Of all the things that can cause a major drain clog, tree roots in sewer line are the most problematic. They can be very invasive, and unless you are faithful in cleaning and inspecting your sewer line, you will not notice anything until there’s slow drain flow or a back flow. Since nutrients from the soil are brought up to the rest of the tree by its roots, it is understandable that the roots look for sources of food. Sewer lines are likely targets because they contain nutrients, water and oxygen. Root tendrils are like tiny spiders crawling underground looking for food. Even the smallest of cracks on a sewer pipe can be penetrated by these tendrils. Eventually they turn into mature roots and in some cases can grow as large as the sewer pipe.


Trees provide shade and add beauty to the landscape. However, if they are planted close to sewer lines, their roots can do extensive damage. Tree roots eventually find their way to where sewer lines lay. Tree roots are attracted to moisture. Vapor escapes from the flowing warm water inside the sewer pipes to the cooler soil around them. This attracts tree roots. Often the source of vapor could be a loose joint or a crack in the pipes. Once the tree root reaches that infinitesimal opening, it will grow through it to gain access to the water and nutrients inside. If left undisturbed, the tree roots will fill the pipe with masses of root tendrils. In the end, they will be like a sieve, catching grit, grease, tissue paper, oils, fats, hair and other debris that are flushed down the sewer pipes.

It should be noted that even if you do not have trees nearby, it is still possible for tree roots to find a source of moisture, such as a cracked sewer pipe or pipe with loose joints. UCLA’s previous study found out that roots from trees as far as 2,500 feet away reached the sewer pipes of houses in the valleys surrounding the Rocky Mountains.


Root growth in sewer lines usually go unnoticed since the pipes are buried deeper in the ground. When water flows slowly from drains, it is one of the signs that the sewer line is having root problems. Gurgling noises from toilet bowls also indicate that the draining system has problems.

When things are left as they are despite the signs of blockage, bigger issues are expected to happen. Tree roots, when allowed to continue growing inside sewer pipes will expand. They will exert pressure on the joint or crack where they first entered. The growth can break the pipe. Sewer pipes could either be ABS pipes, galvanized pipes or clay pipes. The latter is the most vulnerable among the three as they are fragile. An improper installation could increase their vulnerability, from moving earth due to earthquake and soil shifting. Cast iron pipes are quite strong but they can also be weakened by oxidation due to prolonged exposure to humidity.


When you notice that the sinks, tubs and toilet bowls in your home drain slowly or are making gurgling noises, it is time to call expert help. Fischer Plumbing has professionally trained plumbers who can check your sewer line and make recommendations. To determine what causes the blockage and the extent of damage, a video camera inspection is recommended. There are a few effective means of getting rid of tree roots in sewer line.


Traditionally, a mechanical auger or snake is used to cut down tree roots inside the pipe. The powered auger has an attachment on its spiraling head that resembles a reciprocating saw blade. The rotating action of the auger cuts the root tendril mass inside the pipe. But this method is not the most effective because it only removes the tendrils inside the pipe, which can grow back again.


Some experts recommend the use of foaming copper sulfate crystals, which builds up a poison zone around the pipe. The crystals kill off the roots that try to approach the pipes as well as coat the root masses that come down from the top of the pipe.


Although more expensive, one of the most effective tools recommended by plumbers today is a hydro jet. It can produce water power of up to 4,000 psi, using 17 to 18 gallons of water a minute. When the blockage is very thick, a trailer jetter, which is the size of a small truck, has a potential reach of 500 feet. The tip of the hydro jet can have special attachments depending on the type of clog it will remove. The sheer force of the water effectively destroys root masses inside the pipes, shredding them into small pieces that will be easily flushed down through the sewer line. There are plumbers that recommend flushing the pipes with a chemical solution to ensure that any remaining roots will be destroyed.


An English chemist has invented the pipe rehabilitation technology. This method employs absorbent sleeves to line the inside of pipes. Coated with a resin compound, the sleeves are inserted into the sewer pipes using special tools. As the resin cures, it will render the sleeves as hard as regular ABS pipes but without any joint. Being seamless, there is no entry point for a root tendril to penetrate.


If pipe replacement is the only solution left for root infested sewer pipe, the trenchless technology to burst pipes may be the best option. This method uses a hydraulic pull, a steel cable and a bladed steel bursting head. A powerful blast from an air pump on the steel head will cause cast iron pile or clay pipe to break, making it easier to replace damaged pipes.

Removing tree root masses from sewer lines and replacing damaged sewer pipes should be done by licensed plumbers. This is not a job for DIY-ers. Call Fischer Plumbing to ensure that you will have professional service, a good quote with no hidden charges and a workmanship that’s second to none.




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