Tree Roots in Your Sewer Lines

The Puget Sound Area is well-known for its beauty. For tourists, few things compare to the lush greenery in “the Emerald City.” But these abundant trees are often a nightmare for Seattle homeowners – especially when their roots grow in sewer lines.

How do Roots Get Into Sewer Pipes?

When hot water drains through a line, vapor escapes into the cooler soil around the pipe. If there are any cracks around your sewer pipe, the soil will be warmer and wetter than in other areas. The tree roots detect the warmer temps and increased moisture, and grow toward it. In time, all the surrounding roots grow toward, and into, your line.

Once the roots grow near the pipe, they find any opening to reach the water and nutrients inside the pipe. Since roots can only grow forward, and not back, they continue to grow inside the sewer line. As the root mass increases, they act as a net to the oils, grease, tissue paper, household fats and other debris that are discharged from the house. In time this clogs your sewer line entirely.

Are You at Risk?

If your home is older, you may have concrete or clay sewer lines. Both are less durable than modern materials and prone to cracking – which creates a perfect point of entry for tree roots. Modern sewer lines are typically made from PVC. While PVC is much less prone to cracking, it’s still not entirely indestructible. Ground shifting, especially during periods of heavy rain, may also cause damage to your pipes.

5 Signs of a Clogged Sewer Line

While a sewer camera inspection is the only foolproof way to diagnose roots in your sewer line, there are a few warning signs to look for:

  1. All the drains in your home drain slowly
  2. Gurgling noises when you flush the toilet
  3. Water bubbling in the toilet when you run water in the sink
  4. Water overflow into plumbing fixtures when you run the washing machine
  5. Foul smells coming from drains

How to Remove Roots From Sewer Lines

The best protection against roots in your sewer line is to schedule regular inspections to identify potential weak spots or cracks before roots get in.

However, we understand that this sometimes gets overlooked or you may have purchased a house that hadn’t previously been inspected. In this case, you’d want to call a sewer specialist to come inspect your sewer first. If there are in fact roots in your lines, the plumber can offer many options including hydro jetting to clean out your lines. With a hydro jetter, your plumber uses water to pressure wash, if you will, the inside of your pipes. For small drain pipes or large blockages, hydro jetting scours the inside of your line – leaving it like new.

In many cases, the line can be cleaned and a liner installed to prevent further damage. Only in the worst case scenario will the repairs require a complete sewer line replacement.

How to Stop Roots From Growing Into Pipes

Many homeowners use a foaming root killer to permanently stop roots from growing into sewer lines. The foam leaves a film in your pipe that continues to kill roots throughout the year. The downside to this method is that the treatment needs to be reapplied yearly, and is easily forgotten.

Another popular option is to apply copper sulfate to the soil around the sewer lines. The copper sulfate is dissolved in the hot water, and poured into the ground around the sewer line. The tree roots will turn away from the copper sulfate enriched soil, and any that have already penetrated your sewer line will eventually die off.

The third option is to use a chemical root killer in the soil surrounding your lines. Many chemical tree root killers can be purchased at hardware stores, but it’s important to consider the environmental impact and potential safety hazard if you have small children or animals in the home.

Keep in mind that both copper sulfate and chemical root killers can have a serious impact on your pipes and septic tank. When in doubt, you should always consult a professional before trying any of these options.

Schedule your sewer line inspection today.

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