Large mature trees add shade, beauty and tree climbing memories to our yards, but their deep roots can cause extensive damage to underground pipes. Tree roots grow into water lines because it is natural for them to seek out a water source. Water lines not only provide water, but also nutrients and oxygen that are essential to a tree’s growth. Trees especially like to grow into sewer pipes, becoming the cause of extensive sewer damage and requiring major maintenance to rid pipes of the blockage. Tree roots are responsible for many of our city’s backups and pipe damages, and are one of the major reasons we are called out to a home that has a blockage or flooding in a yard.
Homeowners are responsible for maintaining their sewer lines that connect to the sewer pipes in the house and the main city sewer system. Because most homeowners don’t know where their pipes are buried they don’t know where the potential hazards lie. This can cause problems that go untreated simply because homeowners don’t know they are occurring.
Tree roots are drawn to the warm water inside sewer pipes that cause vapor to escape into the soil. This warmth and moisture is detected by the roots and as a result the roots grow toward it. The vapor that is escaping into the soil is usually doing so through a small crack or loose joint. When the tree roots reach the crack they grow through the opening to reach the nutrients and moisture inside. After the roots reach the inside of the pipe they will continue to grow. As the roots grow larger they will make the opening in the pipe grow larger and cause more vapor and moisture to be released. Hair like root systems will grow within the pipe, completely filling it and blocking the flow. They will stop anything trying to make its way through the pipe including tissue paper and other debris.
A slowed draining system is a common indicator of root problems. You may first hear gurgling noises in your toilet bowl. This is a sign that pipes are not able to flow easily. If left unattended the roots will completely block the pipes and total blockage will occur.
As the tree roots grow and expand the crack in the pipe or the pipe joint, they can eventually cause it to break apart. This will result in a total collapse of the pipe and flooding will happen where the water line has burst. When this happens a trench will have to be dug to reach the pipe and replace it.
The most effective way to keep tree roots from entering your water lines is knowing where your pipes are buried. Be careful not to plant certain trees and hedges near these waterlines. Preferably, large trees should be no less than 10 feet away from sewer lines. Small slow-growing plants with nonaggressive root systems are also a good idea.
To prevent major blockage you should schedule a regular cleaning of your sewer lateral pipe. A professional can look through your entire underground pipe system to make sure that no damage is occurring.