Tree Roots in Sewer Lines – Signs and Prevention

Tree roots in sewer line.

In the long run, nature wins out. No matter how strong the pipes in your sewer line are, they’re no match for the powerful force of tree roots. Small or large, tree roots can slowly push through your sewer lines, finding and creating weaknesses until it’s too late.

When you suspect tree roots are in your sewer lines, it’s important that you act fast before the problem worsens. So you need to know what tree root damage looks like, and what symptoms it causes in your home or business.

In this article, we’ll explain how to identify tree roots in sewer lines, how to prevent them from growing, and how to remove them when they grow:

  • Identifying Tree Roots in Sewer Lines
  • Addressing Tree Roots in Your Sewer Line
  • How to Prevent Tree Roots from Growing into Your Sewer Line
  • Tree Roots in Sewer Line FAQs

Identifying Tree Roots in Sewer Lines

To deal with tree roots in your sewer lines, you have to know how to spot them. While both tree roots and your sewer lines sit underground, far out of sight, there are still a few signs that can indicate an issue.

Sign #1: Slow-Draining Pipes

One of the most common signs of this issue is slow-draining water in your household drains. As you likely know, plenty of plumbing problems make the water drain slowly. To test if your water draining issue results from a common clog or something more serious, try checking for draining issues at several different water fixtures. If just one fixture drains slowly, you should look into how to clear a clogged drain. But if it happens at every fixture, start investigating for other signs of tree root damage. In severe cases, tree roots can cause a sewer system backup.

Sign #2: Unusual Smells and Sounds

Another way to identify tree root damage in your sewer line is to follow your nose and your ears. Because tree roots open up holes in your sewer lines, they might let odors seep into your home. If one location produces a foul odor, don’t blame tree roots. But if every drain in your home gives off an unpleasant smell, then your sewer line is a likely culprit.

Additionally, roots in your sewer line can make your toilets and drains gurgle. Keep an ear open, and if gurgling occurs frequently, call a plumber.

Sign #3: Outdoor Issues

Finally, you can head out to your yard for a helpful visual check. Tree roots infesting your sewer lines can lead to one tree growing faster than the others. This happens when a tree finds its way into the sewer line and feeds on the excess moisture.

This issue can also cause sinkholes and slight depressions in your yard. When tree roots get into a sewer line, water gets out. The increased moisture in your soil can compromise its structural integrity and cause a sinkhole or a minor depression in your yard. If this happens, call a plumber immediately. Sinkholes pose an immediate threat to your safety and can even damage or destroy the foundation of your home.

Addressing and Preventing Tree Roots in Sewer Lines

When tree roots creep into your sewer line, it can feel like a disaster. Thankfully, experienced plumbers like the ones at Mr. Rooter Plumbing® have a variety of ways to fight against this kind of damage. Here are a few tools and techniques plumbers use to remove tree roots in a sewer line:

  • Mechanical root cutting – This technique, also known as robotic cutting, let a plumber use a robot with cutting arms and a camera to remove roots from a sewer line. The robot and camera are inserted into the sewer line and operated by a plumber remotely. Once inserted, the robot’s cutting arms shear through the roots to address the issue. Note that this technique only removes the tree roots, and it does not fix the pipes that have been damaged by the roots.
  • Chemical treatments – If the idea of robots in your drain line isn’t appealing, a chemical solution can deliver the results you desire. This service uses copper sulfate to kill the roots. Also, another chemical commonly called foaming root killer dissolves roots in your sewer line. Both of these chemicals are deployed sparingly so they do not damage your yard.
  • Hydro jetting – Hydro jetting is a powerful new technique that can be used to address tree roots and other clogs in your sewer line. It involves inserting a high-pressure hose into the sewer line and blasting away any obstructions with a powerful jet of water. It’s a bit like pressure washing the inside of your sewer line. Plumbers and customers love the low invasiveness of this technique, but it struggles to deal with large roots that can withstand high-pressure streams.

Regardless of which technique you use to clear out tree roots, chances are you will need to make use of a sewer line repair service. These services can also repair or replace any damaged pieces of pipe.

How to Prevent Tree Roots from Growing into Your Sewer Line

Tree root removal and sewer line repair can be costly, so prevention is the best option. Here are three ways that you can prevent tree root damage to your plumbing:

  • Proper tree selection and placement – Some trees are more aggressive than others. When you select trees for your yard, consider trees with shallow roots. For example, most fruit trees, magnolias, palmettos, and certain cedar and cypress trees pose very little threat to your pipes.
  • Regular maintenance and inspection – You can’t address a problem you don’t know about. Regularly inspect your trees and plumbing to help make sure that your roots stay far away from your sewer line.
  • Installation of root barriers – Root barriers go around trees when they are planted. When installed, they direct the roots to certain areas, which helps prevent unruly growth into your plumbing.

Tree Roots in Sewer Line FAQs

What is the cost of tree root damage to your sewer line?

The cost of tree root damage to your sewer line varies widely. If the damage is minimal and doesn’t require pipe replacement, it may be under $100. In more severe cases, where the pipes need to be replaced extensively, or where a sinkhole has opened up, it could cost thousands of dollars to repair your sewer line.

What pipe material resists tree root damage?

While no pipes are fully resistant to the power of tree roots, PVC pipes fare the best. Though somewhat brittle, the plastic in these pipes inhibits tree root growth. PVC pipes are also affordable and long-lasting, making them a popular choice for a variety of plumbing uses.

Call Mr. Rooter to Eliminate Tree Roots in Your Sewer Line

Tree roots are a serious threat to sewer lines. Preparing against this threat and knowing what the signs of damage look like can save you thousands of dollars and increase the safety of your home.

If you suspect that tree roots have made their way into your plumbing, don’t delay. Call Mr. Rooter® Plumbing for prompt tree root removal, video camera inspection, hydro jetting, and trenchless sewer line repair.

Have a plumbing issue? Call us to schedule a service.