How To Deal With Ingrown Tree Roots Clogging A Sewer Line

by Grace Motley

Drain problems often develop slowly over time. At some point, the water backs up, or the sluggish flow is simply unacceptable. Property owners and occupants who suspect that tree roots have grown into a sewer line have several options to diagnose and solve the problem.

Older clay pipes can develop small cracks, inviting the intrusion of tree roots. Newer PVC sewer lines may have an occasional imperfect joint seal, allowing root growth into the connecting point between two pipe segments. The responsibility of the municipal sewer authority ends at the main sewer connection, leaving the property owner with full responsibility for sewer and drain cleaning.

The growing problem

Tree roots naturally grow toward any source of moisture. A cracked clay pipe or a leaking PVC joint disperses moisture into the surrounding soil. Eventually, the smallest roots grow into the pipe itself through the opening. Once inside the pipe, the root continues to expand, slowly reducing the free flow of water.

The first step in diagnosing a sewer line blockage is to determine precisely where the trouble spot is located. The sewer line is not under pressure and can be accessed by opening the above-ground access cap, usually located near the point where the piping exits the structure. The initial locating of the clog requires a special tool referred to a plumbing snake.

The smaller solution

A plumbing snake is simply a lengthy piece of stiff wire that is inserted into the piping through the access cap. Commercial snakes are essentially a lengthy coiled spring, but a long length of very stiff wire might also suffice. The continued insertion of the snake will be blocked when it hits the clog. This might clear some small obstructions, but a more substantial root clog will require more effort.

Once the specific location of the blockage is determined, you will likely be able to also speculate as to which tree caused the problem. Some tree species exhibit more aggressive root growth and are more likely to exploit weak spots in sewer or septic lines. Although there are motorized versions of the plumbing snake to apply more power, a dense root clog may simply have to be dug out.

The larger solution

Digging up a small portion of the drain line is sometimes the only solution for a compacted root clog. The affected section of pipe is cut out and replaced. The new pipe connection must be sealed properly to prevent the situation from occurring again. This also presents an ideal opportunity to consider cutting down the offending tree.

Unexpected sewer problems can be prevented by periodic drain cleaning. A plumber can utilize a motorized snake auger to remove other blockages of varied origin. A professional plumber, from a company like A Absolute Plumbing & Heating, also has the specialized equipment to efficiently complete any plumbing repair.