Like all living entities, trees will do whatever it takes to obtain the nourishment they need to thrive. This includes stretching their roots out to tap into a rich source of water and nutrients: your water and sewer pipes. If left unchecked, tree roots can damage your plumbing and force you to pay up to $10,000 or more to replace broken pipes. To avoid this problem, here are a few ways you can stop tree roots from hurting your plumbing.
Know Before You Plant
Before planting trees on your property, it's a good idea to find out the location of your pipes so you can avoid putting the trees near them. Over time, the trees roots will eventually find their way to your pipes if you don't take other precautions. However, that doesn't mean you have to make it easy for them.
If you don't have house plans showing how the piping is laid out on your property, you can get that information by calling your local public works department. Tell them that you will be digging in your yard and need to know where the utility lines are. They will send someone out to your home to mark where the lines are so you can plan your landscaping accordingly.
Pick Your Trees Wisely
Another thing you can do is to plant slow-growing trees with small roots. If you place them far enough away from the water and sewer lines, you probably won't have to worry about roots invading your pipes for at least a decade if not longer. Amur or Japanese maples, redwoods, white fringe trees and dogwoods are all good examples of slow-growing trees that work well in residential yards.
Once you've planted the trees in your yard, you should invest in having the roots trimmed back on a regular basis. You can contract with a root specialist to have them physically dig into the ground and prune the roots. You can also use a variety of chemical substances such as copper sulfate crystals to kill excess roots. Be aware, though, that being too aggressive with the trimming or using certain chemicals can cause the tree to die.
Create a Barrier
Erecting a barrier around your water and sewer pipes can also help keep tree roots from invading your plumbing. This barrier can be anything from blocks of wood placed on the side of the pipes facing the trees or a few layers of a chemical retardant such as potassium hydroxide near the plumbing. The barrier may need to be replaced after a while, so you'll want to add that task to your home maintenance plan.
Detecting Plumbing Trouble
In spite of these preventative methods, tree roots may still find their way into your plumbing lines. It can be challenging to tell whether or not this is the case without digging up your yard.
Tree roots in pipes cause clogging, slow-flowing drains and overflowing. There may also be gurgling sounds when you flush the toilet. If you're experiencing these issues on a regular basis, you may have a tree root problem.
There are a couple of ways you can deal with this issue. The most common way is to use a chemical root killer. You simply pour the substance down the drain and its corrosive effects clear away the roots that have made it into the pipes. This isn't the best option for all situations though. Depending on the chemical you use, it can have a harmful effect on pipes and the environment.
Another, more environmentally friendly option is to use a high-powered snake to clear out the pipe lines. This is best done by a professional as you can easily damage the pipes if you use the machine incorrectly.
Whether you want to prevent tree roots from becoming a problem or fix any damage they may have caused, it's a good idea to contact a plumber for assistance with keeping your pipes clean, clear and fully functional.