Get expert advice on how to clear tricky tree roots.

Question: We use a large drum-type drain cleaner to clear tree roots. But my buddy swears by his sectional machine to do the same job. What's the difference? And which one is better?

Answer: Heavy-duty machines with large-diameter cables are needed to clear tree roots. Two types of machines are available — drum-type and sectional — and each have advantages.

Drum-type machines have the advantage of being self-contained, fast and easy to operate. The entire length of cable is contained in one drum and can be transported in a single trip to the job site.

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A variable-speed automatic feed, feeding at a rate of up to 20 feet per minute, makes it easier for the operator to get the cable to the clog quickly. It also helps to retract the cable more easily. A 100-foot cable can weigh up to 100 pounds.

Sectional drain cleaners have the advantage of being lightweight. The cables are carried separately from the machine as 8-, 10- or 15-foot sections. No need to carry the weight of 100 feet of cable when the job only calls for 50 feet.

Once on the job, the cables are fed into the line one section at a time and coupled together as needed. The open coil design of the sectional cable helps corkscrew the cable down the line, making it easier to clear longer runs. And if a section is ever damaged, it can easily be uncoupled and replaced.

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As you can see, drum-type machines and sectional drain cleaners each have advantages — one is not necessarily better than the other.

Bottom line? The best type of machine for you is the one you’re most familiar with.

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