Tree roots are a common cause of clogged sewer lines, leading to sewage backups in your home. These clogs are insidious because they seem to happen without warning. That's not quite true, though — often there are warning signs. Learn why this happens so you can recognize the problem and request sewer line repairs as soon as possible.
Sewer Leaks Equal Tree Food
Sewage is not something humans want to be around, but trees love it. A sewage line carries organic matter and water, two materials that tree roots consider food. There's a reason human waste used to be used as fertilizer — it's highly nutritious for plants.
Tree roots don't grow randomly around your yard, looking for sewage lines. Two different scenarios allow roots to find the line. One is that the line springs a leak that lets sewage and water seep into the surrounding soil. Nearby tree roots get a taste of this. The roots then grow toward the food source, and they enter the crack in the pipe.
As those roots grow larger and more numerous, they fill the pipe and create a clog. Roots that have been growing into a pipe for a long time can fill up the pipe for some distance.
The other situation is when a pipe was just installed and the soil hasn't had a chance to settle yet. This looser soil is easier for roots to travel through, and if the new pipe has a crack in it — even one that isn't sending sewage away from the pipe — the tree roots can zero in on it, enter the crack, and cause problems in your plumbing.
One of the best ways to prevent tree roots from clogging your lines is to periodically survey your yard around the sewage line. You can call 811 to find out where utility lines are in your yard; follow the sewage line and look at the soil.
See if the grass or nearby plants look a little more lush than the rest of your yard, and look for wet spots when the rest of the yard is dry. If you see those signs, call a plumber who specializes in sewer repair.
Also, survey the trees in your yard. If you moved into a home that had mature trees in the yard, look up the type of tree to see if it is sewage-unfriendly tree. These are trees with spreading, aggressive roots that travel far from the trunk. If you have these, contact an arborist who can install barriers to block the roots from the sewer line.
If you are trying to plant trees, keep those with aggressive, spreading roots far away from the sewer line. If you want to plant trees near the line, look for those with taproots, which are long, vertical roots that don't spread. There are trees that have spreading roots that aren't aggressive, but don't take a chance with those.
Sometimes, when a clog is bad, the line has to be dug up, opened and the roots and tree removed. However, you can also sometimes remove the roots without doing major yard surgery, and it is possible to keep the tree, too, in many cases.
In either case, though, you should contact a plumbing or septic service to inspect the tree and how it is affecting your sewer line. Don’t try to do anything on your own without the right experience.
If you have been dealing with a sewer blockage, and you think it might be a tree root mass that's to blame, contact Al's Septic Tank Service. Do not wait! You need that sewer line repaired as quickly as possible to maintain safe housing.