Tackling Troublesome Tree Roots in Pipes: Your Solution Guide

23 hour plumbing employee

We've all heard the saying, "the grass is always greener over the septic tank", but did you know it's often the case for tree roots near your plumbing pipes too?

That’s right, tree roots in pipes can pose a significant problem to your home’s plumbing system if not handled appropriately.

Understanding the Problem

tracking roots in pipe

Picture this: You’re a thirsty gum tree with roots searching for a water source. Unfortunately, these adventurous roots often find their way into our home’s pipes. These uninvited guests can cause serious plumbing dramas by creating blockages and even breaking pipes.

Such blockages can lead to a range of troubles, from slow drains to full-on backups. Over time, these intrusive roots can even break pipes, resulting in costly repairs and potentially major property damage.

Why Tree Roots Invade Pipes

Tree roots are natural explorers. Their primary function is to anchor the tree, but they also search for water, nutrients, and oxygen for the tree’s growth and survival.

This search can often lead them to your home’s pipes, causing a myriad of issues.

The Allure of Water and Nutrients

Australia is known for its harsh climate, with sweltering summers and dry areas where water can be scarce. Tree roots, driven by their instinct to seek out water and nutrients, are attracted to the moisture and nutrients present in your pipes.

Your home’s plumbing system is like a banquet for tree roots. The water within the pipes helps quench their thirst, particularly during the hot Aussie summer. Furthermore, pipes carrying sewage are rich in nutrients necessary for tree growth. Thus, tree roots naturally gravitate towards them, even if it means infiltrating small cracks or joints in your pipes to get there.

Providing Oxygen

In addition to water and nutrients, oxygen is another crucial component for tree survival. Oxygen in the soil gets depleted during periods of heavy rain or overwatering. In contrast, sewer pipes can provide a consistent supply of oxygen, making them even more attractive to tree roots.

Expansion and Growth

Once inside the pipe, the conducive environment stimulates the roots to grow and expand. Over time, what might start as a small hair-like root can develop into a thick mass, causing substantial blockages and even potential pipe damage.

Tapping into the Pipe Network

It’s worth noting that tree roots won’t just invade one section of your pipe. They can follow the pipe network, creating problems in multiple areas. This network of roots can further complicate the task of removal and pipe repair.

Understanding why tree roots invade pipes is the first step in effective prevention and treatment. With this knowledge, you can create strategies to keep your pipes root-free, whether it’s through regular maintenance, using root deterrents, or being careful about where and what trees you plant near your plumbing.

Spotting Tree Roots in Your Pipes

Tree roots in pipes may not be immediately apparent. However, there are telltale signs that your pipes may be under attack. Recognising these signs early can help you address the issue before it escalates into a major problem.

  1. Slow-flowing drains: This is often the first sign homeowners notice. When tree roots start to invade your pipes, they restrict the flow of water, causing it to drain more slowly than usual. This is especially noticeable in sinks and bathtubs. If you find water taking longer to drain, or if there’s a persistent puddle in your sink or bathtub, you might be dealing with tree roots in pipes in your home.
  2. Gurgling sounds from your toilet: Another sign of tree roots in your pipes is a strange gurgling sound coming from your toilet. This sound occurs when trapped air bubbles are forced through the water in your toilet bowl. If you hear this sound regularly, especially after flushing, it might be due to a blockage caused by tree roots.
  3. Unpleasant smell from your drains: A noticeable, foul smell from your drains is a clear indicator of a blocked pipe. When tree roots block your pipes, wastewater can’t flow freely. This stagnant water begins to decompose, producing a sewer-like smell. If your drains stink, it’s a strong indication that tree roots may be invading your pipes.
  4. Frequent backups: If your drains or toilets are frequently backing up, it could be due to a blockage in your pipes. Tree roots can cause such blockages, leading to wastewater backing up in your toilet or drains.
  5. Changes in your landscape: If you notice an unusually green and lush patch of grass or an area of rapid plant growth in your yard, it could be due to a leaking pipe. Tree roots can crack pipes, causing leaks that nourish the surrounding soil and vegetation.

Keeping an eye out for these warning signs can help you identify and deal with the problem of tree roots in your pipes before it causes significant damage. Remember, it’s always a good idea to call in a professional when in doubt.

If you suspect tree roots in your pipes, you can confirm it using various techniques. You can use a plumbing snake with a camera attached, but for a definite answer, you might need a professional plumber to check it out.

Handling Tree Roots in Pipes

tracking roots in pipe

There are various methods for removing tree roots from the your pipes and drains, such as:

Mechanical Solutions

There are several ways to mechanically remove roots from your pipes, including augers, root saws, and high-pressure jets. But take care, these tools can cause more damage if not used correctly.

Chemical Solutions

There are commercial products available that can kill tree roots in your pipes. However, keep in mind that these chemicals can harm your garden and the local environment if not used responsibly.

Natural Solutions

If you prefer a more eco-friendly approach, there are natural solutions such as rock salt or a mix of baking soda and vinegar. These can help deter root growth in pipes without significantly harming the tree or the surrounding environment.

Stopping Future Invasions of Tree Roots in Pipes

The best way to manage tree roots in pipes is to prevent them from becoming a problem in the first place.

Consider using root barriers or replacing problematic trees with slower-growing, less aggressive species. Regular pipe maintenance can also help spot problems early.

When to Call a Tradie

If tree roots have caused significant damage or if you’re not comfortable tackling the problem yourself, it’s time to call in a professional tradie. Experienced plumbers and arborists have the right tools and knowledge to safely and effectively deal with tree roots in pipes.

Wrap Up

While dealing with tree roots in pipes can be a bit of a sticky wicket, with a bit of know-how and the right approach, you can handle it effectively. Remember, prevention is always better than cure, and don’t hesitate to call in a professional if things get too much to handle.

Please note: This information is provided for advice purposes only. Regulations differ from state to state, so please consult your local authorities or an industry professional before proceeding with any work. See 23 Hour Plumbing’s Terms & Conditions here.

Last Edited on: 19th September 2023

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