How Tree Roots Affect Your Plumbing

With the growth of beautiful green leaves comes the growth of tree roots, so springtime is an excellent time to keep an eye on your plumbing.

Tree roots naturally grow towards water, especially during times of drought, so when moisture escapes through cracks in your sewer line, the roots will inevitably move in that direction. Roots are extremely powerful; we've all seen how they can cause concrete sidewalks to buckle and crumble, so they will easily penetrate water pipes (this is called root intrusion) and, if left untreated, will eventually fill up the pipe completely, causing your sewer line to back up into your home.


How to Prevent Root Intrusion

The first step you should take is finding out where your sewer line is located on your property (we can help you do this). When you are planning your landscaping, limit the amount of plants around the area of the sewer line, and plant trees a distance away. It also helps if you select trees that grow more slowly; if root intrusion ever becomes a problem, you'll be able to stay on top of the maintenance more easily than you would with a quickly-growing tree.

If there's already a tree near your sewer line, don't worry! You don't need to cut it down. Just keep an eye on how your main sewer line is draining, and call a professional for an inspection if you have any concerns.


Root Intrusion Warning Signs

If your plumbing is more than 25 years old, your pipes won't have the strength to keep roots out. Older systems typically have clay or iron piping. Clay is porous and is prone to cracking, so roots will find their way into a clay pipe easily. Iron piping is a bit more resistant to roots, but it is prone to corrosion and will end up letting roots in as well.

If you have frequent drain backups or slow drains, or if your toilet makes gurgling noises, there may be roots blocking your main sewer line. Pay attention to these warning signs and don't ignore them.


How to Get Rid of Roots

The first thing you can try is a foaming root killer, like RootX (we sell RootX, so call us at (586) 459-0040 if you'd like to purchase some). Foaming root killers foam up when they come in contact with water, filling the entire sewer line with a chemical that kills tree roots. It leaves behind a residue that will keep roots from growing into your line in the future, and it is relatively easy to use.

Another solution is to have a plumber come and cut the roots out with an auger. This doesn't last as long as the foaming root killer because there is no residue left behind to keep roots from growing in the future, but it's often done as yearly maintenance in sewer lines that experience frequent root intrusion.

An extremely effective (but more expensive) solution, especially for a sewer line that's heavily blocked with roots, is a high-pressure hydro jetting of the sewer line. You can read more about it here, but in short, a trained technician feeds a high-pressure hose into the main line, and sprays a piercing jet of water that cuts through and washes away the roots. Although this doesn't leave behind a root-killing residue either, it lasts much longer than an auger alone and completely cleans out the entire pipe.

If none of the above methods are effective, the damage may be too extensive and a complete sewer replacement may be needed.

If you have trees in your yard, especially if they are near your sewer line, you can easily prevent severe root intrusion by having your plumbing inspected every 18 to 24 months, preferably in the spring. It's also a good idea to keep some foaming root killer like RootX on hand.


Call us at (586) 459-0040 and we can help you locate your sewer line in your yard and find out if there are any roots growing into the line. We'll work with you as a team to determine the best solution for your situation, and we'll help you keep your sewer line clear all year long.