Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Shape of Things to Come?

This morning I looked out back and saw heavy equipment in the alley. My next door neighbor, I noticed, was in his yard with a saw, cutting limbs off his silver maple tree. Not long after, a section of his fence was removed and some sort of caterpillar-type construction machine drove into his yard, carrying an odd box-shaped thing. Were they going to get rid of the tree? Pull it out by its roots, maybe? Was the box how they were going to carry the limbs out of the yard?

I wanted to know, but had to spend some time minding my own business for a half hour or so.

When I looked out again, the box-shaped thing was in a ditch in the ground, a ditch that the caterpillar-track thing-- backhoe? ditch-digger? you tell me! had obviously dug.

So I put the dog on the leash and moseyed over.

"Getting rid of the tree?" I asked my neighbor.

"Yes, we certainly are," he replied. "But first we're digging up the sewer pipe."

"Storm or sanitary?"

"Sanitary. It's clogged with roots. Our toilets have been backing up the past two weeks."

"Oh, gosh, yes, I saw the plumbers' truck out front the other day! That didn't work?"

"No," my neighbor said grimly. "We have to do this."

Down in the hole, the workman was sheltered by the concrete and steel box thing, which turned out to be a device to keep the walls of the six foot deep ditch from caving in on him. Looking up, he saw me and said, "You live over there?"


"You're next. You've got a maple tree, too."

"I haven't had any trouble so far," I said dubiously.

"Just wait. It's coming. Those roots will work into your sewer line and you won't be able to roto-rooter them out. It'll happen eventually."

"Oh," I said.

"And you'd better get that silver maple of yours taken out soon as possible, too."

"It's not a silver maple, it's a sugar maple."

"Doesn't matter. It's a maple. It'll grow into your sanitary drain and clog it. You'll see."

I watched the excavation work a little while longer, then took the dog, myself, and a new and unpleasant idea home.

Really, don't I have enough to deal with around this house (which is actually a very sound house for its age)? Now I gotta worry about digging up my sanitary sewer line? With a machine that'd destroy all my back garden landscaping?

Buggeration! Absolute buggeration!

But--deep breath!-- I'm going to put panic and fears of imminent bankruptcy on hold. I've had no sewer backup problems whatsoever in the four and a half years I've owned the Sow's Ear. Whereas my neighbor and his family started having plumbing difficulties almost the moment they moved in (two weeks before I did). Heavy equipment is most likely not in order.

But going by what I read on other houseblogs, routine rooting out probably is. And I haven't had it done since I moved in. Didn't even think about having it done!

But I guess I'd better start thinking about it. And get some prices to see about having it done. That ditch in my neighbor's yard is enough to scare the cr@p out of me!


Jennifer said...

Don't worry about it too much... that man just wanted to make MORE money while his equipment was already out there! If you aren't having problems at all, it's going to be a LONG time before any roots grow in there and are bad enough to permanently clog it.

We get our sewer rooted about every 9 months... we have some bad trees (17 of them). They aren't maples, but the roots cut back just fine. We have it rooted when it blocks up... not too big of a deal. I've often thought of just setting up an appointment, except the guy we have come and do it is so proud of his work that he is mad when it doesn't last as long as he thinks it will... and works every HARDER. We have mutant trees and a good plumber. (The first 3 times we used someone else and it was every 2 or 3 months!)

Anyway, what I am saying is that you are going to start having easily fixable problems a LONG time before you have any permanent ones... IF AT ALL! That maple may be NO WHERE near your sewer... that man doesn't know!

Kate H. said...

True. Now my neighbor's sewer pipe turned out to run uphill and downhill like a kids' rollercoaster. And it was full of root balls-- I sawded 'em! No wonder they had backups!

I don't blame the workman for wanting to drum up business-- but yeah, when you've got a big, shiny hammer, everything looks like a nail!

Sandy said...

Aw cr@p. I've have a beautiful maple (the leaves are yellow in the fall - hence I call it my "sunshine" maple) in my backyard (along with a 1/2 dead box elder which I won't cut down because squirrels live in the tree). I've not had any problems, but now I'm starting to worry....

Kate H. said...

Sandy, I wouldn't worry about it. If I read Jennifer right, preventative maintenance should take care of it. Good likelihood is that my neighbors' previous owners never did anything about it.

My maple helps me keep the cooling costs down in the summer. So there's always trade offs and paybacks.