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Sewer Problems

Tree roots in plumbing: what’s the harm?

Have you found out that there are tree roots clogging your plumbing? They can be a pain to get rid of. But what’s the harm? Do they have to be removed?

Take it from us: you should deal with the problem as soon as possible. It takes more than regular maintenance to get rid of them, too. Read on to find out more.

Tree roots in plumbing are a sign that there is a pre-existing fault

The first problem with having tree roots in plumbing isn’t actually caused by the roots themselves. Rather, the problem is that the roots are a sign of a problem that already exists. There are a number of faults that can lead to tree roots in plumbing, such as:

  • Leaking pipes: the tree roots are attracted to the leaking water, and colonise the pipe through the gap
  • Blocked pipes: again, blocked pipes provide a ready source of standing water for tree roots to enjoy. Ideally, the water should flow freely, so that the tree roots are discouraged from setting up shop.
  • Deteriorated seals and failed joints: these factors again can attract tree roots with the promise of water. In a closed system, the tree roots would never ‘know’ that there’s water close by. But where the roots are allowed in, or where water is allowed out, tree roots (and plants generally) will thrive.

As you can see, tree roots in plumbing are caused by existing damage to your pipes. It’s actually very rare that tree roots or other plants can break their way in to your plumbing system.

tree roots in plumbing

If your sink or toilet is blocking more frequently than it used to, this could be a sign of roots in your plumbing.File:Kitchen sink drain.jpg – Wikimedia Commons : taken from – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kitchen_sink_drain.jpg https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

What are the warning signs?

There are a number of signs that your plumbing may have been taken over by tree roots. Unfortunately, you can’t always easily see that roots have taken hold in your plumbing, unless you actually break open the pipe and look for yourself. That’s why the problem can go unchecked for a long time before you realise there’s anything wrong. That being said, there are a few warning signs that you’ll have to look out for. In no particular order:

  • Slow flowing drains indicate that the water is being held up by something. Often, that could be limescale caused by hard water. But in this case, there are tree roots in the way!
  • Strange gurgling noises in your pipes can be a sign of many things, tree roots among them. This is because the water is draining erratically- moving through and around the roots in your pipes.
  • Recurring problems with your toilet or other drains clogging is an obvious sign. This is because the water, debris and waste being flushed away can easily get caught among the roots.

Tree roots in plumbing can therefore cause problems in your home. But what exactly do they do to your plumbing system, and why are they a problem?

What’s the harm of tree roots in plumbing?

Letting tree roots colonise your pipes is a problem that only gets worse over time. If you let it keep getting worse, your pipes will suffer extensive damage because of the force of the roots expanding.

If you’ve ever walked down the sidewalk, and there were trees planted on one side, you might have noticed the concrete looking buckled and broken. Why? That’s the force of the tree roots! They can’t move quickly, of course, but over time they can push their way through almost anything. Your pipes included.

Because of the force of their growth, tree roots in plumbing can cause cracks and fractures in your pipes in extreme cases. In turn, that causes leaks and low pressure. But hold on, because it gets worse! The leak from that crack or fracture actually attracts more tree roots and plants to your pipes!

But if you have strong pipes, particularly if they were only recently installed, they’re probably strong enough to withstand tree roots. In that case, the worst problem you’ll encounter will most likely be reduced water flow and increased blockage frequency, especially if you use a garbage disposal.

tree roots in plumbing

Tree roots are sturdy- but not sturdy enough to stand up to us and our professional grade drain clearing equipment! Free photo: Root, Old, Tree Root, Nature, Log – Free Image on Pixabay – 1227266 : taken from – https://pixabay.com/en/root-old-tree-root-nature-log-1227266/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/publicdomain/

So what can I do to fix tree roots in plumbing?

To unblock your drain, you’ll need the help of a professional drain clearing company like ours. We use our skill and experience dealing with problems like these every day, and we can use the top quality equipment at our disposal to clear your drain in no time.

The best way of clearing your drains is by using a method called drain jetting, which is exactly what it sounds like. Basically, a high pressure jet of water is shot straight down the drain. Hopefully, this blast of water will be enough to completely clear your drain, roots and all. This is something that you quite simply can’t do at home, because the water pressure required is extraordinary.

If the tree roots can’t be cleared by drain jetting, or even by physically trying to remove them from the pipe, a full refit may be necessary. This isn’t as bad as it sounds. It also might be preferable, because the damage that actually allowed the roots to take hold might be extensive. In that case, you should have your pipes refitted anyway.

After the work is done, you should schedule regular maintenance, and keep an eye on the trees in your backyard and your neighborhood. They’re always on the lookout for more pipes to colonise!

Permanent solutions for roots in the sewer line of your Pueblo, Colorado area home.

Besides controlling the roots, replacing or rehabilitating the pipe is the most permanent solution, and with most circumstances you have multiple options here as well.

Once roots have found an opening in your sewer line they are tenacious in their effort to get nutrients and water through that opening.  No matter what you do to remove the roots these measures are temporary at best.  The most common approach to a permanent solution is to dig up the line and replace the old system whether it is clay, cast iron, or a failed PVC system.  In this process we take extreme care in protecting and preserving landscape and property, but obviously the location and depth of the line and in some cases concrete slabs and even some out buildings may prohibit or limit the ability to use this option.

Other options are lining or bursting systems that can replace the drain system with little or no digging at all.

Root damage inside the pipe

After lining of the pipe.

These option provides significant savings of time and money when landscape and patios are considered.  As always, with any of these options, the corrective action starts with a proper video
inspection of the existing system.  This is needed both to examine the condition of your system and to explore multiple options in providing solutions to your needs.

One final note, something we have noticed recently with some of the sewer line back up issues, is that some insurance policies have started to limit their liability towards the damage caused by sewer line back ups, especially if they are a result of root penetration into the pipe.  Some policies require a specific rider dealing with this, others have denied claims all together, based on the insureds “lack of maintenance.”  Because of the obvious costly nature of dealing with the clean up, the harmful bacteria, potential mold,  and just the water damage alone associated with such floods, checking with your insurance provider to go over your  coverage might be a good idea. Because of the expensive nature of a claim like this it would be better to be proactive than reactive when dealing with your insurance claim.

Patterson Plumbing & Heating has several options for  permanently solving root problems including the Perma-Liner sewer pipe re-lining system.  Call for us to evaluate your problem and possible solutions.  719-544-4922 or schedule on line at www.pattersonplumbing.com.

OK, You have roots in your Pueblo, Colorado area sewer line, now what?

OK, you have roots in your sewer line, now what?

There is a misconception on the part of many homeowners that believe having roots in their sewer line is normal, and that having a plumber or sewer and drain company come out and “clear” the line once or twice a year is to be expected.

Sorry to say, both of these are just not true.

  • First, homeowners should never look at roots in their sewer line as normal, it is a failure of the sewer system.
  • Second, having a plumber or sewer and drain contractor out to your home to “maintain”, or do regular maintenance, should not be necessary.  If your sewer pipe is water tight, as it should be, there will be no way for roots to penetrate it.
  • Third, snaking, or cabling the line will remove all the roots from the pipe, except for perfect circumstances cabling a line merely opens the pipe temporarily.

The problem with “clearing” a sewer pipe is that in order for the cable cutter to completely clear the line of all root intrusions a special root cutting tool needs to be used that is the same diameter as the interior of the pipe itself.  This blade needs to be the proper size so that the blades can hold tight to the interior wall of the pipe as it is inserted through, thus cutting these roots as it passes and allowing them to be washed down stream.

Issues arise when the access point into the sewer line for the cable is either smaller than the diameter of the main line pipe, as is the case when snaking the line from inside the house, or when the turns are too tight to allow for the cutter to maneuver around the fittings.

Usually when a snake is run from these lines a single cutter blade is used rather than the optimum size blade for the job.  In these cases, rather than cutting the roots the cable twists the roots up and pulls them away, breaking them off rather than actually cutting them ahead of the blade.  In such cases the roots are wrapped around the cable like spaghetti on a fork, and after so many roots are wrapped up on the cable it can then become stuck in the line, like a Chinese finger trap.  This allows the cable to move forward but not backward. This leads to the probability of sticking the cable in the line eventually breaking the cable and forcing the issue of digging up the line to retrieve the cable and roots.

In some cases if the root intrusions are small enough they can be controlled by chemicals put down the drain lines to kill or at least discourage root growth so they won’t be using your drain lines as a fast food joint.

I have heard some of the remedies that include but are not limited to flushing rock salt down the drain  or putting lye down the drain, and I’m sure there are many more.  Some advertised products that we have seen used are Copper Sulfate or Metam Sodium which are both harmful to the environment and to the bacteria/fungi, which normally decompose dead roots.  These two chemicals also have harmful effects on waste-water treatment plants.  They obviously can create some issues that I think may be worse than the roots themselves, and would probably have limited effect on the problem.  There are some products available that we have had some success with over the years.  Root-X is one of these products, it contains Sulfamic Acid which is widely used to feed and preserve waste-water treatment plant biology.  This product also has a foaming agent that allows it to expand in the pipe, coating the upper portion of the pipe, the area that usually has the most root penetrations.


However, no matter what one of these methods you use to control the root intrusion into your homes sewer line, one fact remains, the cracks or penetrations still exist and the roots will continue to grow and attack that weakness.


Read our next post for more permanent solutions to the problem.


If you have roots causing problems in your home’s sewer line you can always call Patterson Plumbing & Heating, Inc. at 719-544-4922 or schedule on line at www.pattersonplumbing.com.

How do tree roots get in sewer lines in the Pueblo, Colorado area?

Its fall, the leaves of the trees are changing, the nights are getting longer and cooler.  If you are like some home owners you may suffer from what could be another seasonal occurrence far more discouraging and damaging than fall; a backed up sewer.

Tree roots in sewer lines can be a common occurrence, especially if you have an older home that still has the original clay tile pipe used as the building drain from the house to the city main. Tree roots can infiltrate any line if there is an opening to penetrate through cracks or separation in joints, but clay lines have far more issues because of the methods used to join the sections, usually in 1-1/2 to – 2 feet in length.  Each joint would be placed with bald end into the hub of the next joint and filled with rope material, called oakum, and finished off by applying a good amount of thick mortar as a seal. Over time this method breaks down and allows the roots to penetrate these joints where the tree can access water and nutrients.  During fall and spring just before going into or out of dormant periods the tree tends to concentrate its growth below ground on it’s root system.  Although root problems can appear year round we note more service calls for roots during these times of year.

Tree Roots In Pueblo, Colorado Sewer Line PipeThe amount of roots that can work their way into the line can be quite dramatic if left unchecked, as you can see in this photo the roots have totally filled the line making it impossible for anything to pass through it, and impossible to clear without exposing the line and replacing the section of pipe.  That’s exactly what had to be done in this case, we had to excavate the line and replace it.  The PVC Pipe has been removed from the roots that have completely overtaken it.  The dark area is a perfect cast of the pipe formed by roots inside it.

Most cases are not this dramatic, but can still cause damage and back-ups to occur.

Even a small amount of roots create back up issues, usually the roots that penetrate the line are small and fine called feeder roots and can resemble long strands of hair that will lay in the line and absorb the water and nutrients as they flow by. Problems quickly arise when the roots start to impede the solids that also flow through the line on its way to the waste treatment plant. As these solids are held back by the roots the liquid waste for a time is allowed to continue on or seep through the crack in the line and be absorbed by the surrounding earth. Eventually the buildup of these solids becomes too great to let even the liquid pass through and the stoppage creates the back-up into the house that so many of our customers experience.

Many experience these root problems on a continual bases and have just come to expect the occasional backup as normal, and in a lot of cases a simple snake job will at least in the short term open the line and start the flow again, but if left unchecked these root intrusions can lead to more costly and damaging episodes, in future articles we can discuss  what options are available for a more permanent solution.

If you experience drain or sewer backups in your Pueblo, Colorado area home we can help, call 719-544-4922.