Signs of Roots in Your Pipes & How to Prevent Them

An excavated pipe

It's not easy being a property owner and having to go through a long checklist of annual maintenance and repairs just to keep your property safe and in shape. When managing the costs that you need to spend every year, you will typically find other potential issues that could skyrocket your budget. If you are a conscientious homeowner, you likely think far ahead or have experienced enough property problems before and have warned friends and families who own homes what problems to watch out for.

One of the most overlooked plumbing problems includes roots in pipes. You could take the best care of your home’s overall pipework by treating your drain lines and water lines well and scheduling annual inspections and drain cleaning services to ensure your pipes are in good health. However, when you hire a professional local plumber at Mr. Rooter Plumbing, you can rest assured that we think outside the box and are one step ahead by examining your exterior environment. Many homeowners love living near trees because of the natural vibe, not to mention the shade a large tree provides to reduce the heat.

But speaking of large trees, root invasions are frequent culprits for sewer backups and other plumbing disasters. The expert team at Mr. Rooter Plumbing has helped many property owners restore their sewer lines and prevent issues like roots in pipes. Each and every plumbing technician on our team is fully insured, licensed in bringing an average of ten years of experience repairing multiple sewer lines as well as many other installations, repairs, and prevention services to protect homeowners from unforeseen circumstances like roots in sewer lines.

How Do You Get Tree Roots in Pipes?

All plants in the world require water to grow and survive, some more than others. Whenever they spot an additional source, they will grow towards it, which is a natural survival instinct. The drier your region or climate, the more susceptible your home is to roots in pipes.

Sewer pipes attract tree roots the most because they’re located closely together. Sewer lines hold water, air, and nutrients that these tree roots need to survive. In the past, sewer pipes were made of highly porous materials, such as cast iron and clay. People have a misconception of how tree roots actually grow, namely vertically mirroring their trunk, but that is not the case. Although the tap root grows deep enough to set a stable anchor, the rest will primarily grow horizontally just beneath the surface.

A typical home’s sewer lateral is buried between 1.5 and 2.5 feet, depending on your climate. In colder climates, sewer laterals are buried slightly deeper to prevent cold temperatures from freezing the pipes and are buried as deep as 6 ft. However, it’s important to note that tap roots grow as deep as 3 ft. So often, they’re at a similar depth. The growing behavior can easily change because as soon as the roots detect a new water resource, they will grow towards it, posing a tree root infiltration risk to your sewer pipe.

Older underground pipes that have minor cracks or rust issues will leak water into the soil and, thus, attract roots to grow towards them at high speed. Our plumbers recommend familiarizing yourself with your sewer line's age and material, so you know how soon you should take preventative measures to protect yourself from potential roots in pipes.

Common Sewer Line Types and Their Problems:

  • Cast Iron: Cast iron pipes were very common a century ago and are still in use today. Although they perform best when first installed, they require routine maintenance to remain in working order. They're also one of the most sensitive types that are prone to clogs and rust if you have ever used too many chemical cleaning products or live in an area where the level of water hardness is high. Corrosion is a serious problem that happens over time. As soon as you detect it, consult your local plumber for further plumbing diagnosis and inspection. This way, you will be able to stop the corrosion from spreading and causing damage.
  • Clay: Clay pipes were very popular back in the day, and by that, we mean over 1000 BC when the first pipework system proved a success to people. Clay was widely used in the nineteen-hundredth century thanks to its durability and robustness towards acidic waste. Unlike cast iron, clay is non-corrosive; however, it has its disadvantages, which makes it an outdated material for residential and commercial sewers. Besides its heavy weight and complex installation process, clay is not crack-resistant. In fact, its lack of flexibility makes soil shifting one of its biggest enemies.
  • PVC: PVC pipes are widely used today. Most sewer lines in residential and commercial properties are equipped with PVC materials because they are durable, cost-effective, flexible, and easy to install. PVC is also easy to repair and replace if any issues occur. While it has a smooth interior for solid waste removal purposes, the exterior design is also robust enough to withstand movement, pressure, and foreign objects.

None of these materials are safe from preventing invasive roots in pipes, especially when you have damaged pipes caused by the lack of maintenance, aging, or clogs. Tiny cracks and leaks are enough to invite root intrusion. For example, when cast iron begins to corrode, tiny cracks occur on the pipe, allowing tree roots to break in further. As they keep on growing, they will eventually start to clog and put a halt to your daily routine. Warning signs will quickly accelerate into something more drastic, from the main line sewer clog to a full sewer line collapse.

Warning Signs You Have Tree Roots in Pipes

Since all this happens underground, it’s not easy to detect this issue without experiencing some type of warning sign that could start with recurring toilet backups or slow drains in your household. But these signs will pick up quickly, depending on how fast those roots in pipes are growing. Some major signs of tree roots to watch out for include:

Wet Patches in Backyard

Wet patches and sinkholes on your lawn are a clear sign that something is out of the ordinary. If it hasn't rained in a while and you haven't been watering your grass but looks exceptionally moist, it's a sign of alarm that something underground isn't going the way it should. If you have fast-growing tree roots in pipes that are continuously breaking further into the system, any excess wastewater that leaks into your soil provides nearby plants with the same nutrients. Too much water saturation will trigger the earth to cave in and create sinkholes.

Recurring Toilet Backups

Your toilet probably carries the highest responsibilities because it's in charge of removing solid waste away from your home. Each flush uses an average of 1.6 gallons of water to push waste down the drain line into the sewer. That's a lot of pressure for your sewer line to handle! If you treat the backup with a plunger and auger, you might only get temporary relief until it clogs up again, and each time, it becomes more stubborn than before. Bathroom sink and bathtub drains typically share the same drain line as your toilet, and as this recurring backup situation worsens, you will likely experience clogged drains throughout your house.

Foul Odors

Sewer gas smells might indicate dirty sink drains or clogged p-traps but could also hint towards a sewer backup. While many homeowners tend to clean their sink drains with white vinegar and baking soda mixed together, this temporary relief will not fix the underlying issue.

Slow Drains and Gurgling

Whether your kitchen sink or bathtub takes longer to drain than usual, you might think the culprits are merely hairs and food waste. And you are not wrong. Slow draining and gurgling are the results of washing down fats, oils, and grease (also known as F.O.G.), which is damaging to your drain lines and sewer lateral because they cause clogs. In this case, roots in pipes are the leading cause of your issue, and your expert plumber will use professional tools to get to the root problem.

Increased Water Bill

Noticing an increase in your water bill is certainly shocking, given that you haven’t changed your daily habits and the municipality hasn’t recently increased the rates. Besides the possibility of a burst pipe, you might have tree roots in pipes, damaging your sewer line and letting all that water go to waste.

Plumbing Inspection

Tree root obstructions require plumbing professionals to handle them because the first step starts with a thorough plumbing diagnosis and inspection, during which our plumber utilizes their professional sewer camera to assess your pipe. As the inspection video camera is lowered into your sewer line via the cleanout, our plumber is able to determine your pipe material, age, and overall condition. As the camera travels further, we’ll eventually reach the affected area that shows us the cause of the clog—tree roots.

How To Remove Roots in Pipes?

This depends on the severity of the clog and the damage the roots have caused. From sewer cleaning to mechanical and chemical removal, you require a detailed diagnostic from your certified plumber first before determining which removal option is best.

      • Hydro Jetting: One of our professional plumbing tools is the HydroScrub® Jetting device used for drain cleaning and sewer cleaning. The device consists of a high-pressure hose that connects to a water pressurizer and tank. The average psi used is 1500 but could go as high as 3500. Although hydro jetting has the ability to cut through tree roots in pipes by breaking them into small pieces, the psi level used will depend on your pipe material and condition. If the roots have already grown too strong and big, hydro jetting might not be your best option.
      • Mechanical Drilling: This mechanical auger is a removal option that includes chopping up the roots, so they become easier to remove with hydro jetting. It’s important to note that this is only a temporary fix. The next issue to tackle is preventing those roots from coming back.
      • Chemical Treatment: A well-known chemical root treatment service uses copper sulfate, which acts as a slow-release chemical inside the drains. This will kill the roots in pipes before they have a chance to grow. Another chemical agent is known as the foaming root killer, a herbicide that also kills roots in pipes.

How To Prevent Roots In Pipes?

At Mr. Rooter Plumbing, we think ahead with preventative maintenance because it’s the only way to ensure your plumbing system remains intact. Though we can’t always control external forces from wreaking havoc on our homes, there are necessary ways to minimize the severity and enhance protection.

      • Inspect your landscape: As a conscientious property owner, you probably take the best care of your home's interior by ensuring your pipework is in decent condition. Next, we recommend inspecting your front and backyard for fully-grown trees that could be thirsty for extra water. It might be heart-wrenching to consider removing your favorite tree, but we all have to make important decisions at some point in life. Sometimes, installing tree root barriers might help, but in the long term.
      • Plumbing Maintenance: We recommend scheduling your annual plumbing inspections that may include drain cleaning or sewer cleaning. When we use our plumbing video camera inspections, you will always know what might be lurking down the drains and eliminate any issues before they grow into something more worrisome. Routine maintenance for older pipework is crucial because they’re more prone to problems like clogs and corrosion. The sooner we talk about repair services, the better you’re protected from future roots in pipes.

Need Tree Root Detection Services?

      Our experienced team at Mr. Rooter Plumbing is just a quick phone call away. We know what it is like when plumbing issues occur at the most inconvenient times, and we hope we were able to warn you about natural occurrences that could wreak havoc on your home, of which some can be prevented with thorough inspection services. If you live in a tree-dense area and suspect some underground mischief, we’re ready to offer you our professional plumbing diagnosis and inspection services, as well as efficient
plumbing repairs