How to Keep Roots from Wrecking Your Sewer Line

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Root Progression through water line

It’s only natural that roots from trees and shrubs grow toward sewer lines. The pipes are a bountiful source of the water, nutrients, and oxygen that roots crave. And when a root finds a leak, it will quickly grow into the pipe and inhibit the flow of waste, causing blockages, broken pipes and other serious headaches for homeowners. Sewage leaks are unsanitary and lead to health problems, and repairing the damage caused by the roots can cost thousands of dollars. Avoid costly repair bills by taking a few precautionary measures when planting trees and maintaining pipes.

Determine Where Sewer Lines Are Located

Homeowners can call Donlon Plumbing or the national 811 “Call Before You Dig” number to find the location of underground utilities. It’s always a good idea to know where cables, lines, and pipes are buried before doing any landscaping or planting.

Create a Barrier Between Trees and Sewer Lines

Several types of barriers are available to discourage root growth into sewer lines. Slow-release chemicals, such as copper sulfate and potassium hydroxide, are commonly used in residential settings. Spread these growth inhibitors near the sewer line to prevent root growth into the area. Metal or wood barriers buried 6 to 12 inches deeper than the pipe and running vertically next to sewer lines will also stop roots from getting at the pipes.

Plant “Sewer-Safe” Trees and Shrubs

Being smart about how you plan landscaping is the best way to avoid problems and expensive repair bills. Limit the amount of plants you place close to sewer lines. Plant larger trees far enough away from sewer lines so the roots are not within reach of the pipes. If you do plant near sewer lines, select slow-growing trees with a small root ball.

Know the Warning Signs

Drain clogs happen. For infrequent clogs, there are easy solutions to clear a drain that most homeowners can try. But if your drains clog frequently, it may be a sign of a bigger problem. Root damage to sewer lines leads to clogged, overflowing, and slow-flowing drains, sometimes accompanied by a gurgling noise from the toilet.

Inspection and Maintenance

When drains clog frequently, are difficult to clear, and emit gurgling noises, call a plumber to have the drain and sewer lines inspected. A plumber can inspect your drainpipes by running a camera probe through them to locate damaged areas. Once the inspection is complete, the plumber will make recommendations. For areas with major tree-root damage, the lines may need to be replaced.

To avoid major sewer repairs, clean sewer lines regularly and inspect the structure of the pipes. Regular maintenance and clearing the lines prevents root growth inside the pipes. Sewer-line maintenance involves threading a cable through the sewer pipe that cuts through any clogs or tree roots and cleans the sewer pipe to the inner walls.