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Roots in the Sewer Line? Oh No! A Guide to This Common Problem

Roots in the Sewer Line?

When you think of your home's plumbing system, the first components that come to mind are probably your toilets, sinks, and perhaps the garden hose. But there's another element of your plumbing system that is easy to forget about because it's located beneath your home and yard: your main sewer line.

This wide pipe collects all of the waste from your home and carries it into the municipal sewer system. Homeowners don't usually give their main sewer line a second thought until they have an issue with it, and that issue usually comes in the form of tree roots.

How Do Tree Roots Destroy Main Sewer Lines?

Tree roots are naturally drawn towards moisture. If your main sewer line develops even the smallest crack, which is quite common in aging pipes, the tree roots will quickly start to infiltrate the line, drawing water from it to nourish the tree. Over time, the tree roots grow denser and denser until they either clog the sewer line completely or cause it to collapse in on itself.

What Are Some Signs That Tree Roots Are Growing Into Your Sewer Line?

One of the signs below will clue you into the fact that there's a problem with your sewer line.

Sewage Backups

One overflowing toilet probably indicates an issue that's isolated to that toilet. However, if your toilets back up frequently, you probably have an issue with your main sewer line. The sewage you're flushing can't pass through the mainline, so it's coming back up and into your home. You may even see sewage coming up through your bathtub or sink drains if you don't have backflow preventers installed in these drains.

Slow Drains

Once again, a single slow drain probably just means you need to plunge or snake that drain. But if all the drains in your home seem to be draining very slowly, you probably have an issue with the main sewer line.

Sudden Surges in Tree Growth

Do you have a tree that seemed to languish or stay the same size for years before recently shooting up in height or developing more vibrant leaves? This may be a sign that its roots have burst into the main sewer line and are now receiving plentiful water and nutrition.

Moisture in the Basement

There are many possible causes of moisture in the basement. However, if you're suddenly seeing water seep in through the floor or walls, that water may be coming from a nearby sewer pipe that has been burst open by tree roots. If the water coming in has a putrid sewage odor, then this explanation is particularly likely.

What Can Your Plumber Do About Tree Roots in Your Sewer Line?

Your plumber will probably start by sending a camera down into the sewer line. This will allow them to visualize any roots that are in your pipe. If they do detect roots, the recommended treatment will depend on the extent of the growth. Common solutions include the following.

Cutting the Tree Roots

A special cutting tool with a rotating blade may be sent down into your sewer line. This will temporarily cut away the roots so that sewage can flow through freely. Eventually the process may need to be repeated since the roots will grow back.

Chemical Eradication

If the root growth is in its beginning stages, your plumber may recommend sending a chemical agent down into the sewer pipe. This agent will kill the tree roots and prevent them from growing back for at least a few years.

Replacing the Sewer Line

When the tree roots have caused the pipe to collapse or have clogged it completely, sometimes the best option is to remove and replace the damaged section of pipe. This can be costly, but it is a more permanent solution than cutting away the roots or treating them with chemicals.

If you're having issues with slow drains, sewage backups, and dampness and odors in your basement, it's time to schedule a camera inspection of your main sewer line. It's likely that tree roots have grown into your line, and this problem is only going to get worse until you have it professionally addressed.