Invasive Tree Roots Causing Sewer Backup?

by Rachel Laurendeau on April 17, 2012

Do you have slow flowing drains? Do you hear odd gurgling sounds coming from your toilet? Has your nose been offended by the smell in your basement? No, you don’t have smelly ghosts, but you may have tree roots in your sewer pipes. Having tree roots growing inside sewer pipes is a very common and very expensive problem that should be addressed as soon as you suspect there is a problem.

The pipe that connects the sewer pipes from the house to the main sewer pipe in the street is called the sewer lateral, and in most jurisdictions, it is up to each homeowner to maintain the laterals and deal with any mess that a backed up lateral can cause. The cost and hassle to you as the landowner is just one more reason to understand how trees can affect your pipes.

Tree roots are always searching out moisture and nutrients in the soil around them. Small cracks or loose joints in sewer pipes release vapor or moisture, attracting the roots. The tiny hair-like roots will find the crack and work their way into the pipe where the water and nutrients are plentiful. Once inside, they continue to grow until they fill the pipe and block debris from flowing freely through the pipe. If their growth is left unchecked, you could end up with plugged toilets, backed up drains and even sewage backup in your basement.

Prevention and Repair

  • For starters, find out where your lateral pipes are. Don’t plant trees or shrubs near those pipes; keep them at least 10-15 feet away.
  • Choose small, slow-growing trees with less intrusive root systems. Better yet, plant small shrubs or ornamental grasses to create a charming diverse landscape and keep the trees away from your laterals and foundation.
  • As soon as you suspect a problem with sewer backup, call a plumber and have them come determine what the problem is.
  • If the plumbers do find that tree roots are the problem, they will typically use root saws, augers and high-pressure flushers to clear out the pipes.
  • If extensive damage was done, the pipe may need to be repaired or even replaced.

There is no doubt that having beautiful mature trees in your yard enhances the curb appeal of your home, but it’s important to take the right steps to avoid having those lovely trees cause extensive damage to your sewer lines.

If you found this blog post helpful, you may also be interested in reading Don’t Ignore Small Plumbing Problems.

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