage, this will result in overflowing drains that will make your home look and smell awful. The hygiene level in your home will be alarming, and this is not good for your health and everyone living in the home, including pets. Collapsed pipes are one of the toughest drain problems to solve since sometimes it does not show any sign of where the problem is coming from.

According to many plumbers in Brisbane, this is one of the toughest drain problems to deal with. The tools and the level of labour required to restore the sewer line are massive. The fact that sometimes you might not get any idea where the root of the problem is makes it very difficult to deal with the problem.

Causes of A Collapsed Drain

First, you need to establish the cause of the clog before you can start with any sort of repair work. This is never easy especially when there are no clear signs of the cause. There are a number of things that lead to a damaged and/or collapsed drain system. Here are some of the major causes:

• Wear and Tear

In most parts of Brisbane, collapsed and damaged drain lines are caused by wear and tear. Most of the drainage lines were installed a long time ago, and thus they are almost at the end of their useful life. As the piping material ages, it begins to deteriorate and weaken. It reaches a point where it can no longer withstand even the slightest pressure exerted by the soil above. At some point, the pipe will become unable to handle the pressure and it will collapse. The water coming from your house will not pass, and that’s when your drain will become severely blocked.

• The Root Damage

Although trees add beauty and value to your home, they can also destroy your drain line. When tree roots grow down, they come into contact with the drain lines surrounding them, and they are likely to cause damage. The roots may damage the line by exerting pressure that breaks the pipe or enters directly into the pipe via small cracks. If the tree root gains access into the pipe via a crack, it will start growing from the inside and eventually crack the pipe as it enlarges in diameter. The cracking will allow foreign material such as soil and other debris into the pipe, or the root will grow from the inside and block the flow of the sewer. Leaves falling from the trees may also get into the drain line and build-up as well.

• Drains and Pipes Freezing

Drain blockages are common during cold winter months. The science behind it lies within the expanding and contracting of the surrounding ground and pipe itself. When the temperature rises just a little, the ground gets heated, it expands, and this transfers to the pipe. When the temperature lowers, contraction happens to both the ground and your pipes. The expansion and contraction will really exert pressure on the pipe, and it can completely collapse. That’s the reason why most blockages are likely to happen during cold seasons.

• Poor Maintenance

Like any other aspect of your home, drain lines should be maintained routinely. Negligence is the leading cause of a system breakdown. Most damage can be spotted and fixed before becoming worse, so long as you have proper maintenance. If you neglect the sewer line for years, you are likely to suffer from collapsing drainpipes and/or other damage.

• Ground Movement

Earthquake Pipe DamageThere are many reasons that would make the ground move; slope instability, stress, thawing, freezing, mild earthquakes, or any sort of disruption surrounding the pipeline. The drainpipes are quite rigid and sometimes brittle, and a small twist can cause fractures and damage to the pipe. Movement of heavy machinery above the pipe can also cause the pipe to fracture and get damaged.

• Human Factors

Sometimes, pipes collapse and become damaged as a result of human activities. Utility companies working close to your home are likely to affect your sewer line. If they are digging or moving heavy machinery, this causes additional stress on your drain line.

Signs of Collapsed and Damaged Drain Pipes

It’s important to learn the signs of blocked, collapsed and damaged pipes. This will help you to identify the problem before it worsens. Here are some common signs of cracked, broken and/or collapsed pipes. If you notice any of these issues, please call a professional plumber to fix the problem before it gets out of hand.

• Foul Odour

It is easy to notice foul odour if your drain becomes blocked. The overflow coming back up the drain often contains untreated sewage and result in foul smell into your home. The odour would be coming from near the place where the damage is.

• Bubbling Noises

This is one of the most common signs that you should observe. If you start hearing bubbling noises anytime you use your toilet or any of your sinks, this is a clear indication that your drain could be damaged or collapsed. In such cases, this bubbling noise comes from air trying to escape the collapsed drain line.

• Backing Up

If your sewer starts backing up, this is also a sign that your drain line has most likely been damaged. The overflow is usually caused by an obtrusion between the main sewer line and house trap. If you notice that water is not going down freely, please make sure that you have contacted a plumber to help out.

Repairing Collapsed and Damaged Drain Pipes

If you suspect that your drain piping is damaged, it’s important to call a professional plumber to properly assess and correct the problem. Repairing a collapsed and/or damaged drainpipe is not something that you can do by yourself; you need a licensed, experienced, well-equipped plumber in Brisbane. Call us anytime you have a problem.

Root Killer ChemicalPreventative Measures

It’s possible to place precautionary measures to prevent your drain line from collapsing. Here are some of the preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of your sewer system collapsing:

• Trees in your compound: use chemicals to kill off roots or inhibit tree root growth near your pipes. Use of physical barriers would also work to deter the growth of roots near the drain

• Replace ageing pipes; particularly clay pipes in most of the old suburban areas in Brisbane

• Carry regular inspection of the drainpipes


In restaurants, commercial kitchens and even at home, grease builds up in drains leaving only a small aperture for the waste to pass through. Commercial kitchens often drain to a grease trap which catches the grease before entering the council sewer. These grease traps require pumping out at regular intervals however the pipes that drain in to them are often left unchecked. Hydrojetting will dislodge the grease and flush it through. We use a grease dissolving product called grease blaster which prevents grease sticking to the pipe further down after it is flushed out. This prevents similar issues from reoccurring in the future.


When it comes to a drain block, one immediate guess is toiletries or foreign particles such as hair, sand amongst other things. Rarely do homeowners think of grease, oil, and fat as the main cause of a clog. Grease clogged drains are some of the truly nastiest plumbing problems that one can ever encounter. In fact, it is one of the hardest drain issues to deal with. What makes the grease so immensely difficult to deal with is its formation. Oil and fat will build up over an extended period of time along the entire length of the pipe, along the walls, and inside the sink traps. When it blocks your system, it will have already formed a very thick, rigid layer in the pipe that is tough to clear.

It can take years for grease to block a drain system completely. Grease will begin forming on the walls inside the pipes before it gets very bad. Unlike other blockages that may only affect a small section of the pipe, grease can affect the entire piping system. This is what makes dealing with grease clogs very difficult with. Apart from blocking the sewer system, grease clogs can get very messy, unhygienic, smelly, and will make your home uncomfortable to live in. But how does this happen and how can you deal with such problem when it occurs? In this article, we are going to discuss everything you need to know about a grease-clogged drain.

Where Grease Comes From

Most of the grease clogging your drain comes from the food that we eat. With modern eating habits, a majority of the food that we make contains high levels of fat and oil. A good percent of the fat and oil remnants are washed down the drain. Most of the foods that are known to contain high levels of grease, fat and oil include dairy products such as cheese and butter, cooking fats, and fat based soaps amongst many other things. Note that these problematic soaps are either animal or vegetable based… So, basically, anything that comes from food is likely to be a cause of a grease-clogged drain.

How It Happens

Every time you wash plates, cooking pots or use your dishwasher, a small-to-large amount of fat and grease residue will get into your drain. It’s hard to notice a lot of the grease since it’s in liquid form and usually concealed. As cold water goes down the drain, the excess grease loses temperature and then starts to solidify and collect along the interior walls of the pipe. The solid grease combined with other materials such as hair, coffee grinds and eggshells can form a thick mortar that is very difficult to remove. With time, it will accumulate and reduce the size of your pipe, and that’s when the flow of the sewer will start slowing exponentially. The build-up may happen over a prolonged period of time but will get to a point where liquids cannot flow anymore.

Where Does It Accumulate?

Grease in PipesMost grease comes from the kitchen and bathroom. Most of the grease materials come from the kitchen and mostly the sink traps. Liquids containing grease, fat and oils are responsible for many plumbing problems. It’s general knowledge that the kitchen is the most affected place in the home and you will find the sink drains often fail at some point. Often times, sink traps are the most affected by grease clogs. As the warm soapy water containing grease goes down the drain, it cools in the traps, and the grease solidifies. The solidifying grease then builds up on the traps where it then combines with other particles and eventually blocks the sink.

Some of the grease clogging your drain also comes from the bathroom. There are numerous types of soaps and detergents formulated with fatty materials, and they are responsible for producing greasy content when used. The soap goes down the drain where the fatty or greasy material solidifies and collects on the sides of the pipe. The collected grease combined with other particles such as hair will form a solid mortar that’s extremely difficult to clear.

How to Deal With Grease Clogged Drain

It’s indisputable that grease is one of the toughest drain clogs to deal with. There are different ways to deal with this problem, but that’s determined by the extent of the clog. Some clogs are simple to deal with while others are extremely hard. Here two main ways that you can deal with grease drain clogs.

1. Homemade Method

Different homemade methods can be used to clear grease clogs. Hot water and vinegar combination is one of the simplest DIY methods to deal with grease-clogged drains. This method works best for lighter clogs particularly for kitchen and bathroom sinks. All you need to do is boil water and pour it down the drain and then follow it up with the vinegar mixture. The hot water works by melting the grease away while the vinegar will eat into the grease sticking along the drainpipes. Dish soap and plunger can also be effective methods for clearing simpler grease clogs.

2. Commercial Chemical Based Cleaners

If the homemade method fails to clear the clog, you should consider caustic cleaners. Most of them are DIY methods as well. These are chemicals that are high in alkaline and corrosive materials that are used as cleaning agents. Most of these chemicals are potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide and very effective in clearing grease and oily liquid build-up. This method works best for stubborn grease clogs. All you need to do is pour an ample amount of concentrated caustic cleaner down the drain and let it stand for an hour or night. The solution will eat into the grease and unclog the drain. Keep flushing until the water can start flowing freely down the drain.

Powered drain auger is another option of chemical cleaners that you can try for stubborn clogs. To make the auger more effective, you can combine it with the hydro jet equipment. You can also use compressed air such as CO2 to push down the clogging grease, which has proven to work very well with any of the cleaning chemicals.

3. Call a Professional Plumber

If none of the DIY options work, you need a professional plumber to deal with the problem. The clog might need extra equipment and expertise to deal with. If the clog has spread along the entirety of your piping, none of the mentioned methods can clear that kind of clog. You should hire a professional plumber who has the experience, expertise and equipment to help unblock the system.

How to avoid Grease clogged drain

Grease Clog PreventionPrevention is the best way to deal with possible grease clogs. If you have experienced the hell of a drain clog or even if you are amongst the lucky few who hasn’t, you need to put in place measures to avoid such plumbing problems. Here are some of the measures that you should take to avoid such grease clogged drain:

• Avoid flushing fats, oils, eggs shells, or any other greasy materials into the sink

• Soak greasy dishes in a grease-dissolving cleaner before actual cleaning. This will help reduce the amount of grease going into the drain significantly.

• Install grease traps to capture fat and grease material from the water going into the drain.

Sand, Silt and other Debris

Sand and silt can often enter pipes particularly storm-water drains. A hydrojetter easily flushes the sand through and unblocks the pipe. Concrete occasionally enters drains during construction work however it is a simple process to remove using a hydrojetter. Other debris can have a similar clogging effect when stuck in pipes. As junk gets caught in the pipe and builds up over time, it can cause nasty problems with blocking other things from draining away and build up to further issues.


There are many causes that may cause drain blockages; sand, silt and debris being the leading causes. In most cases, open drain lines are the most affected and it happens often during the heavy rains. Floodwater getting into your sewer line brings in sand, silt and debris that can build up over time to cause clogging. To ensure that your drainpipes are safe from the above problems, you should consider carrying out regular maintenance. What you can do at home is clear leaves in the gutters and the lawn. Take care of your lawn and sewer system and that will make sure that you don’t spend a lot of cash like you would when professionally unclogging. It will also save you time that you can dedicate to other important times in life. Below is some detailed information on how sand, silt and debris can cause a clog and the ways you can remove them from your sewer line.

Where Do They Come From?

As much as you may avoid it, you will always experience sand, silt and debris in your drainage pipe or sewer line. The daily things that we use primarily cause clogging. Some of the causes include detergent, soaps, food particles, grease, sand, hair and silt amongst other debris.

Most women tend to style their hair in the bathroom, if they do. Dead hair will fall onto the floor, and due to ignorance or a lack of knowledge, many people will sweep it to the drain. This hair will find other sticky waste products, and in time it will form a large mass that causes clogging. Remains of soaps and detergents are also directed into the drain. Since they are sticky, they attract and accumulate other waste products. If proper cleaning is not done, you will undoubtedly experience clogging in the drainpipe.

One cannot talk about drain clogging without mentioning food particles. More than half of the things that cause clogging are food particles. Most people wash their dishes in the sink where they drop most of the excess food particles. The accumulation of food particles together with other waste products will cause clogging. Often when homeowners or business owners decide to do a renovation in the bathroom, kitchen or any other area where there is a floor trap or sink, there is excess building and debris. This often will require you to call a plumber or any other professional to do the job.

Signs of a Pipe Blocked By Sand, Silt and Debris

It is easy to detect a pipe that has been blocked by sand, silt and/or debris. Below are several signs that can let you know if and when your pipe is blocked.

• Acrid Smell

As you all know, drainpipes carry different waste products. If the pipe is blocked, the sewer will just accumulate and the contents of the drain will start decaying. This will result in a terribly bad odour coming out of the drain. If the pipe is not unblocked immediately, the smell will spread through your home.

• Low or Complete No Flow of Waste in the Sink and Floor Traps

A low flow of liquid in your sink or no flow at all is a heavy indicator that confirms that your sewer line is blocked. If you find that water in the sink or water remains stagnant in your bathroom, you should call a plumber to check on it.

How to Avoid Sand, Silt and Other Debris

Although you cannot completely prevent debris from entering the drain, you can avoid it to a large extent. Here are some tips that you can use to ensure that your drainpipes or sewer lines do not suffer from excessive debris.

• Create a Floor Trap

Prevent Sand, Silt and Debris ClogsMost people tend to forget to place a piece of cloth or a nylon bag to cover the floor trap from the debris. This makes it easy for pieces of stones and sand to jump into the drainpipes. To avoid this, you should conceal the floor trap to ensure that no debris will fall inside. A trap will minimize the time you take to unclog the drainpipe, if needed, and will even save you cash that a plumber would ask you for the service.

• Avoid Putting Food in the Sink

This is a habit that most people tend to have not knowing or caring that it will cost them. In the case of food remains you should put it in a dustbin. Ensure that anything that you dip in the sink is free from food particles.

• Collect Your Broken Hair

Hair is so small but can be so detrimental when it comes to pipe blockage. Once it gets into a drainpipe, it combines with other waste products to form a very thick sludge that will cause clogging if not handled carefully. When you are styling your hair, be sure to collect it and put it in a dustbin.

• Don’t Drop Remains Of Soap in the Drain

Remains of soap should not be allowed in the drain. Besides causing blockage, they also contribute in bad smell coming out of the drain. You should collect all the pieces of the soap and throw it in the dustbin.

• Routine Maintenance

Routine maintenance is the only way that you can solve all of your sewer line problems consistently and efficiently. Never wait for sand, silt and other debris to accumulate to unbearable levels that cause serious blockage. You should carry out consistent regular maintenance.

4. How to Clear Sand, Silt and Other Debris From The Pipe

Sand, silt and other debris can accumulate to levels that can cause severe blockage in your drainage system or sewer line. You need to remove this build-up to ensure a smooth flow of wastewater throughout and around your home. This also ensures that there is a fresh air in your home throughout. Here are two methods that you can use to clear the drainpipe off the debris.

• Plumbing Snake

This is the oldest method of clearing a drainpipe. A plumbing snake is wormed down into the pipe and removes the sand and the debris inside. In the case of immensely caked up waste, chemicals are often used together with a plumbing snake. However, this method can only clear the waste but cannot truly clean the pipe.

• Hydro-jetting

This is the best method when it comes to removing all accumulated waste in the pipe. This method uses pressurised water, which it is jetted through the pipe. Even caked waste or root intrusions that cannot be removed by other means cannot resist this cleaning method. All of the sand and silt will be cleared, leaving the pipe clean. The other major purpose of this method is that it ensures the pipe is free from any acrid smell.

With the above-detailed information you are now aware of how to prevent sand, silt and debris from entering your drainpipe and also how to clear it if it happens.

For more information on cleaning blocked drains, take a look at our Guide to Everything you need to know about Drain Cleaning.