Tree roots in pipes

Getting to the Root of Pipe Problems

You flush the toilet only for it to take forever to drain, and an alarming gurgling noise ensues Clearly something’s wrong, and you need to get to the bottom of it. The issue is likely the work of thirsty tree roots invading your sewer lines and drain pipes. Here’s how to branch out and keep trees from sapping the life from your plumbing system.

Plants vs. Plumbing

Water runs through your pipes all day. Even the sewage leaving your house contains water. That sewage water might seem disgusting to humans, but trees need water. One of them can drink over 100 gallons in a single day. Trees aren’t picky — they will take water however they can get it. Roots exploit small leaks in pipes and break through to access the water inside. Tree roots cause slow flow, blocked pipes, broken pipes, and sewage leaks. The more roots spread in your pipes, the more plumbing problems you’ll have.

Pipe Damage Prevention

As with most plumbing issues, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. First, identify where your sewer lines are. You can usually find them mapped out in your house plans, if you have them. Once you’ve located the sewer lines, there are several methods you can employ to prevent root-cause plumbing problems:

  • Chemical inhibitors: Slow-release chemicals such as copper sulfate and potassium hydroxide curb root growth. Disperse one of these chemicals between sewer lines and nearby trees.
  • Physical barriers: Vertical wood or metal walls buried 6–12 inches below the line impede roots from reaching pipes. Install these barriers where you think trees can reach the sewage line.
  • Sewer-safe plants: Limit the number of plants near sewage lines, and whenever possible, keep plants away from the lines altogether. If you do choose to plant near sewer lines, use slow-growing trees with a small root ball.

Eradicating Rogue Roots

Keep an eye out for warning signs that roots have already crept into your pipes. Frequent clogs, overflows, slow drainage, and gurgling noises can all mean that roots have taken hold. It might seem easy to take care of the problem yourself, but dealing with roots often requires technical skill. Have an experienced plumbing technician scope the sewer line with a camera probe. Based on what they find, they can recommend different methods to remove the roots. Usually a professional will use a drain auger, or drain snake, to clear root debris from the pipes. High-pressure hoses are particularly effective for stubborn roots.   

Fletcher’s Plumbing and Contracting Inc. is highly trained in removing unwanted roots from your plumbing systems. Call today to hire a professional.