Sewer System Root Invasion

Written by: Commercial Real Estate Inspectors, LLC

Signs, Remedies, and Prevention

Trees, particularly huge ones, constantly search for nutrients and water through their roots. That need is especially true in a dry climate like Southern California. Tree roots frequently invade sewer pipes to find the water they need. If left unchecked, these roots can cause clogs and backups, seriously damaging your sewer pipes. What can you do about them?

Commercial Real Estate Inspectors, LLC, offers comprehensive sewer line inspections for commercial or residential buildings. A sewer line may seem okay, but the older it gets, the more problems it can encounter. If you believe tree roots have infiltrated a sewer line, contact our office at (760) 465-0279 to book your inspection.

How Sewer Tree Root Invasion Occurs

As sewer lines age, they develop tiny cracks and leaks, attracting nearby tree roots. Loose joints provide another vantage point for roots to sense moisture and oxygen. Small roots penetrate cracks and joints and, once inside, continue to grow as they absorb water and organic matter. When left unchecked, tree roots start blocking the flow inside the sewer while also expanding the size of cracks and weakening the pipe.

What are the Signs of Tree Root Invasion?

Finding a tree root intrusion in its early stages will save you time and money on repairs and prevent headaches and inconveniences that can occur with burst pipes. However, the problem can be difficult to diagnose because sewers are underground. When water begins to drain slowly from your home or business, tree root invasion may be in its early stages. Sometimes, you may even hear gurgling sounds coming from a flushing toilet.

The best time to call for an inspection is when you notice slow draining, which means something is clogging your sewer pipe. When you hear gurgling, air bubbles have started to form, producing the sound. If you ignore these initial signs, the problem will only get worse.

Signs of a more advanced invasion are: 

  • Recurring clogs and backups
  • Foul odor
  • Decrease in water pressure
  • Sinkholes caused by broken pipes

Remedies for Tree Root Invasion

Property owners can take several steps to remedy tree root invasion if they catch the problem early. Try the following:

1. Call a Professional

A plumber will use a sewer camera to determine exactly where the intrusive roots are and immediately fix the problem. Make sure you contact a professional with extensive experience with eliminating tree roots. Clean the sewer lines through hydro jetting, which uses pressurized water to blast away clogs and tree roots.

2. Rock Salt

Rock salt sucks moisture from tree roots, effectively killing them. Get about two pounds of rock salt and empty it into a toilet in half-pound increments. Flush and repeat until all the rock salt is gone. Don’t flush or run water for 12 hours to dissolve the clog. If the problem remains, you need a plumber.

3. Tree Root Killer

This method works similarly to rock salt in that you flush the powder down your toilet. The root killer foams when it comes into contact with water. Its active ingredient, Dichlobenil, heads straight to root growth, effectively killing it. You can also use it as a monthly preventative to stop roots from regrowing.

4. Copper Sulfate

This substance, available in hardware stores, is also effective against killing tree roots in sewer lines. Let your water lines sit for a few hours, and make sure that pets don’t get into it, as this substance is toxic. Check local ordinances before using, as copper sulfate is banned in some areas.

Preventing Tree Root Invasion

Even if you successfully remove tree roots, the infiltration problem will remain because of microscopic cracks. If your sewer line pipes are still in relatively good shape, many plumbing companies offer a replacement lining placed inside the pipe to prevent further deterioration. Replacement is necessary when pipes have burst. Property owners may also consider replacing sewer lines from the 1980s and earlier, as contemporary pipes have stronger safeguards against roots.

Check your drains and sewer pipes through regular inspections.  Doing so can prevent excessive root growth. The placement of trees on your property can also affect sewer lines. Trees placed about 60 feet away from the sewer line are the most dangerous as they send out the tiny roots that typically invade pipes, far from their trunks in their search for nutrients.

Schedule Your Sewer Line Inspection Today

If you own or manage a commercial or multi-family residential property in Southern California, you want to ensure everything associated with it, including sewer lines, is in good operating condition. Contact our office at  (760) 465-0279 to schedule your inspection and get peace of mind. Commercial Real Estate Inspectors serves Los Angeles, Ventura, and Orange County.

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