Plumbing Problems: Tree Roots in Sewer Line

Why do so many Cincinnati residents with plumbing problems find they have tree roots in sewer line pipes? Simply, your sewer drain system is vulnerable to invasion. Trees growing near the underground sewer line on your property send out long feeder roots in search of nutrients.

Because a sewer pipe contains water and organic waste it’s a prime target. In addition, many older homes still use Orangeburg pipes. These clay pipes with mortar-filled joints or concrete pipes are especially vulnerable to tree roots in sewer line pipes.

However, almost any pipe with seams is ripe for an aggressive tree root invasion. Once they intrude into the pipe, clogs form due to expanding root growth. The inevitable result is expensive, and messy sewage backups into the house. Thirsty tree roots naturally grow toward any leaks in your water and sewer pipes.

Once tree roots find a leak in sewer lines, they invade your pipes. This causes water flow blockage, pipe damage, unhealthy conditions and often costly repair bills.

In this blog we’ll cover the warning signs of tree roots in sewer line systems. In addition, we’ll review the risks involved, how to prevent tree roots in sewer line pipes and big repair bills. Finally, we’ll go over what’s needed to solve this sewer problem.  

Warning Signs You Have Tree Roots in Sewer Line Pipes

  • Clogged drains – especially if it seems to recur. Slow drains are often the first sign of tree roots in sewer line systems.
  • Gurgle sounds – this happens after flushing the toilet mostly.
  • Blocked or collapsed pipes – this often manifests as backed-up drain or toilet. Sometimes it’s because someone flushed something they shouldn’t have. Sometimes it’s because you have tree roots in sewer line pipes.
  • Sinkholes – if you discover a sinkhole in your lawn, you may have tree roots inside your sewer lines. Be sure to stay away from it and call a plumber from Apollo Home to inspect it. This is a serious warning sign and indicates an advanced sewer line problem. This degree of damage of tree roots in sewer lines also puts the foundation of your house at risk.
  • Foul odors – damaged sewer lines usually send up bad smells. If you smell rotten eggs or sulfur you could have a serious sewer problem.

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Risks of Damage from Tree Roots in Sewer Lines

Tree roots stretch long distances for water and often seek moisture coming from tiny leaks. These holes or improperly-sealed sewer or water pipes leave your home vulnerable to tree roots.

Roots easily block pipes with hair-thin strands. Combined with grime and grease flowing into the sewer lines, the gunk can cause toilets, sinks and other drains to become sluggish and even back up.

Furthermore, roots cause pipe cracking. Especially vulnerable are clay pipes in older plumbing systems. There’s quite a bit of inconvenience, discomfort and expense from this plumbing problem of tree roots in sewer line systems.

How to Avoid Tree Roots in Sewer Line Pipes

The best control of tree root issues is prevention. Here’s what you can do to stop tree roots in sewer line drain systems before it happens.

1. Landscape Carefully

Be aware of the path of your underground sewer line.

If you don’t know, a plumber can tell you where it is. You can also call your local public works office or the national 811 “Call Before You Dig” number to locate underground utilities on your property.

Before you do any kind of landscaping, it’s always wise to know where your pipes, cables and lines are buried. Avoid planting trees directly above or near the pipe.

Choose trees with naturally less aggressive root systems.

Fast-growing tree species are particularly likely to send invading feeder roots into sewer lines. Ask a local nursery to recommend a non-aggressive tree species for your local climate.

Consider removal of fast-growing trees on your property.

Remember, older and larger trees have larger and more complex root systems. A tree’s root system is often two to three times longer than the height of the tree.

Make a barrier between your trees and sewer lines.

You can choose from a wide array of barriers to prevent root growth into your sewer lines. Most homeowners like to spread slow-release chemicals, such as copper sulfate and potassium hydroxide, near their sewer lines.

Some homeowners prefer to bury metal or wood barriers below their pipes and run them along their sewer lines.

2. Replace Vulnerable Pipes

Homes built prior to the 1980s commonly use something called Orangeburg pipe. Orangeburg pipe is named for one of the popular manufacturing companies. It emerged primarily in the industrial age in the United States and really took off in the 1950s.

It’s a conduit composed of walls of ground cellulose, or wood fibers bound with a water-resistant adhesive. Lastly, the manufacturer impregnated it with liquefied coal tar pitch.

Early on, experts noted fiber conduit pipe of all brands subject to long-term concentrated pressure tended to deform. As a result, manufacturers broadcast the need for proper “bedding.”

Plumbers must provide good compaction throughout the entire pipe zone and use soil without debris and rocks. Unfortunately, tree roots in the sewer line are still a risk because of the nature of how they grow.

Old clay or concrete sewer pipes may be replaced with seamless HDPE (high-density polyethylene) pipe in a trenchless pipe process that requires little excavation. With an extremely long service life and no seams, HDPE pipes are unlikely to experience tree root problems.

Think of old pipes like Orangeburg or ones with crumbling joints as drip irrigation systems you didn’t install. Roots seek them out.

3. Get Regular Inspections

Every other year, have a licensed plumber inspect your sewer drain system with micro-video technology. This allows him or her to visually survey the entire interior length of the pipe.

If evidence of tree root invasion is noted, early intervention can prevent clogs and backups. Currently, Apollo Home offers a free camera inspection with every drain clearing.

If you’re unfamiliar with drain clearing, it’s different than drain cleaning. Clearing punctures and breaks up a clog to improve water flow. Cleaning is more comprehensive and may involve hydro jetting.

Clearing and cleaning sewer lines regularly prevent root growth inside your pipes. As a result, you’ll avoid major sewer repairs.

If You Have Tree Roots in Sewer Line Pipes

If you think you have a clog in an outgoing sewer or incoming water pipe, ignoring it won’t make it go away. The sooner you investigate and get to the root of the problem (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun), the less damage you’ll have.

Contact your plumber now rather than later. To fix the plumbing problem, your plumber cuts through the roots with special blades. There may be some digging involved because sewer pipes are generally several feet underground. Depending on the integrity of the pipes, they may need to be replaced.

In certain cases, an advanced trenchless process can be used. Is no dig sewer repair possible? Sure! One of the plumbing services offered is sewer pipe relining. After a drain cleaning, a video confirms all clogs and debris are gone.

Plumbers insert a fabric tube treated with lining material into the pipe. This covers the entire length of the compromised pipe. After tube inflation, the lining materials dry and harden.

Prevent Major Plumbing Problems with the Apollo Care Plan

For homeowners in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, the Apollo Care Plan is a great investment. It covers seasonal tune ups of your heating and cooling equipment as well as annual evaluations of your electrical and plumbing systems.

This annual evaluation is a great opportunity to ask questions and to check your home mechanicals and systems to ensure they are in good shape. Prevention, after all, is the best cure. Care Plan members also receive perks like priority scheduling, discounts and a VIP phone number.

In Conclusion: Solve Plumbing Problems like Tree Roots in Sewer Line Pipes with Apollo Home

Apollo Home has served the home comfort needs of the greater Cincinnati area since 1910. Whether it’s heating, air conditioning, electrical or plumbing services, Apollo Home is there for the health of your whole home.

The best tactic for tree roots in sewer line problems is to prevent it. Landscape wisely, know the warning signs and take action if you suspect a root problem. These situations are better handled sooner than later.

With a drive to serve, Apollo Home has received awards such as “Best in Cincinnati” for Home Services, Angie’s List Super Service Award, Contractors of the Year from the Air Conditioning Contractors of America and an A+ Accredited Business rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Contact us today for help with plumbing problems, including tree roots in sewer line issues.

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