There are many forms of sewer blockages, ranging from simple soft clogs or grease build-ups to more complicated problems like corrosion and root intrusion. Root intrusion is a very common reason for a sewer line backup but not always problematic if taken care of on a regular basis.
But — what exactly is root intrusion?
Root Intrusion Explained
Root intrusion, simply put, happens when roots that have worked their way into a sewer line system cause sewer line back-ups. Hair-like tendrils can catch waste, such as toilet paper and other solids, making it difficult for sewage to flow from your home to the main sewer line. This can cause sewage back-ups in cleanouts outside your home, garage, or worse, basement. Sewer lines are full of things tree roots love to absorb. Water, nutrients, and oxygen all make tree roots gravitate towards your pipes. Once the roots find an opening, there is no stopping them from growing into your sewer system.
Root Intrusion in Your Sewer Line
Many times, tree roots are found in terra cotta pipes. The reason for this is terra cotta, when it was installed many years ago, was installed in sections. These sections are referred to as joints in the pipe. The joints are where tree roots can easily infiltrate into the system, causing problems for any homeowner. Terra cotta pipes, although being the easiest for tree roots to enter, are not the only sewer systems tree roots are found. In fact, all pipes are susceptible to root incursion based on installation and age. For example, cast iron sewer systems are also very common. Cast iron tends to oxidize and corrode over time, which will allow tree roots to infiltrate your system.
Signs you are experiencing root incursion are the same as any other sewer system blockage; slow flowing drains, gurgling sounds from your toilet or sink drain — and of course, when there are too many roots in the system, sewage backups into your home or garage. If left untreated, root intrusion can cause problems, potentially causing major damage to pipes like cracking and collapse of a sewer line. What was once a simple sewer line cleaning can turn into a major repair.
What Are the Signs of Root Intrusion?
While root intrusion will always require professional diagnostics, repair, and remediation, there are a few signs you can look out for. Some of these signs include:
If your sink, tub, or toilet takes a long time to drain or you hear a gurgling noise, you may have tree roots in your sewage pipes. Properties with trees nearby are especially vulnerable to root intrusion.
If you notice sinkholes anywhere on your property, it could be a sign of root intrusion. Sinkholes only occur in advanced root intrusion cases, so it’s possible that other parts of your property, including your foundation, could also be in jeopardy.
Collapsed and broken pipes can lead to toilet back ups and other hazardous overflows. Root obstruction and intrusion are one of the leading causes of clogged pipes.
Foul odors and fumes are one of the tell-tale signs of damage to your sewer line. If you smell sulfur or other bad odors inside or outside your home, it may be the result of root intrusion.
In all of the above cases, it’s best to contact a residential plumber before attempting to do anything on your own.
How to Prevent Roots in Your Sewer Line
There are a few DIY ways to deal with tree roots that homeowners can try. Flushing sodium chloride (rock salt) or copper sulfate down a toilet and letting it sit in the sewer may be a potential solution. Make sure to flush the toilet a couple of times until the material has been completely removed from the bowl. Let the rock salt or copper sulfide sit in the pipe for 8-12 hours before using any water. Rock salt (sodium chloride) and copper sulfate both are poisonous to vegetation and will dehydrate the root system. This may not completely remove all the roots in your sewer line, but it might offer temporary relief if used frequently.
How to Use Root Killer in a Toilet
A foaming root killer might also be a solution to removing heavy roots in your sewer line system. Again, this can be poured down the toilet. The foaming solution will kill the roots on contact and leave a residue behind that stops future root infiltration. By following the instructions and using the herbicide a couple of times a year, you may be able to remove or reduce your root problem.
It will also help to plant all trees and shrubs away from your utility lines. Roots are not just a problem for sewer lines. Other utility lines are also susceptible to damage by root incursion. For a long-lasting solution, you may want to consider installing a sleeve or cured in place pipe (CIPP) to prevent infiltration. Liners can be installed in terra cotta and cast lines without digging up your precious landscaping. Liners can be installed in a single day and leave your sewer line smooth and joint-free, which will create a barrier from any root intrusion. You can find out about CIPP liners by clicking here.
Tree Roots in Your Sewer Line? Leave It to the Experts!
Want to leave the root problem to the experts? Our team has the tools and experience to completely clear your sewer line system of any root infiltration. We use powerful hydro jets to cut out and clean sewer lines without the guesswork of using root killer, rock salt, or copper sulfide. Hydro jetting will not prevent roots from coming back, but it will keep the sewer system open and prevent the sewer line from fracturing due to roots. We do encourage routine maintenance with root problems to prevent any future fracturing or collapsing of your sewer line. We have a long-standing history of helping our Pittsburgh area customers with their sewer line repairs.
For additional information about all of our offerings, including sewer and drain cleaning services, reach out to the team at Mister Sewer Plumbing & Drain Experts today!