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Are Tree Roots Clogging My Underground Pipes?

Signs That Tree Roots Are Clogging Your Pipes

Do you dream of a comfortable yard filled with mature shade trees in the summer and a show of foliage in the fall? Trees are a beautiful addition to your home’s landscape. But as with many things in life, keeping trees comes with a price—in this case, occasional maintenance costs. But, trees can cause a lot of problems for your plumbing such as clogged pipes and clogged drains.

You probably know the importance of keeping branches trimmed away from your roof. But did you also know that root growth can spell (expensive!) trouble for your home’s plumbing if left unchecked?

Why Tree Roots Cause Pipe Clogs

Plants need organic nutrients to thrive, and a tree’s thin feeder roots seek these nutrients out.

To a tree, your home’s underground sewer line is essentially a highway of, um, fertilizer. If your pipe has even a small leak, feeder roots from nearby trees may detect this weak spot and deliberately grow into any holes or gaps in the pipes. These hair-like roots can run along with the interior of the pipe and eventually multiply to the point of blocking your pipe completely.

Root hairs may also grow into drain pipes or water mains in search of a drink. This process speeds up during the winter months if the tree does not receive the same amount of moisture it does in the summer.

Root invasion is especially common for older pipes that are made of clay or concrete and have more cracks (and therefore more entry points). PVC pipes tend to be more watertight and therefore less likely to attract roots.

Signs Of Root Clog In A Drain Line

  • Frequent, unexplained clogs in toilets, tubs, or sinks
  • Frequent toilet backups
  • Gurgling sounds
  • Water draining slowly from the tub or sink

Signs Of Root Clog In The Main Line

  • A gradual drop in the amount of water available
  • Low water pressure
  • Gurgling or banging sounds

Signs Of A Breach In Your Sewer Line

At times, the tree roots may eventually crack or crush the pipe, leading to a whole new set of problems:

  • Sudden drop of water available.
  • A sudden dip in water pressure
  • Whistling or banging sounds from your pipes
  • A sudden increase in water bills despite normal water usage
  • Puddles of water (or … other stuff) in your yard
  • An offensive odor in your yard or basement

Preventing Plumbing Problems Due To Roots

Of course, the easiest solution would just be to not have trees in your yard—but many homeowners would miss the beauty they provide. Here are a few things you can do to keep your pipes thriving even in a thoroughly landscaped yard:

Be sure to fertilize and water plants regularly so they don’t get desperate for other sources of nutrients.

When planting new trees or shrubs, find out where your sewer and water lines are and avoid planting around these.

Avoid planting trees with particularly aggressive root systems, such as oaks, holly, and willows.

If your pipes are older than a decade or so, have them checked for problems and replaced if needed.

If you notice any of the draining problems mentioned above, have an experienced plumber diagnose the problem sooner rather than later.

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