Tree Roots in Drain Pipe


There are many reasons a sewer line backs up, but one of the most common reasons is tree roots. Tree roots cause trouble because as the plant grows the roots and top (canopy) spread further. A tree root is normally twice the length of its tree’s height. In larger, older trees a root system can dive thousands of feet into the ground. Of course newer pipes are sealed and tree roots will tangle around them. But as the pipes get older and the tree keeps growing the root will find a crack or press against the pipe so that a crack forms. The root then invades the pipe and a blockage is created.

How do I Fix the Problem?

To start with root removal is strictly a professional’s job. Special equipment is necessary to even find the roots. Professional plumbers use camera devices to explore the affected pipe and can pinpoint the source of the problem and how to fix it. Once the problem is identified there are four methods of removing the roots from a broken pipe. If a root has wormed its way into a pipe, then the pipe is broken and needs to be replaced regardless. The four methods of root control include:

  1. Cutting the roots with a drilling auger. This method is common, but it can damage your pipe more. However if the pipe has been compromised, then a replacement will have to be installed anyway.
  1. Pouring chemicals down the pipe. The most common chemical used to clear a pipe of tree roots is copper sulphate. Copper Sulphate not only dissolves the roots out of the pipe, but it also kills them so they cannot invade the pipe again.
  1. Flushing the pipe with a power jetter so the roots are pushed out of the pipe. A hydro-jetter will push water 17 to 18 gallons per minute through the pipe system. After the roots are pushed out then it is treated with a copper sulphate to kill and stop growing roots.
  1. The last option is to remove the tree and replace the pipe system. This is done for systems that cannot be saved with chemicals or hydro-jetting.

How can I Avoid the Problem All Together?

The thing about tree root problems is that there is not much you can do. The obvious fix is to remove any trees near your sewer line. This requires that you be vigilant of the property and keep any stray saplings out of the area. This of course is the permanent solution and is the most drastic.

The most practical action is to pay for a yearly inspection to catch problems before they start. The chemical fix is also a practical solution because it kills the roots as they enter the pipe. This chemical fixes only work for about 3 to 5 years. Then a fresh batch should be introduced to the pipe. Keep in mind that no fix is an instant fix.