Trees have a myriad of benefits and are beautiful to look at, but they can be a significant concern for homeowners with underground water and sewer pipes. If left unchecked, tree root systems can extend into vulnerable areas of your underground pipes and cause costly damages. Learn more about how to stop roots from growing into pipes, and what to do if you suspect your pipes are suffering from tree-related damage.

Why Roots Love Growing Around and in the Pipes

Trees need water, minerals, nutrients and ample oxygen for their root system to develop and thrive. Tree roots can sense where the best growing conditions are and know to take advantage of those opportunities. Studies suggest that root systems can even sense where water is flowing.

Additionally, if you live in an urban area or a highly developed neighborhood without a lot of nature or greenery, roots might retreat deeper into the ground, where they come into contact with your pipes. If your pipes have any sort of exterior damage — including hairline cracks and tiny holes — the roots can make those problems worse.

Can tree roots break water pipes? Yes. Unfortunately, roots can cause a lot of problems, including:

  • Greatly reducing or blocking pipe flow
  • Creating a dam inside pipes that leads to overflow
  • Worsening pre-existing cracks or holes in the pipe

Although each tree species is different, root growth tends to be the most active during late spring and at the beginning of autumn. Because pipes are underground, it’s often impossible to see when root systems are threatening them. Many times, you may not know anything is wrong before symptoms begin to manifest.

How to Prevent Roots From Wreaking Havoc on Your Underground Pipes

Tree root prevention is the best way to keep your pipes safe. If you have not yet installed your sewer or water pipes, be sure to choose heavy-duty materials, like PVC and steel, rather than outdated lines made of things like clay. While tree roots can penetrate PVC pipe, it’s more durable and does not break down as easily as other materials. Note where the trees are on your property, including the species they are. Remember, tree root systems extend far beyond the tree’s drip line — often two to three times the diameter of the tree, if not larger. If you’re planting trees on your land, consult a map of existing underground sewer lines and avoid planting problematic trees nearby.

Understand the Warning Signs

Some everyday inconveniences and abnormalities could indicate a problem with your tree roots and pipes. If you notice one or more of these signs, contact a professional immediately to perform an inspection before the problem worsens:

  • Issues with plumbing, like blockage and slow drainage
  • Low water pressure
  • Soft spots and sinkholes in your yard
  • Abnormal sounds and smells coming from your indoor plumbing
  • Patches of thriving greenery in the yard, which could indicate underground moisture
  • An unexplained increase in your water or utility bills

When inspecting your yard for possible warning signs, look closely at the areas where pipes are near the surface, as many root systems start to develop here.

What Types of Trees to Avoid

Some tree roots are more hazardous for pipes than others. Trees with strong, expansive and fast-growing roots pose a more serious threat, including:

  • Weeping willow
  • Aspen
  • Elm
  • Beech
  • Poplar
  • Eucalyptus
  • Sycamore
  • Oak
  • Fig
  • Birch
  • Basswood
  • Locust
  • Tulip

How fast tree roots grow in sewer pipes depends on the specific tree and growing conditions, but it’s important to stay aware of your tree’s growth if you’re concerned about underground pipes. If you already have these trees on your property or plan to plant them in the future, be mindful of where all sewage and water pipes are located. Schedule regular inspections to stay alert about any possible changes.

The Best Defense Is Having the Perfect Offense

You can do a few things to be proactive about preventing tree roots in sewer pipes, like installing preventive growth barriers. Preventive growth barriers are a wall-like structure you can place around your tree roots to prevent and redirect the spread of root systems. You can find barriers made of copper, sulfate, metal and wood. It’s essential that you install these barriers relatively early in the tree’s life, so you do not damage the existing root system.

You can also work with a landscape specialist to promote denser, stronger soil. Roots rely on loose, oxygenated soil for growth. When soil is compacted, it’s harder for them to travel through. Some methods of firming soft soil include spreading compost, moss and mulch.

The Best Trees to Plant to Avoid Pipe Breaks and Leaks

Is the solution for how to stop roots from growing into pipes to stop planting trees altogether? Fortunately, no — there are several types of trees you can choose for worry-free planting near your pipe systems.

Some trees that won’t damage pipes — or pose a significantly smaller threat — are:

  • Cherry
  • Eastern redbud
  • Fruit varieties
  • Magnolia
  • Dogwood

What Should I Do If I Suspect My Pipes Are Leaking From Root Damage?

The first and most important step is to consult a professional if you suspect roots are to blame for your pipe leak. A sewer and drain repair professional understands how to clear roots from drain pipes without causing further damage and can help you determine the best steps to take moving forward.

They may recommend a few minor repairs or offensive measures to redirect the growth of the roots or restrengthen the exterior of the pipes to prevent further damage. If the pipes are too far gone to save, or too outdated to offer enough protection, you might need to re-line them. Using special equipment and techniques, a technician might be able to fix your problem without damaging your yard or landscaping.

You might be able to remove some tree roots with a chemical treatment or root cutting machine. If the problem is serious or reoccurring, a professional might recommend that you remove the problematic tree entirely to preserve your pipe system’s structural integrity.

Video Pipe Inspections

Video pipe inspections are one method professionals use to assess your underground pipe situation without causing extensive yard damage or disrupting your daily routine. In a video pipe inspection, a technician will feed a specialized camera through your indoor drains and move it through your underground pipe system. Using a digital monitor and built-in signal transmitters inside the camera, the technician will find the source of the problem and create a plan of action.

Hydrojetting and Trenchless Pipelining

Once a technician locates the part of your pipes that need assistance, the next step is to repair or replace the damaged lines. Fortunately, modern technology lets technicians quickly address your problem with very little yard disruption through trenchless pipelining. During underground trenchless pipelining, the technician can use the Cured In Place Pipe (CIPP) restoration process to repair a damaged pipe without removing the old one. This means you don’t have to worry about trenches in your yard or replacing your sidewalk.

Hydrojetting is an equally environmentally-friendly and time-saving repair method for small-scale plumbing concerns. Instead of digging, a technician will use a hose to move pressurized water through your underground pipes and remove any blockage or build-up.

Contact Emergency Sewer & Drain Repair for Inspection and Repair

When it comes to your sewer and drain systems, it’s important to address problems as soon as they arise. If you suspect tree roots have damaged your pipes, schedule a video pipe inspection and repair with the professionals at Emergency Sewer & Drain Repair. Visit us online to learn more about our inspection and repair services or schedule your appointment today.


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