No, it isn’t an overly enthusiastic fan at a football game. Sure, according to Urban Dictionary that’s what it is, but it’s also a very special tool used to fix plumbing issues. The term is also used to describe the type of service you’re about to have performed on your house’s pipes. Rooting can be small or large jobs, depending on where they happen as well as what’s causing the issue in the first place. Let’s get down to business and deep dive into the wonderful world of Rooters.

What’s In A Name?

A lot, actually. The term rooter was first coined to describe a solution to tree roots invading a plumbing space. Prior to the 1960s, pipes were made of galvanized steel or cast iron DWV (short for drain/waste/vent). Clay is another type of material used for pipes. There are some pros to laying clay pipes, the main one being that it’s resistant to chemical degradation. It’s also a nice natural building material, which is great if you’re trying to go green. As a naturally porous material, though, they don’t really stand up all that well to tree roots.

Root invasion is less common with PVC and other types of pipes, but it isn’t impossible for them to cause damage to these types of pipe material. The older your pipes are, the more likely they are to have some sort of corrosion/deterioration (either from chemicals or natural old age) and thus the more vulnerable they are to aggressive tree root attacks. Thus, the rooter was invented.


Roto-Rooter was founded in 1935 to combat the tree root invasion. Since then, however, the rooter tool has been modified and adjusted to handle more serious clogs in addition to root clogging. The original rooter was actually made from washing machine parts and roller skate wheels. Nowadays, the tools are more refined and capable of snaking any pipe with problems.

When Do You Need A Rooter?

It depends on the type of clog you’ve got. Toddler Meets Toilet Paper, that can most likely be handled by a plunger. Otherwise, you want to first try and identify where the clog is happening. If it’s isolated to one area (the master bathtub, the kitchen sink, etc.) chances are you can first use a simple snake to try and clean out your drain. If this does nothing to alleviate the issue, you need professional help, but at least you know it’s contained to one section of your house’s drain system.

If, on the other hand, you’re experiencing backflow in your shower, bathtub, or toilets, you’ve most likely got a larger sewage issue. This could be from invasive roots, or it could be something else equally large blocking your pipes. In any event, if you notice the smell of sewage or an icky substance creeping back up your drains then the problem goes a lot deeper meaning it’s time to bust out the rooter! The clog may be in your own backyard, or it could be pipes that are maintained by the city that feed into your private system. Call your local water and power company to report the issue and they can send a tech to inspect, saving you a little time and money. If the problem exists on your property, it’s your responsibility, otherwise the city should handle it.