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Old 08-03-2016, 04:43 PM   #1
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Need Quick Advice on Sewer Tree Root Problem--Copper to PVC pipe ok?


I am a homeowner (not a plumber) so I apologize in advance if I use any wrong terminology.

I have had a recurring issue for years with tree roots getting into my sewer line. The line is PVC but a thin PVC.

Last night the roots clogged the pipes again. Today I hired a new plumber (seems professional and reasonably priced) and I decided to take care of this issue once and for all. He is coming back on Friday to redo the line which is around 34 or 35 feet.

I asked him for advice on how to keep the tree roots from being attracted to the new piping. He stated that he would use PVC pipe, and for the connectors he would use copper, and that tree roots would avoid copper. I have had other plumbers tell me there is nothing they can do to keep the roots from coming back, so it sounded like a good approach to me at the time.

After he left, I read a little bit about copper pipe. It is supposed to have a lifespan of 50 years, which is good. But I also read that harsh water can erode it and we seem to have harsh water where I live.

I would love advice on whether this combo of PVC pipe and cooper fittings seems like a sound approach to proceed.

The job will begin day after tomorrow so any suggestions would be much appreciated! Thanks in advance.

~~~~~

TL;DR:

1. Will copper fittings have a long lifespan if connected to PVC pipe, or could they fail prematurely?

2. Other installation methods for installing sewer pipe so that it resists tree roots?

Last edited by missy.; 08-03-2016 at 05:01 PM.
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Old 08-03-2016, 06:28 PM   #2
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Re: Need Quick Advice on Sewer Tree Root Problem--Copper to PVC pipe ok?


Copper will have no effect when mixed with PVC with the exception of making more joints then necessary that may fail. I would seriously consider a second bid on the job. He also will have to use approved materials and get a permit from your local sewer authority which will have to come out and inspect the work. Make sure the last is written into your contract.
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Last edited by Ghostmaker; 08-03-2016 at 06:31 PM.
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Old 08-03-2016, 07:41 PM   #3
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Re: Need Quick Advice on Sewer Tree Root Problem--Copper to PVC pipe ok?


No way can roots get into PVC pipe with glued joints.
Copper will cost at least 4 times as much, harder to install and will fail far sooner.
No way should trees be near a septic system, or house foundation.
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Old 08-03-2016, 08:04 PM   #4
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Re: Need Quick Advice on Sewer Tree Root Problem--Copper to PVC pipe ok?


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Originally Posted by Ghostmaker View Post
Copper will have no effect when mixed with PVC with the exception of making more joints then necessary that may fail. I would seriously consider a second bid on the job. He also will have to use approved materials and get a permit from your local sewer authority which will have to come out and inspect the work. Make sure the last is written into your contract.
My thought about the joints was, aren't there are going to be joints anyway? But instead of PVC joints, they would be copper? Or are you thinking it would be more joints?

I did get another bid from a bigger plumbing company a few months ago -- it was $3750 versus $2400 for this guy. This guy is throwing in the snaking for free and also a toilet rebuild.
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Old 08-03-2016, 08:06 PM   #5
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Re: Need Quick Advice on Sewer Tree Root Problem--Copper to PVC pipe ok?


Years ago when I would have root troubles after the sewer was cleaned out we would use copper sulphate to treat the sewer lines. You could pick it up at any hardware store. I don't know if that is still a viable option. Worked well for the old terra cotta pipes.
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Old 08-03-2016, 08:19 PM   #6
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Re: Need Quick Advice on Sewer Tree Root Problem--Copper to PVC pipe ok?


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No way can roots get into PVC pipe with glued joints.
Copper will cost at least 4 times as much, harder to install and will fail far sooner.
No way should trees be near a septic system, or house foundation.
The tree is a very large oak tree in my front yard -- it is not near a septic system as I don't have one. My entire front yard is covered in oak roots so there is no way to get a sewer pipe to the street without encountering them.

Because it is an oak tree, the roots can run for quite a bit. It isn't that near the house, but close enough, I guess, to cause a problem. I wouldn't want to remove it as it provides marvelous shade, and cools off this property and saves on A/C bills. My back yard on the other hand has no shade trees and I often wish it did but I'd like a tree that didn't cause root problems

The other quote was using all PVC pipe and PVC joints and that company wouldn't guarantee me that the tree roots wouldn't get back in. They expected it to last maybe 10-15 years and this was using schedule 40 PVC. That first guy was looking for a solution for the tree roots, such as wrapping the joints in some sort of cloth -- not sure what it was.

I also wonder if coating the inside of the PVC pipe with something might be an answer.

The price of the copper is not an issue since he is including it, but the idea it might fail is. I wouldn't think copper pipe would be a good idea, but I thought a copper joint might be okay. I just don't want to have to deal with tree roots in that pipe ever again ... don't want to be repeating this job in a few years!

Last edited by missy.; 08-03-2016 at 08:29 PM.
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Old 08-03-2016, 08:25 PM   #7
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Re: Need Quick Advice on Sewer Tree Root Problem--Copper to PVC pipe ok?


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Years ago when I would have root troubles after the sewer was cleaned out we would use copper sulphate to treat the sewer lines. You could pick it up at any hardware store. I don't know if that is still a viable option. Worked well for the old terra cotta pipes.
Thanks, Bayou, I have used that as well, but unfortunately I am well past that stage. :\

Both on this snaking and the previous one done about a year ago, a difficult spot was hit that they were unable to get the snake past. The city camera (they were out to determine that the problem was on my side and not theirs) revealed a ball of roots still in the line. Basically at this point all the snake can do is punch a hole through this ball, leaving most of it still intact.

Once the new pipes are done, I imagine I will begin the copper sulfate treatments again, for my peace of mind!

Last edited by missy.; 08-03-2016 at 08:30 PM.
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Old 08-03-2016, 09:05 PM   #8
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Re: Need Quick Advice on Sewer Tree Root Problem--Copper to PVC pipe ok?


Just make real sure he gets an inspection. Every time he go's from PVC to Copper you have a place roots can work into. A scd 40 PVC pipe properly glued then bedded in a stone base is a far superior job that you will never have to do again.

As for root treatment I recommend rootX

http://rootx.com/

P.S. Tree roots are not afraid of copper. Its copper sulfate a chemical they hate.

I'll be honest with over 30 years as a Plumber currently an inspector I have never heard of mixing materials as the cheaper guy suggest. This leaves me to wonder if he is just puffing the job and his skill level is suspect.
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Last edited by Ghostmaker; 08-03-2016 at 09:14 PM.
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Old 08-03-2016, 09:54 PM   #9
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Re: Need Quick Advice on Sewer Tree Root Problem--Copper to PVC pipe ok?


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Just make real sure he gets an inspection. Every time he go's from PVC to Copper you have a place roots can work into. A scd 40 PVC pipe properly glued then bedded in a stone base is a far superior job that you will never have to do again.

As for root treatment I recommend rootX

http://rootx.com/

P.S. Tree roots are not afraid of copper. Its copper sulfate a chemical they hate.

I'll be honest with over 30 years as a Plumber currently an inspector I have never heard of mixing materials as the cheaper guy suggest. This leaves me to wonder if he is just puffing the job and his skill level is suspect.
I hear you, and I can understand the skepticism (I am skeptical of many things myself!) The guy has a good reviews in various places for some complex jobs, which is one reason I went with him.

Not sure what a stone base is? I looked at the Florida Building Code on Sanitary Drainage but couldn't find it there. It did mention copper piping is okay underground, although I hear you about mixing materials. To be fair, I was the one who asked about what could be done about tree roots coming back -- he may not have suggested it otherwise.

Also found this interesting read on how to prevent corrosion on copper tubing buried underground.

You were reading my mind about copper pipe and tree roots! I know they don't like copper sulfate but wasn't sure if they are repelled by copper. I did some googling and found this thread which mentions a paper embedded with copper beads to wrap a PVC joint in. Wonder what that is? I may call the local plumbing supply tomorrow to see if they have heard of it.

Also found a mention of taping the PVC joints even if they were glued, as further protection against tree roots.

Thanks for the tip on RootX. I have heard that one mentioned also -- can't recall whether I have used it or not. Will give it a try once the new pipes are in.
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Old 08-04-2016, 12:58 AM   #10
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Re: Need Quick Advice on Sewer Tree Root Problem--Copper to PVC pipe ok?


As Ghostmaker stated, tree roots are not repelled by copper; it is a myth.

I will ask him to use PVC connectors, glue and possibly tape on top of the glue. Not sure of the best kind of tape to keep roots out that is designed to work with PVC pipe.

I would like to add some sort of root barrier as an added safeguard. I found this: http://www.typargeosynthetics.com/pr...t-barrier.html Anyone know of anything else?

I see more googling in my future.
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Old 08-04-2016, 07:53 AM   #11
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Re: Need Quick Advice on Sewer Tree Root Problem--Copper to PVC pipe ok?


The roots are trying to get in the joints because they are seeking the leaking / seeping water. Properly laid and glued pvc pipes should not leak.
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Old 08-04-2016, 09:17 AM   #12
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Re: Need Quick Advice on Sewer Tree Root Problem--Copper to PVC pipe ok?


I agree with all the other posters about the idea of using copper mixed with PVC. First there is no way a plumber is going to use expensive copper instead of PVC and do the job for less. I like copper but PVC will last 10 times longer than copper. Gluing together PVC pipe is easy and fast. Soldering together 3 or 4 inch copper takes skill. You don't just glue copper and PVC together. You have to solder on an threaded adapter to the copper, then glue on another threaded adapter to the PVC and then screw the two together. That is about 10 times the work and time verses simply gluing together PVC. That's also 3 joints verses one.
Tree roots get in sewer lines seeking moisture. When you have a leak the tree root will grow to the moisture. When it gets inside the pipe it gets more moisture and grows even faster. That expands the break or leak and the root grows even faster.
A leak can occur at a joint but not necessarily so. A tree root can grow under a pipe and push the pipe up and create a break.
There is nothing you could wrap the joints with that would prevent a root from entering if you had a leak, not even concrete.
The reason the other company wouldn't give you a warranty against future breaks is that while they can warrant their work they can't warrant what the tree will do.

You are going to regret this decision. No knowledgeable plumber would propose such a system of mixing materials.

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Old 08-04-2016, 09:55 AM   #13
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Re: Need Quick Advice on Sewer Tree Root Problem--Copper to PVC pipe ok?


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The roots are trying to get in the joints because they are seeking the leaking / seeping water. Properly laid and glued pvc pipes should not leak.
This! ^^^^^ The roots always go for water. If the pipe is run properly and the joints are tight the roots won't try and get in. Another thing that hasn't been mentioned, the roots go out as far as the canopy of the tree. They will have to dig a trench to remove and install the new line. This trench (I'm assuming) will cut through a lot of roots. What can happen is everything in the canopy of the tree inline with that trench will die. This isn't a guarantee, but it can happen. You should be prepared to possibly have some tree work done after this line is replaced. Just something to keep in the back of your mind if it does happen.
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Old 08-04-2016, 10:35 AM   #14
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Re: Need Quick Advice on Sewer Tree Root Problem--Copper to PVC pipe ok?


It will cost more money, but look into pipe bursting using poly pipe- similar to buried gas pipe.
The advantages is that the process is virtually trench less so it preserves your landscaping. Also, the joints are fused, not glued. Only the start and finish connections are joined conventionally.
You will want to camera the existing line to check for bellies or heaves caused by roots as the new burst line will follow the path of the existing line.
A company I worked for gave a "lifetime" warranty for bursts.

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Old 08-04-2016, 01:51 PM   #15
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Re: Need Quick Advice on Sewer Tree Root Problem--Copper to PVC pipe ok?


Thanks, everyone.

I found out that I was mistaken in what I thought he wanted to do.

He plans to use sch 40 PVC pipe and PVC joints, although he told me that since the pipe is so long I won't have joints in the middle of the run, if I understood him correctly. I think the pipe is 20 feet long from what I have read? Maybe it is longer?

The copper he was referring to is something he says they used in Cuba. It is copper pipe that is laid in next to the sewer pipe. Water does not run through the copper pipe. The supposed purpose of the copper pipe is to repel tree roots, at least that is what I think. I don't have to do this--it was a suggestion he made.

There would be a five-year guarantee/warranty on the work in the contract.

I asked him to give me a little time today to think about it. If he can't do it tomorrow, though, it would be after Aug. 27 due to various scheduling things and I am anxious to get the work done. So I will probably decide something soon as I am also tired of being without a second toilet.

Since it is regular PVC pipe it sounds like it would be okay. The guy has done lots of whole house repiping and things of that nature and has good reviews on these types of major jobs which is why I was thinking he would be okay. He is a licensed plumbing contractor; I looked him up in the state database just to be certain. There are no complaints against his license.

I could get more estimates. The last guy who gave me an estimate mentioned a trenchless option. It was more money. The quote was for traditional PVC pipe laying, perhaps due to the cost of the trenchless. I can't recall why we didn't pursue trenchless--it may have simply been a cost issue.

I can respond more later and I appreciate everyone's input so far! All of this advice has been really useful and feel free to add more! It gives me more to think about.
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