Trees enhance the beauty of any home, and can also help increase property value. But if their roots intrude into your sewer line, they’re a liability that can be costly to remove, and have the potential to cause major damage if undetected. As covered in our blog post – “The Importance of Maintaining a Clean Sewer” – sewer pipes have the disadvantage of being underground, truly out of sight and too often out of mind. Recognizing the trouble signs, removing roots and preventing roots from getting into your sewer line in the first place are essential to preventing a costly and unsanitary emergency.

How Tree Roots Invade Sewer Pipes

Trees growing near the underground sewer line on your property send out long feeder roots in search of nutrients. Because a sewer pipe contains water and organic waste, it’s a natural target. As stated in an article by the good people at Apollo Home, “… almost any pipe with seams is ripe for an aggressive tree root invasion. Once they intrude into the pipe, clogs form due to expanding root growth.”

However, this isn’t obvious during the initial stage. According to Wm. Henderson Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, there are two additional stages to tree root invasion.

“In the second stage, the roots start to grow thicker and branch out because they have access to the proteins and other nutrients inside the sewer line – it’s basically powerful fertilizer for the tree roots. The tree roots in the sewer line will eventually start to catch onto larger pieces of waste such as toilet paper that will create clogs. This is the point when you’ll start to notice issues in the house, such as slow drains or strange odors from the drains.

“The third stage is where the pipeline is in critical danger due to the roots in the sewer line. The rapid root growth will eventually build up enough pressure to cause a sewer line breakage.”

How Can You Tell if Roots are in Your Sewer Line?

As previously mentioned, slow drains or sewerage odor in the house are the first warning signs. Also be aware of gurgling sounds from toilet bowls. While all of these symptoms can indicate other plumbing problems, eliminating these possibilities will leave tree root invasion as the probable cause.

The only way to definitively diagnose the cause is to call a plumber to have the drain and sewer lines inspected. A plumber can inspect your drain pipes by running a camera probe through them to locate damaged areas. When the inspection is complete, the plumber will make recommendations. For areas with major tree root damage, the lines may need to be replaced.

How to Remove Roots – and Prevent Them in the First Place

The majority of Florida homes are constructed with cast iron, galvanized or clay sewer pipes. To prevent root invasion, the best solution is to plant trees far from your sewer line. However, if you have mature trees on your property, they may be close enough to do damage.

According to Pipelining Technologies, Inc., “One of the biggest issues related to sewer pipes repairs today is negligence and a lack of proactive maintenance. Regularly monitoring the status of the sewer system is essential, as some of the most glaring issues are clear to those who pay a bit of attention to the state of their water systems in their homes or place of work.”

Popular Mechanics recommends the following techniques to prevent tree root intrusion:

  • Create a barrier between trees and sewer lines – Several types of barriers are available to discourage root growth into sewer lines. Slow-release chemicals – such as copper sulfate and potassium hydroxide – are commonly used in residential properties. Spread these growth inhibitors near the sewer line to prevent root growth into the area.
  • Use physical barriers – Metal or wood barriers buried six to 12 inches deeper than the pipe and running vertically next to sewer lines will also stop roots from getting at the pipes.

Removing tree roots is not a DIY project. There’s a possibility of damaging the pipe further, or finding that the pipe is so far gone that it needs to be replaced – which is not within the wheelhouse of most people, no matter how many YouTube plumbing tutorials you watch. Also, many people tend to overestimate their physical ability to dig and perform this type of labor-intensive repair. Trying to save money isn’t worth risking injury or your health. This is definitely a job that needs to be left to the pros!

If you suspect that tree roots are clogging your sewer line, call Adams and Son Plumbing. We are a family-owned business with over 60 years of serving Central Florida homes and businesses. A state-certified plumbing contractor, we have over three generations of master plumbing experience.

Contact us to learn more, and to schedule maintenance, as well as repairs of minor problems to prevent emergencies.

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