Tree Roots in Sewer Line: Preventions and Cures

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While trees do add to the beauty of your landscape, their roots can give you quite an expensive headache if they invade your sewer line. Tree roots have a nasty habit of clogging your toilet, cracking your pipes and essentially causing some real trouble to your plumbing system.

This article will give you some insight into how you can prevent this from happening, or if it already has, how to get rid of the tree roots.

Tree Roots in Sewer Line

What Causes Tree Roots to Be in the Sewer Line?

Seeing that root penetration in sewer lines can cause severe problems, it’s best to first be informed how it even comes to that. In essence, tree roots are naturally drawn to your sewer lines, despite all the unattractive things that go through it.

The reason for this is that our pipes are filled with oxygen, water, and all kind of different nutrients making it an ideal place for a tree to plant its roots.

Since the roots thrive on oxygen, they will not grow in pipes that are full of water. This is why this problem is more common in warm, moist, and nutrient-rich environments.

What is interesting is that roots can extend to four times the height of a tree. There were a few examples with some older trees where the root systems reached hundreds of feet. This happens in drought conditions where roots will travel a long distance to search for a water source.

Measures of Preventing Root Growth in Sewer

As you have learned by now, this issue can be really frustrating for households and prevention is obviously the cheapest solution to the problem. These are some of the most common methods that can prevent this problem from occurring:

Planting the right trees at the right location

First of all, if you are planning to plant new trees in your yard you should first find out where your utility lines are. This will determinate where you should and where you shouldn’t plant your new trees.

When taking on this landscape project try to choose slow-growing plants and trees to plant. If larger trees are what you have in mind then be careful to plant them at least 10 feet away from your utility lines, or far enough that the roots can’t reach the water lines.

Small shrubs or flowers, for example, can be placed near your sewer line without damaging it.

This might mean that the beautiful shade tree you were planning to plant can’t be exactly where you wanted it, but this method will certainly save you thousands of dollars worth of repairs.

Make a Barrier

This is probably one of the most effective ways of keeping those annoying roots out of your sewer pipes. There are different kinds of options when making a barrier between your utility lines and tree roots.

Wood or metal around your pipes could serve as a great barrier; both block tree roots from ever reaching the sewer line. The downside to this method could be that placing and burying objects might result in a pointless effort.

That is why professionals rather recommend using chemicals such as copper sulfate and potassium hydroxide which work to prevent the tree root growth. These are slow-release chemicals and they can also be found in residential buildings.

This type of barrier minimizes the possibility of roots finding their way into the pipe through cracks and breaks.

Regular Inspection and Maintenance

In order to prevent tree root growth, you have to stay on top of your sewer line inspection. You should schedule a routine sewer line camera inspection with your plumber every once in a while.

If you do happen to find tree roots in your lines after the inspection you will be able to nip the problem in the bud before it gets worse.

There are two more pluses to having regular inspections: it maintains the cleanliness of the pipes and it gives you a first-hand look at the inside structure of the pipes.

You will also get an early indication in case your pipes need to be replaced.

How to Fix the Problem if it has Already Occurred?

If you hear a strange burbling noise coming from your toilet or you noticed that your sink and bathtub are draining slowly this usually means you failed to prevent the problem.

Here are a few solutions on how to fix it:

1. Rock Salt

This method means you will have to pour rock salt (sodium chloride or copper sulfate are also very effective) into your toilet. Measure about half a pound of rock salt and pour it into the toilet.

Flush as many times as needed to clean out the bowl and repeat this method until you have flushed 2 pounds of rock salt. Avoid flushing or pouring any water into the pipe for about 12 hours after the process for this method to be effective.

The way rock salt works is, aside from being poisonous to plants, it reacts like a sponge that sucks the moisture of the roots further preventing its growth.

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2. Cutting the Roots Mechanically

This is one of the most common techniques, and you will need a mechanical auger to get the job done. A mechanical auger is an equipment used for drain cleaning.

You use it by sending it down the sewer line with a rotating spiral head that can cut like a saw blade, and the rotating action cuts the roots.

Although it is a very common solution it isn’t a permanent one. It clears the roots from the sewer line but chances are they will probably grow back after a while.

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3. Using a Hydro Jett

This technique is very effective, but it’s also very expensive. A hydro-jet, or water jet, uses a pump and water that produce up to 4000 PSI through a hose with a specialty jetted tip that cuts through tree roots in sewer pipes.

Also, it easily flushes out clogging materials. After using the hydro jet you can even flush some foaming chemicals to the sewer lines solving the problem with even more efficiency.

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Conclusion: Tree Roots in Sewer Line Fixes

As you have read in this article, tree roots can cause some really serious damage to your household plumbing system if they manage to find a way into your sewer pipes.

We hope this article gave you some useful information on the topic, and that these prevention measures and solutions will come in hand if need be.