Tree Roots in Sewer Lines – How to Prevent & Detect

July 1, 2023

Tree Roots in Sewer Lines – How to Prevent & Detect

Tree roots in sewer lines can cause significant damage to your plumbing system, leading to clogs, backups, and costly repairs. As trees grow, their roots naturally seek out sources of water and nutrients, often infiltrating sewer pipes and causing obstructions. In this blog post, we will explore methods to prevent tree roots from damaging your sewer lines and discuss how to detect and address any potential issues before they escalate.

1. Preventive Measures

Taking proactive steps to prevent tree roots from infiltrating your sewer lines is the key to avoiding major plumbing problems. Consider these preventive measures:

Choose the right tree species: When planting trees near your property, opt for species with less invasive root systems. Avoid trees known for aggressive root growth, such as willows or poplars, which have a tendency to seek out pipes.

Create a barrier: Install root barriers made of materials like woven fabric or plastic root shields. These barriers prevent root intrusion by directing the growth away from the immediate vicinity of the sewer lines.

Maintain proper distance: Plant trees a safe distance away from sewer lines and other underground utilities. Consult with a professional landscaper or arborist to determine the appropriate distance based on the tree species and root growth patterns.

Regular maintenance: Schedule routine inspections of your sewer lines by a professional plumber. They can identify early signs of root intrusion and take appropriate action before it becomes a major issue.

2. Signs of Root Intrusion

Detecting tree roots in sewer lines early is crucial to prevent extensive plumbing damage. Keep an eye out for these common signs of root intrusion:

Slow drains: If you notice that water takes longer to drain from sinks, showers, or toilets, it may indicate a blockage caused by tree roots.

Frequent backups: Regular backups in your plumbing system can be a clear sign of tree roots obstructing the pipes. If you find yourself dealing with repeated backups, it’s time to investigate further.

Unpleasant odors: A foul smell emanating from your drains or toilets could be a result of decaying material caught by tree roots in your sewer lines.

Gurgling noises: Strange gurgling or bubbling sounds coming from your pipes may indicate air trapped due to root intrusion.

3. Detection Methods

When it comes to detecting tree roots in sewer lines, there are several methods that can be used:

Video inspection: A professional plumber can use a small camera attached to a flexible rod to inspect the interior of your sewer lines. This allows them to identify the location and extent of root intrusion accurately.

Smoke testing: By introducing non-toxic, artificially created smoke into the sewer lines, professionals can trace any leaks or openings where tree roots can enter. The smoke will escape through these points, indicating potential root intrusions.

Chemical testing: Plumbers may use special dyes or chemicals that change color in the presence of tree roots. By introducing these substances into the pipes, they can determine if roots are present and pinpoint the affected areas.

4. Addressing Root Intrusion

If tree roots are discovered in your sewer lines, it’s essential to take immediate action to prevent further damage. Here are a few methods commonly used to address root intrusion:

Mechanical cutting: A plumber can use a specialized cutting tool, such as a root saw or auger, to remove the tree roots from the pipes. This method provides immediate relief but may require regular maintenance to keep the roots at bay.

Chemical treatments: Copper sulfate or foaming root killers can be introduced into the sewer lines to inhibit root growth. These treatments are effective but need to be applied regularly to maintain their effectiveness.

Hydro jetting: This high-pressure water jetting technique can clear obstructions caused by tree roots and thoroughly clean the interior of the pipes. It is an environmentally friendly and long-lasting solution.


Preventing tree roots from infiltrating your sewer lines is essential to avoid plumbing issues and costly repairs. By implementing preventive measures, being vigilant for signs of root intrusion, and conducting regular inspections, you can protect your plumbing system from nature’s intrusive forces. If you suspect root intrusion, consult with a professional plumber who can detect, address, and provide long-term solutions to keep your sewer lines clear and functional. Remember, early detection and timely action can save you from significant headaches down the line.

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