Are Tree Roots Causing You Problems?



Hello everyone - welcome to this week’s episode of “How NOT to Call the Plumber!”.


Many of you will have seen the first photo in this series and thought “what the heck is that?”. That, my friends, is what roots in your drain look like (in this case, the roots had found their way under the foundation and into the drain inside the house, which isn’t at all uncommon!). This image is from a job we did last week, so please excuse the picture quality – I thought they would still do well to show you what happens in situations like this.


I hope you trust me enough by now to know that with these posts I am not trying to scare you, but root damage to your drain is a serious issue – there are no two ways about it. Unfortunately, the band aid solutions are purely that, band aids. Taking steps like having the drain snaked every few months/years will temporarily help the issue, until it doesn’t. Inevitably, if you leave it long enough, you will wind up having some sort of flooding in the basement. We’ve just seen it too many times where a customer has said “I wish I had dealt with this sooner”.


Many of our customer are confused when we show them on the camera inspection that they have issues like this inside the house. There is a misconception that roots can only affect the piping outside of the house, but that just isn’t the case! As I mentioned earlier, this was a case where roots had found their way under the foundation wall and into cracks in the clay piping. How does this happen?


There is a good chance that if you live in a freestanding or semi-detached home, it is nearing (or past) 100 years old. The majority of these homes still have the original clay piping underground. Over the years there have been events like groundwater changes, shifts in the earth under the home, settling of the house, and many other things will eventually cause that pipe to crack or sections to become separated from each other. Before you get mad at the pipe or it’s installers, it has already given us 100 years of service, so it doesn’t owe us anything!


Roots are an interesting thing. We often see them stemming from trees, bushes, etc., that are well over 20 feet away. They do an excellent job of finding water and unfortunately, if there is even the smallest crack or separation in the pipe, they will find it (there is lots of flowing water in those pipes!). Once they are in there, they will grow rapidly and eventually stop the flow altogether (especially when materials like toilet paper are fighting to get through the blockage).


Now, what should we do about them? As I mentioned before, there is sometimes the ability to put a band aid on the situation and have the snake cut them as best as it can. This is by no means a proper solution, as it’s like pulling the leaves off of a weed, but leaving the roots in the ground – it’s just a matter of time until those leaves grow back (ironically, stronger and larger than before!).


The proper solution is what we did here – cut out the problem area of drainage piping and replace it with new piping that is impermeable to roots. I know this isn’t the answer that we like to hear, but unfortunately, it’s the truth!


Today’s post was meant more as a visual education tool to show you what happens. Please feel free to post/reach out personally with any questions you might have and I’d be happy to answer!


As always, I hope you all have a wonderful (root blockage free) weekend and we’ll see you next time 😊.

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