One of the main culprits when it comes to sewer line stoppages are tree and shrub roots.
If left to grow unfettered, these roots grow thick enough to create a complete block in the lines and will eventually break open the pipes.
A Common Misconception About Roots in Sewer Lines
A lot of people believe roots cause breaks in their sewer pipes. This is just not true.
The only reason you would have roots in your system is because there was an existing hole or crack in the pipe.
Roots are drawn to oxygen and water. So the moment a root senses any moisture, it gravitates to it.
Root systems are made up of a number of parts including larger, permanent roots that stabilize the plant or tree and hair roots that search out and provide water and nutrients. Depending on the size of the tree, root systems can reach 100 or more feet.
The Only Way Roots Could Break a Sewer Pipe From the Outside
So now that we’ve established roots don’t break the line, let’s cover a possible scenario that could happen.
Say a tree was planted above the sewer line after it was installed. As the tree grows, the root ball will grow around and envelope the pipe.
Eventually the pressure from the root ball, and I’m talking a five to 10 foot root ball, will break the pipe — and this is especially true in North Texas. The soil in North Texas is constantly moving, expanding and contracting. And because of this movement around pipes that aren’t moving because of the root ball keeping it steady, that pressure will cause a break.
In this case, the roots still did not penetrate the pipe causing the break. The pressure from the root system did.
How To Get Roots Out of Sewer Line
Of course, you might first be wondering, how do I keep the roots out of the sewer line in the first place?
Ultimately the only way is to make sure the pipe stays intact is that it doesn’t get breaks in the first place.
But seeing as you can’t even see the pipes that are buried underground, this isn’t something you can do.
Cut Roots Out of Sewer Line
A sewer machine is used to cut the roots out of a sewer line. The machine is attached to a cable with a special root cutting attachment at the end.
The cable is fed into the line and spins while the root cutting blades cut the roots. Depending on the amount of growth, the remaining debris might need to be flushed out of the system.
While this is a viable approach, it is a temporary one. You still have cracks or breaks in the line which means the roots will just find their way back into your sewer system.
In very rare circumstances, the roots are so built up in the system that even a sewer machine can’t cut them out. In cases like this, the pipe has to be exposed, cut out, and replaced. Again it’s rare but is sometimes necessary.
Sewer Salts or Chemicals for Tree Roots
If you search online, you can find ways to use rock salt or chemicals to kill the roots. Keep in mind, the chemical you could use could also cause corrosion to the pipe weakening it even more.
Of course, if you already have a large blockage with stronger more established roots, rock salt could add to the problem. Rock salt arise best used when dealing with smaller roots and root hairs.
Once the roots are more established, you’d have to get them cut with a sewer machine.
But again, this is a temporary fix. You have breaks in the line so the roots will grow back.
Replace Sewer Pipe
The best way to ensure your system is and will stay root free is to replace the pipe.
You could use those temporary measures I explained above to keep roots at bay but you will need to replace the pipe eventually.
There’s no way to know how fast roots will grow in your sewer line. It depends on the type of tree, the soil, and a number of other environmental factors.
So it makes sense to go ahead and prepare for a replacement.
How Do I Know If I Have Roots In My System?
The easiest way to know… your system is backing up and you suspect a clog.
If you clear up the clog and it doesn’t come back, no roots. If you clear up the clog and it comes back soon after, it’s time for an investigation.
A plumber can come out and do a sewer camera inspection to see what’s causing the recurring backups.
If you’re not experiencing any clogs but want to be proactive, you could have a plumber come out and do a sewer camera inspection.
Will Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Tree Roots In My Sewer Line?
Not if it’s outside of the house. Sewer lines, water lines, anything. If it’s outside of your home, it won’t be covered. Period.
However, if it’s under the slab, there is a possibility of coverage in Texas. It really depends on your company and policy. But if you have damage inside of your home, like from flooding from a backup caused by tree roots in underslab plumbing, it’s worth calling and finding out.
How Much Does It Cost to Remove Roots From a Sewer Line?
It really depends on the situation. But a rough estimate, it could cost around $100 to $200, sometimes more. And that’s just to cut and clear the roots.
If we’re talking about a permanent solution to your root problem, it could be anywhere from $700 to several thousand. It depends on how much of the line has roots and breaks, and what it will take to get to the pipes e.g., punching holes in the slab, tunneling, etc.
Call Us With Questions
If you suspect you have tree roots in your sewer system, or are experiencing any underslab plumbing problems, feel free to give us a call at 972-494-1750.
Every home and every situation is different. And here at In-House Plumbing it is our goal to find the best solution to your problem. You can read our many testimonials to see how we’ve worked with customers through the years to do just that.
We’re also available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.