Winter is prime rooting season for trees. The air is colder, the leaves are falling, but the tree must constantly be on the hunt for water and oxygen to survive. Since there are fewer leaves, it's up to the roots to track down a new source of sustenance. Your sewer lines, unfortunately for you, can provide ideal oxygen, water, and nutrient levels for the tree. I'll give you some things to watch out for to help detect the issue, some options to preempt the problem, and some things we can do to help if your trees have their subterranean grip on your sewer pipes.
What is Tree Root Intrusion?
The most basic definition is that a tree's root system has made its way into the sewer pipes between your house and the city sewage system. But why? Your pipes never did anything to that tree, right? Well... trees require oxygen and water to survive. Plant roots, due to their lack of sun exposure, require oxygen rather than CO2, to encourage growth. Your sewer line, because it doesn't have a continuous flow of water like your service lines, provides both.
Your sewer lines are generally a little warmer than the soil surrounding them which helps the tree to efficiently locate them. The problems generally occur around any joints or small cracks that provide the roots access to the inside of the line. Once inside they continue to grow and clog the line. In time, the pressure caused by the root growth can damage the pipes to the point of breakage or a collapse, both of which require replacement.
How will I know if my lines are being intruded upon?
In the event of a partial blockage you may notice your drains moving water very slowly. This is a symptom of any blockage and not limited to tree root intrusion. It is a good idea to call a professional any time this occurs. Another symptom may be gurgling noises coming from your toilet bowl. In the event of a total blockage, you may see standing water around drain areas. While these symptoms are not always indicative of tree root problem, they are very commonly associated with it to the point that they should be considered early warning signs and a professional should be contacted.
Can this problem be prevented?
Yes. Generally, making sure that any trees are planted a minimum of 10 - 25 feet from any sewer line is a good start. The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture in conjunction with the U.S Department of Agriculture has written a very nice and informative paper on choosing "Sewer Safer" trees.
Some believe that simply using a root killing product will solve the issue. However, this is simply not the case. If there is a root blockage, it made its way into the pipe via an opening (crack, unsealed joint, etc). This opening needs to be addressed. Even if the roots are gone, the potential for leaking untreated sewage into the ground where it can get to bodies of water or drinking water is very real and can cause a health risk. Regular inspection and maintenance of your sewer lines is recommended.
If you believe that you have a tree root problem, please Action Plumbing & Drain at 918-928-8000 or via our Contact Us page. We have specialized equipment and trained professionals that can help. We will ensure that the roots are removed quickly and that they do not come back. We are here to assist you 7 days a week, 365 days a year.