You can experience a range of plumbing problems when tree roots invade the space beneath your home and infiltrate the plumbing system via the sewer line. Here's what you need to know about pruning back the risks of a tree-root invasion in your water pipes.
How the Tree-Root Invasion Begins
The tree root invasion begins when nearby tree roots search for weaknesses, water, and other nutrients around the pipes. Fast-growing trees and established, older trees send out feeder roots in search of water sources. Very small leaks from underground pipes are enough to get a tree's attention, and small roots quickly grow larger and more fibrous.
Roots gain entrance into the plumbing system through tiny cracks in pipes and connectors. Old cast iron and clay pipes are more likely to experience deterioration than newer PVC pipes. Once roots have a foothold into the sewer line, the flow of water and sewage nutrients act like an IV line, and the roots gain a stranglehold on that pipe. Sometimes a root system can completely fill and block sewer lines.
How You Know You're Under Attack
Fortunately, your plumbing system will alert you with a few signs that you may be under attack from tree roots. Sometimes a drop in water pressure occurs as roots hinder water flow into the home. Underground leaks in the pipes can cause a jump in your water bill as excess water is wasted deep beneath your home.
When you flush the toilet, water seems to drain more slowly, and other drains in the home experience similar sluggishness. You may hear abnormal gurgling sounds. Finally, as pipes become more blocked, drains will back up into the tub, washing machine, or worse, the toilet. Sewer backups can be expensive to recover from - around $4000.
How You Can Prevent Tree Root Attacks
There are several ways to prevent the possibility of a tree root attack. You can make sure the area around your home is friendlier to your plumbing and sewer pipes. Here's how:
- Create root barriers. Use densely-packed soil layers, air gaps with large stones, or solid barriers of plastic or metal. You can also make chemical barriers using herbicides, sodium, zinc, or sulfur. Make sure barriers extend a minimum of 2 feet underground and 5 feet away from both tree hole and pipe location.
- Don't plant fast-growing trees near known pipe locations. Willows, elms, and birches especially have aggressive root systems.
- Choose tree species carefully. Consider trees that grow slowly and take their time finding your pipes. Some of these include Japanese maple, magnolia, and boxwood trees.
- Regularly replace fast-growing trees. If you already have fast-growing trees growing in your yard, they can remain as long as they are replaced every few years. Removing these trees regularly ensures the roots don't have sufficient time to reach any nearby pipes.
Even slow-growing trees are capable of compromising a newer underground water pipe eventually. Because of this, keep an eye on nearby trees and replace them if necessary.
What You Can Do About Tree Root Attacks
If you've noticed signs that tree roots might be compromising your water pipes, you can do several things. You can try using copper sulfate to kill any tree roots that enter your pipes by flushing the recommended amount down your toilet every few months. For a more effective approach, flush copper sulfate in small quantities daily for 2 weeks.
Home remedies like copper sulfate only temporarily halt a tree root invasion and do not completely remove the root itself from the pipe or sewer line. An expert with the right tools like those at Randy's Rooter and Plumbing, LLC, has the technology to spot problems with roots and remove them properly. Call us today.