Sewer and Drain Back-up, What to Do If Tree Roots Grow into Your Sewer Lines

Sewer backups and plumbing issues are not only stressful, they can be completely overwhelming as you’re struggling to figure out what caused the disaster. There are several potential causes, as simple as the kids flushed too much toilet paper, or there’s a grease clog in the kitchen, or much worse, there may be tree roots clogging up the main sewer lines leading from my home.

Minor toilet backups and clogged drains can be handled from the inside of your property, tree roots in the main sewer line are a different matter.  The big question is, what do I do when I suspect there is something going on outside, and contaminated water is coming into my home?

What to Do if Tree Roots Are Found in Your Sewer Line Pipes

While this is certainly a messy and expensive cleanup job, the most important action to take when tree roots grow into your sewer lines is to call a professional plumber right away. While you might expect a hefty repair bill, it will certainly be lower than what you may pay in the future if you hesitate to act immediately.

Diagnosing the Sewer Line

water damage restoration and sewage cleanup by ServiceMaster DAK

A slow running faucet may be a sign that your sewage line is clogged

As soon as the plumber arrives and confirms that tree roots are causing the issue, they will rod out the lines using a special power rodding tool that will cut into the roots using special blades, allowing them to pull or push the clog out so that your drain runs clear. While not always necessary, they may need to dig into the ground, depending on the damage and how deep the pipes are located.

In other cases, no dig sewer repair is possible with sewer pipe relining. The plumber will clean the drain, then insert a camera into the ground to confirm the debris and clogs are gone.

Repairing Your Sewer Line

To repair the pipe, a fabric tube is inserted into the pipe with lining material to inflate and cover the full length of the compromised pipe. After inflating, the materials will dry and harden, preventing future leaks.

Sewage Cleanup in the Home

Once the plumbing is fully repaired, don’t forget to address any sewage water contaminating your property. Water damage is harmful, but when it’s filled with dangerous toxins and waste materials, it’s very dangerous. This is why the cleanup job must be handled by a professional.

Serving the northwest Chicago suburbs, ServiceMaster DAK provides water damage restoration and sewage cleanup services to safely restore homes affected by sewage backups. Using advanced products and equipment, our professionals will extract all standing sewage water, remove all non-salvageable structure material, clean and disinfect remaining structure and set up drying equipment to remove the remaining moisture from the building materials and air spaces. Returning your home to a safe, clean and dry environment so that you can confidently begin the replacement process.

Our professionals can also work with insurance adjusters during the claims process to allow for additional peace of mind.  Check with your insurance agent to be sure you have sewer and drain back-up coverage included in your homeowner’s policy, as this type of damage may not be typically included.

Don’t hesitate to give us a call at (847) 459-3900 for emergency sewage cleanup and/or water damage restoration services.

How to Prevent Tree Roots from Growing into Sewer Lines

While it’s unfortunate to have tree roots grow into the sewer lines and flood your home, there are steps that can be taken to prevent this disaster from reoccurring in the future.

1.     Landscape carefully

Before planting any shrubs or trees, call your local public works offices, or even the national 811 “Call Before You Dig” number to identify all areas with pipes underground on your property. Knowing their whereabouts will give you some insight when planting any trees or large bushes in your yard.

2.     Choose trees with smaller, shorter roots

Contact your local nursery. They can suggest on non-aggressive tree species best suited for your climate, and that will not interfere with any of the underground plumbing.

3.     Consider removing fast-growing trees on your property

It is good to know how old your trees are to determine the complexity of their root systems. Keep in mind, their root systems are often two to three times longer than the height of the actual tree.

4.     Create a barrier between the roots and sewer lines

There are numerous barrier options to prevent roots from growing into the sewer lines. Most homeowners choose slow-release chemicals, like potassium hydroxide and copper sulfate. Others prefer to use solid materials, like wood or metal barriers outside the pipes, and run them along their sewer lines.

5.     Replace vulnerable pipes

water damage restoration and sewage cleanup by ServiceMaster DAKFor homes built before the 1980s, plumbing systems using Orangeburg pipes were common. These conduits used wood fibers bound with a water-resistant adhesive, known as walls of ground cellulose. The manufacturer would then insert them with liquefied coal tar pitch.

Over time, these pipes deform due to long-term concentrated pressure, which the manufacturers tried to prevent with proper “bedding”. Before laying the pipe, plumbers must provide adequate compaction throughout the pipe zone, using only soil, not debris or rocks. But this does not make them resistant to the applied pressure from tree roots.

As a result, concrete or old clay sewer pipes may need to be replaced with seamless high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe in a trenchless pipe process. These sewer pipes have a much longer service life and are much less likely to experience tree root issues.

6.     Have regular inspections

If you prefer not to remove any tree from your yard, you can monitor the root system with semi-annual inspections from a licensed plumber.  Have your main sewer line from the house to the street, and perhaps even the main sewer pipe inside the home rodded/cleaned out at least once a year.  They can also use micro-video technology to survey the length of the sewer pipe and determine if an invasion is present. This way, clogs and backups can be prevented.

To avoid major sewer repairs, drain clearing and cleaning should be done regularly.

Warning Signs of Tree Roots in Sewer Line Pipes

  • Clogged drains
  • Gurgle sounds
  • Collapsed or blocked pipes
  • Sinkholes in your lawn
  • Foul odors

In any case, recognize these warning signs as a possible issue. Be sure to call a plumber right away before the water backs up into the home and you have two disasters to deal with. Remember, prevention is the best method to avoid disastrous situations with your sewer lines.

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