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How Do Tree Roots Affect Drains, and What’s the Solution

Tree roots growing inside drain pipes can cause major problems like blockages and flooding over time. This post covers how roots enter systems, signs of intrusion, and solutions such as removing blockages, using barriers to keep roots out, and techniques for ongoing management to maintain clear drains. Proper maintenance is the key to root-free drainage.

Roots Sewer LInes

Tree roots can wreak havoc on drains and sewer lines if allowed to grow unchecked. As trees’ root systems expand in search of water and nutrients, they will often make their way into cracks and openings in underground piping.

Once inside pipes, tree roots can grow thickly along the interior surfaces. This root growth constricts drain flow over time, sometimes causing partial or even complete blockages that stop water from flowing through the system.

Blocked drains can then result in backed-up sewage, flooded basements, and costly water damage to homes and property. In this blog post, we will discuss how different tree species’ roots commonly invade drain systems and look at effective solutions for removing existing root blockages and preventing future problems. Proper drain maintenance and root barrier installation are key to keeping pipes flowing freely without tree root obstruction.

Common Issues Tree Roots Cause in Drain Systems

Some of the most common issues that tree roots cause in drain systems include partial and complete blockages. As the roots grow inside the sewer pipes, they can wrap themselves around the interior walls and gradually choke off the flow space inside the pipe.

Over time, this restricted flow can lead to a partially or completely blocked drain where water can no longer pass through at all. Other issues tree roots may cause are cracking and lifting of drain pipes.

Spilt Pipe Tree Root

Large, fast-growing trees are the biggest contributor to root growth in drains. Tree roots that penetrate deep within the drain are called ‘anchor roots'. Aggressive root growth from the inside can exert pressure that cracks or breaks brittle pipes. Roots may also break through weaker sections of the piping as they grow.

This results in uneven surfaces, wavers, and joints that leak. If left unchecked, the cracking and damage to underground pipes can accelerate pipe deterioration.

Signs Tree Roots May Clog Your Drains

Homeowners should look for a few key signs indicating invasive tree roots and clogging their drain systems. Slow drain flow in sinks, tubs, or toilets is a classic symptom.

Tree roots reducing the interior pipe diameter can significantly impede water flow. Backups and overflowing drains or traps are another red flag, as constricted pipes cannot handle normal water volume. You may also notice gurgling or bubbling noises coming from trapped air in the drain lines.

Tree Root Intrusion Drain Pipes

Finally, sorting through piles of woody debris or roots pulled from vent stacks or cleanouts during snaking operations provides visual confirmation of intruding roots. Addressing these signs early before a full tree root blockage can save homeowners a lot of hassle and repair costs.

Preventing Root Intrusion in Drains

Removing existing tree roots from drain systems can be challenging but is important to restore proper flow. Several tree root removal methods are commonly used:

Mechanical snaking

Using a powered drain cleaning snake with a rotating steel blade or chain can cut through roots as it’s sent into the pipe. It may require multiple passes to completely clear extensive root growth.


High-pressure water spray is directed into the plumbing pipes to break up and flush out loosened roots. Effective for light to moderate root buildup.

Tree Root Invasion

Camera inspection

Inspection cameras allow plumbers to identify root locations for targeted cutting or removal visually. It helps determine needed repair work.

Pipe bursting or replacement

For severely collapsed pipes completely engulfed in dense roots, pipe bursting or pulling a new section may be more cost-effective than multiple root-cutting attempts. Remove tree roots from the source to avoid regrowth.

Proper removal is important, but homeowners should also take steps to prevent future intrusion with physical root barriers or maintain proper pipe separation from trees.

Removing Existing Root Blockages in Drains

Removing existing root blockages in drain systems can help restore normal flow and avoid more serious issues like backups. The first step is to try using a hand-cranked or power-rotating steel auger-drained cleaner to break up and extract roots from the pipe opening.

Starting small and gradually increasing auger size may help dislodge tightly packed roots. However, in some cases, roots have grown too deeply or thickly wound inside to fully clear with mechanical tools.

Tree Weed Root Breaking Pipe

Then, careful hydro-jetting with high-pressure water jets or powered root cutters on extension rods may be needed to cut through tenacious roots farther down the line. A video inspection camera can help locate remaining root fragments for targeted removal.

Stubborn blockages may require consulting a plumber experienced in removing extensive root builds up using specialised equipment or piping replacement if roots have seriously damaged the lines.

Techniques for Discouraging Further Root Growth

Once existing root blockages are cleared, ongoing maintenance is important to discourage future growth problems. Installing a physical root barrier when repairing or replacing damaged sections of pipe can inhibit new roots from entering the area.

Opt for barriers made from materials like sheet metal or thick plastic that roots cannot penetrate. Routinely checking accessible cleanouts and vent stacks for signs of early root infiltration also allows for catching problems in the early stages.

Drainage Unblocking

Using root retardant chemicals that make roots’ growth toxic or repellent when applied around pipes also provides time-limited protection. Maintaining at least a few feet of space between nearby trees and drains is also critical. Finally, prompt removal of any fertiliser, pet waste or other organic debris near pipe areas deprives roots of the nutrients they follow.

When is Drain Replacement Necessary?

If tree roots have severely damaged or deformed sections of the drain pipe, replacement may be needed instead of continued repair efforts. Signs that warrant replacing the pipe include extensive cracking, holes, or crushing or collapse of more than 30% of the pipe wall.

Roots that have embedded themselves deeply into every crevice make thorough cleansing impossible. Pipe joints that no longer form a strong seal after repetitive removal of roots should be replaced.

Tree Root Intrusion Damage Pipes

Sections where the interior diameter has decreased by half or more due to root buildup, cannot handle normal flow capacities. Pipes over 40 years old made of brittle materials like unglazed clay that cannot withstand sudden pressure from root growth inside also need replacement.

It’s best to consult a plumber to determine if a pipe can still function properly or needs replacement for long-term drainage and to prevent backups.

Choosing Drain Materials Resistant to Roots

When replacing drain sections, selecting pipe materials that are less appealing for roots to penetrate is important. PVC piping is a good choice, as roots find it difficult to adhere to the smooth interior surface.

Concrete piping is also a durable option, though joints still need protection. Consider pipe materials coated with polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) lining for the highest root resistance.

Plumber Assembling Pvc Sewage

This creates an extremely slick surface where roots simply slide off instead of attaching. Vitrified clay is dense and non-porous, making it difficult for roots to enter.

What to avoid are materials like cast iron and terra cotta that are porous and rough inside - roots can take advantage of these surfaces. Installing a separate root barrier adds an additional protective layer for any pipe material.

Working With Tree Roots Without Damaging Trees

When removing intrusive tree roots from drains, it’s important to do so carefully without severely damaging the tree. Cut roots back only to where they enter the pipe.

Avoid cutting large structural roots that could compromise the tree’s stability. Use hand pruners or small excavation tools to cleanly cut roots rather than painfully tearing them out.

Always cut roots perpendicular to their direction of growth. In some cases, lifting and repositioning conduit away from roots rather than cutting may work.

Consider having an arborist on hand for large root removal near trees. Promptly backfill any excavations near trees to avoid leaving exposed roots vulnerable to drying out. Following these best practices helps correct drainage issues without negatively impacting valuable trees over the long run.

The Root of the Problem: Balancing Trees and Drains

If not properly managed, tree roots can pose serious problems for underground drain pipe systems. From partial blockages to complete broken pipe destruction, roots have the potential to wreak havoc on drainage. However, following the strategies discussed, such as early prevention, effective root system removal techniques and replacement of compromised pipes when needed, can keep systems flowing freely.

At Fixed Today, we offer full drain cleaning and plumbing system repair services to assess and remedy root-related drain issues. Our fully licensed and insured team understands how to tackle even severe root blockages. If you notice any signs of blockage in the home’s plumbing system or suspect tree roots in nearby drains, get in touch with a professional plumber to save your home and business from further damage. Our goal is to get your drains and pipes back to full working order quickly and prevent future problems.

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