Why Are There Tree Roots in the Sewer Line?

The sewer line on your property works hard in the background as you go about your day-to-day life. It’s not until something goes wrong do we acknowledge how reliant we are on it. And when things do go wrong, it can cause a massive amount of stress. When something does go wrong with the sewer line, you can usually blame it on tree roots. Unfortunately, one of the most common causes of a sewer line backup are because tree roots have broken, or are growing in, the sewer pipe. But why do tree roots migrate to your sewer lines? How do you know if they’ve invaded? And what can you do about it? Let’s start with why tree roots in the sewer line in the first place.

Roots Grow Toward a Water Source

Trees need a natural source of water and oxygen to grow. Roots are naturally hardwired to grow in the direction of a water and oxygen source. This means that the trees in your yard are instinctively growing towards your sewer line.
When a tree root actually gets to your sewer line, any small break or hole is an invitation to set up camp. And a tree invading your sewer line can be highly problematic.

What Happens If You Have Tree Roots in The Sewer Line?

But why exactly is it such a problem? How bad is the damage caused by tree roots in the sewer line? Here is a small list of what you can expect:

Broken Pipes

A tree is a robust force of nature. They need to be for their survival. This strength is everywhere, including their roots. With that in mind, if you have even the smallest of cracks in your pipes, the tree root will find a way in.
Broken Pipe with Tree Roots
As it grows, the roots are stronger than your sewer line, and it builds up a high amount of pressure. This pressure will result in a broken pipe if nothing is done about it.

Yard Sinkhole

If you have a broken pipe, it’s only a matter of time before you notice leaks. Unfortunately, small leaks lead to big problems.
When there’s a leak in your plumbing system, you’ll notice it in your yard. What we mean by this is that you can see small, flooded spots in your yard that could turn into sinkholes. If you spot a small sinkhole, do not wait to call for help. A small problem can quickly balloon into a much larger one. Just like everything else in your plumbing system, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Ignoring a sinkhole can result is property damage and even loss.

Costly Repairs

It is a fact that, if you have tree roots in your sewer line, you will need repairs. The longer the problem is left, the more damage you’ll receive. So, the key is to act quickly. Repairs can be costly, but they quickly add up in extreme circumstances.
broken pipe with tree roots

Signs You Have Tree Roots in Your Sewer Line

The next step is how to diagnose the problem. Since you can’t open the hood of your plumbing system and take a look inside, you’ll need to be mindful of these issues:

Soft or Flooded Parts of the Lawn

One of the most obvious signs there something wrong with your main sewer line is if there are any number of random soggy patches in your lawn.
Flooded Lawn
If a pipe is broken by tree roots, water and sewage will escape. This will then soak patches of your lawn, causing muddy, soft areas. Walk around your yard and pay attention to the texture of the grass. If you can feel sections that are noticeably softer, there’s a good chance you have a sewer line clog.

Recurring Drain Clogs

Oftentimes a clogged drain can be caused by hair, grease, or other substances. Most homeowners think they can pour a chemical drain cleaner down their pipes and call it a day. When it comes to tree roots, and most other clogs, a chemical drain cleaner will do more harm than good.
The problem with clogs happens when the clog just keeps coming back. No matter how much drain cleaner you use, or how often you call a plumber, the clog is still there. If you find yourself frequently calling out a plumber, take note of how often and for which drains. This could be an indicator that there are tree roots in the sewer line.

Sewer Smells

Sewer smells are usually the issue that causes most distress and pushes homeowners into action. If you notice the smell of sewage, get in touch with a licensed plumber as soon as possible.
Woman and Sewer Smell

What To Do If You Have Tree Roots in Your Sewer Line

By now, you understand the consequences of having tree roots in your sewer line, and you can spot the common signs. Now you’re asking what can you do about tree roots in the sewer line?
Broken Pipe full of Tree Roots
Unfortunately, this is not something you can do on your own. You will need to call a professional. A properly trained and licensed plumber will have specialized tools and the knowledge of how to use them.

Do Not Treat Tree Roots with Chemicals

When you’re living with a clogged sewer line, the scent of sewage can be more than you can bear. So, it can be tempting to try and dial it down with a solution from your gardening or home improvement store.
While we understand this impulse, we highly recommend that you refrain from doing so. Using baking soda and vinegar can help with a small clog, chemicals are no match for tree roots. You will need to call in someone who can safely remove them.

How to Avoid Tree Roots in the Sewer Line

Once your sewer line has been treated and your system is tree-root-free, you’re probably in a position where you’ll go the extra mile to avoid this happening again. Here are some tips to help avoid this in the future.

Be Mindful with Landscaping

You now understand that trees will spread their roots to find water and oxygen. While that’s a fact of nature and can’t be changed, you can regain a little control by landscaping carefully.
Make sure you can locate your sewer line and avoid planting trees within close proximity of it. You may also want to look into planting trees that grow slowly.

Replace Any Broken Pipes

Even if you have a tiny fracture, any holes in your pipes are a “welcome home” sign to tree roots. They have the ability to widen the hole until they can fit in and spread. So, if you have any broken pipes, don’t wait. Replace them.
Pipe with Tree Roots Coming Out The End

Consider a Plumbing Inspection

The final preventative measure you can put in place is to schedule a plumbing inspection. During a plumbing inspection, a trained and licensed plumber will send a camera down your pipes to make sure everything is looking ok.
They’ll take care of any small, manageable clogs and let you know what should be done in order to maintain your system. For help with any plumbing questions, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with the experts at Moore Home Services.