How to Prevent Tree Roots in Your Sewer Pipes

There are lots of things we take for granted in this world. Like the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening. We take that for granted in the same way we trust our sewer pipes will dutifully and quietly get rid of our waste water from sinks, dishwashers, washing machines, toilets and showers … until they make their presence known by backing up or splitting!

Other than flushing objects down the loo that really ought not to be, the trees in your street or yard are the next most common culprit for causing drain blockages and damage to your sewerage system.

Detecting tree root damage
Before we move into prevention strategies, let’s start with how to tell if you have a tree root issue or not.

To be honest, it’s not rocket science at this point. If the plumbing at your home is constantly backing up and making life miserable it could be a sign that tree roots have penetrated your sewer pipes and are causing an obstruction.

If you’re a ‘hands on’ type of person and want to give it a go yourself, here are a few ways to tackle blocked sewer pipes that are backing up.

  • It’s often smart to start by verifying the root cause of the blockage (sorry!) – like any professional plumbing company, we suggest a video camera inspection so you know exactly what’s going on.
  • If it’s obvious that tree roots are the issue, then cutting them away is a great place to start. A professional plumber has special equipment to make this onerous task a little quicker, easier and cleaner! Our service technicians are all equipped with Jetters which is a high-powered water hose that can clear almost anything! Bear in mind though, cutting the roots back is only a short-term fix because, well, they’ll grow back again. But at least it stops the pipes backing and lets them flow freely for the time being.
  • Another option is to kill the roots chemically, but this is not typically environmentally friendly, it’s dangerous and if you’re determined to go down this path, we’d be happy to recommend a plumber who does this as it isn’t the approach we recommend.

Of course, if tree roots have penetrated your sewer pipe then a repair will be required after removal of the offending debris from the blocked pipes. There are various options on the market and it really depends on the extent and type of the damage to be repaired. A leaky sewer pipe can lead to real health and safety risks so we suggest consulting a professional plumbing company to take advice.

Prevention the best form of cure
So that’s the ‘how to tell…’ part of the tree root story but, prevention is the best form of cure, so how do you stop those beautiful wonders of nature from destroying your sewer pipes?

It’s easier said than done …

  • Ask your local sewerage department or a home inspector where the sewer lines run through the yard and into your house
  • Assess how close existing trees are planted in relation to these sewerage pipes. Take into account the age and variety of the tree(s) to gain an understanding of how developed the root system could be.
  • Be mindful about how closely you plant new trees to the sewer pipes on your property. It may not sound appealing to landscape your yard around the path of sewer pipes, but in the long term leaking sewerage isn’t most people’s idea of fun either! Not all trees are equal of course, some species have far more shallow root systems than others, so this doesn’t mean no trees, it’s just a matter of choosing wisely. It’s also worth consulting an expert when planning your next landscaping project.

So the preventative side of this whole story rests on the property owner’s shoulders whereas it is more typical to call a plumber when a sewer pipe becomes problematic. Handling human waste needs to be done properly as there are a whole range of health risks associated with it.

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