A Guide To Tree Roots And Sewer Lines

Tree roots are a major problem in a home's main sewer drain, but there are some misunderstandings about how the problem occurs and the best ways to solve it.

How Roots Invade

Although sewer pipes should ideally be sealed tightly against any leaks, the nature of their installation does result in some faults. Moisture can escape the pipe in small amounts, or simple condensation due to the warmer fluids inside the pipe can cause dampness in the environs of the pipe. This warmth and moisture attract tree roots, which will naturally grow toward the sewer pipe.

Small cracks or loose joints provide access for these seeking roots. Keep in mind that roots can be very small, which means they can make their way into pipes that would be considered damage-free by normal standards. Tree roots in your sewer line don't necessarily mean your pipes need to be replaced, but if left untreated, they can lead to the need for expensive repairs.

Signs of Root Clogs

It's also important to know the symptoms of root incursion. Problems typically begin slowly. Your drains may take longer to empty, for example, or there may be odd gurgling noises from the pipes — particularly after a toilet flush or other sudden influx of water into the drains.

Blockages by the roots will cause worsening symptoms over time. Standing water in basement drains or backups, particularly during times of heavy drain use or wet weather, will become more common. Various drains throughout the home will also begin to develop clogs. Sewer odors may also begin coming up drains, particularly basement drains. If the roots cause pipe damage, you may notice standing water, wet spots, or sewage smells on the lawn.

Drain Cleaning Techniques

Fortunately, there are simple ways to clear out the tree roots and prevent permanent drain damage. Drain rooter cleaning is the key. A drain service will use a device called an auger or rooter. This whip-like metal cable has a drill-like point and side coils that allow it to cut through the roots. The side coils further shear off the roots so they can be forced out of the drain.

Rooting is typically followed by a course of chemical treatments, which are poured down the basement drain or flushed down a toilet on a regular basis — typically monthly. These treatments kill any roots that try to regrow into the drain, thus keeping your drain clear and free-flowing.

Contact a rooter cleaning service if you suspect that roots are taking over your drain system.