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Sewer Pros Reveal 10 Ways to
Remove Tree Roots in Sewer Lines
Part 1


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Tree roots in sewer line drains can cause a clogged sewer that can backup and flood your building. Without using a sewer pipe cleaning service to clear the tree roots away, they can cause significant damage to your sewer pipeline and your building structure integrity.



The infestation of tree roots in sewer line is the most destructive problem in sewer systems. Roots can block or reduce flow causing overflows. A blocked sewer line can create septic pools, producing hydrogen sulfide and other dangerous gases.

Tree Roots in Sewer Line

Structural pipe damage is often more costly than the blockages, and is usually not noticed until the damage is discovered with a sewer inspection camera

A successful pest-control program must be effective, not cause harm to the environment, the public and the sewage system. The use of products containing metam-sodium is commonly applied to tree roots in sewer lines. There are concerns that it could negatively affect the health of humans, animals, and the environment.

Root types

Roots hold and anchor plants upright and store food, absorb water and nutrients. Roots will live even after the above ground plant has been removed; they are very resilient. Willow tree roots survive for years without an above ground growth. These roots can grow incredible distances to find nutrients and water; some tree roots in sewer lines have been found almost 2 miles from the nearest tree.

Plants have either a fibrous or a tap root system.

  • Garden plants and grasses have a fibrous root system and grow on the upper soil layers and do not cause sewer line problems.


Tree Root System

A tree and woody plants have a taproot system that grow down into the soil reaching the water table. Secondary routes will grow horizontally from the primary root system. These tree roots can grow several inches in diameter, invade sewage pipes, and apply enough pressure to open a pipe connection and destroy the pipe.


The tree root shoot, the leading tip of the root, grows towards sources of nutrients. Moisture on a sewage line covered in condensation or leaking nutrient rich wastewater will attract the tree root.

Conditions for root growth: the soil type around sewage lines influences tree root growth; for instance backfill used for sewer construction may be better soil than the undisturbed soil. During the winter season tree roots are attracted to warmer soil surrounding a sewer line. In drier seasons, roots will seek moisture by growing deeper. Roots grow mostly in fall, winter and in spring before leaves start growing. Tree roots distribute and store nutrients at this time and grow less during late spring and summer as the leaves are growing.

Tree roots in sewer line: tree roots in urban areas lack good sources of nutrients such as leaves and other organic debris, or surface water drainage, causing roots to find nutrients and moisture at deeper depths.

Roots love sewage systems because they provide oxygen-rich, well ventilated, nutrients and a large source of water.


Tree Roots in Sewer Line

Sewage lines have hairline openings, be it connections, pipe joints or cracks, that tree roots are able to penetrate.

Types of tree root infestations;

Veil Root Structure in Sewer Line

A veil root structure penetrates pipes at the sides or top and hang like a curtain, touching the wastewater flow. These roots accumulate debris, organic materials and grease. This tree root mass and accumulated material can cause a line blockage and gases.


Tail Root Structure in Sewer Pipe

Tail root structures are found in small pipes such as building sewers, collector sewers and storm drains. A tail root looks like a horse’s tail. It will grow along the pipe and downstream filling the pipe and sometimes reach 25 feet long.


How to Determine Root Problems in Sewage Collection Pipes:

Maintenance histories: reports will indicate where a clogged sewer occurred and why.
A sewer inspection camera provides visual confirmation of a root problem
Root prone areas: sewage lines nearby that have experienced the same problem, with the same tree planting formations will likely experience the same root problem.

Related article: A Sewer Inspection Camera Can Save You Thousands of Dollars

Conditions That Increase Tree Root Problems;

  • Lines located on tree lined streets, near curb lines with trees.
  • Loose fitting sewage line joints or old joint sealing material. Orangeburg pipe, asbestos cement pipe and clay tiles, sewers with oakum joints are vulnerable to root infestation. Seamless pipe or airtight gaskets are less vulnerable.
  • Pipes located to other pipes with history of root problems.
  • Pipes near the surface, closer to tree roots.


Sewer Line Map

A local sewer system map indicating root problems will help find patterns of root infestation and be a useful tool for tree root control programs.


Tree Roots in Sewer Line


What's Next

Tree roots in sewer line growth only worsens with time and is the cause of a multitude of problems in our sewage systems for both homeowners and municipalities. In the next section, find out how to get rid of this problem that  causes clogged sewers everywhere.



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Sewer Pros Reveal 10 Ways to Remove Tree Roots in Sewer Lines – Part 1

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