How To Keep Tree Roots From Wrecking Your Sewer Line

While trees add elegance to your landscape, their roots can give you a $4,000 headache if they invade and break your main sewer line.

Roots grow towards sewer pipes because they hold water, nutrients and oxygen—things roots crave.

And if the root finds a crack or leak in the pipe, they’ll creep in the pipe wall and grow into the pipe, blocking off the flow of waste into the sewer.

Eventually, the root growth will add too much pressure to the pipe, causing it to break and collapse, leaving you with thousands of dollars in needed repairs.

Want to prevent this scenario?  Then read on; we’ll show you how.

Step 1: Determine if you have trees near a sewer line

First, determine where your sewer line is located.

Houses are required to have sewer clean out caps in 2 places. These are typically either white PVC or Black ABS pipes sticking out of the ground or sometimes in a recessed box in the lawn. One should be within a few feet of your foundation wall and the other should be within 13 feet of the curb. In most cases the pipe will travel underground this general line of sight.

If you do not have clean out caps they may have been buried by landscape or never installed to begin with. Before you start digging around remember to call Georgia 811 (call before you dig) to ensure you do not unknowingly damage any other unmarked utilities.

The easiest way to locate where your sewer connects to the city is to call your local Water and Sewer department. Tell them you want to know where your sewer lines are located and they will send a locator to mark the approximate location of your underground pipes where they connect to the city sewer system. This service is free!

Once you know your sewer line’s location, see if any trees are near the marks.

If trees aren’t nearby go to step 4.

If trees are nearby, go to step 2.

Step 2: Get your sewer line inspected

Now that you know a tree is near the sewer line, you need to see if roots have invaded.

The best way to do this: Get a professional plumber to inspect the sewer line using a camera probe.

While you could wait to get the inspection until you notice the signs of a sewer line break, getting the inspection now will nip problems in the bud and possibly save you thousands of dollars.

Step 3: Remove roots and repair as needed

If the plumber has found a root problem, it’s time to look for solutions.  There are 3 parts to this:

  1. Cutting up the roots in the pipe using a hydro cutter or a powered sewer auger.
  2. Killing off the root structure by using chemicals to temporarily stop their growth. One option is Root-X, a herbicide that can:
    • Penetrate the roots, killing them on contact.
    • Stick to the pipe walls, preventing re-growth for up to three years.
  3. Repairing the sewer pipe as needed. Mr. Plumber uses a ’No Dig’ technology that makes repairing sewer pipes easy and non-invasive, so you don’t have to destroy your landscape.

Worst case scenario: The pipe can’t be cleared because it’s too damaged and needs replacing.

Step 4: Prevent future tree root issues

Want to add more trees to your property? Keep the trees at least 10 feet away from the sewer line. That way it takes longer for the roots to reach the sewer line.

You should also pick a small, slow-growing ‘sewer safe’ tree. A few sewer safe trees include:

  • Amur Maple
  • Paperbark Maple
  • Serviceberry
  • Fringetree
  • Flowering Dogwood
  • Cypress

According to Clemson University, you shouldn’t plant any of these fast growing trees near the sewer line:

  • Silver and Norway Maple
  • Sweetgum
  • River Birch
  • Cottonwood
  • Aspen
  • Sycamore
  • Some species of Magnolia

Call for a camera inspection and expert sewer line repair service in Atlanta

If you’ve found that there are trees around your sewer line, or you’re noticing the signs of a sewer line break, contact Mr. Plumber for a sewer line video inspection. We can find the problem, fix it, and—hopefully—save you thousands in sewer line damage.

Mr. Plumber is an Atlanta area plumbing contractor that can handle all of your sewer line repair and replacement service needs. Contact us online to ask us a plumbing question or set up an appointment.

Related Reading