Root Growth in Sewers

Tree roots growing inside sewer pipes is generally the most expensive sewer maintenance item experienced by city residents. Roots from trees growing on private property and on boulevards throughout the city can cause flooded basements and damaged sewer pipes. Home owners should be aware of the location of their sewer service and avoid planting certain types of trees and hedges near the sewer line. The replacement cost of a sewer as a result of damage from tree roots can vary from $6000 to $15,000 and up!

How Do Roots Grow in Sewer Pipes?

Roots need oxygen to grow. They do not grow in pipes that are full of water or where high groundwater conditions prevail. Roots thrive in the warm, moist, nutrient-rich atmosphere above the water surface inside sanitary sewers.

The flow of warm water inside the sanitary service pipe causes water vapour to escape to the cold soil surrounding the pipe. The leading tip of tree roots can detect minute differences in moisture and nutrient levels and tend to grow in the direction where these can be found.

On reaching a crack or joint in the pipe, tree roots will penetrate the opening to reach the nutrients and moisture inside the pipe. This phenomenon continues in winter even though trees appear to be dormant.

What Problems Can Roots Cause?

Once inside the pipe, roots will continue to grow, and if not disturbed, they may completely fill the pipe with multiple hair-like root masses at each point of entry. The root mass inside the pipe becomes matted with grease, tissue paper and other debris discharged from the residence.

The homeowner will notice the first signs of a slow flowing drainage system by hearing gurgling noises from toilet bowls and observing wet areas around floor drains after completing the laundry. A complete blockage may occur if no remedial action is taken to remove the roots.

As roots continue to grow they expand and exert considerable pressure at the crack or joint where they entered the pipe. The force exerted by root growth may break the pipe and could cause it to collapse. Structurally damaged pipes may require repair or replacement.

What Do I Do If I Think I Have Roots in My Sewer?

The common method of removing roots from sewer service pipes involves the use of a sewer machine with root saws or high pressure flushers. These tools are useful in releasing blockages in an emergency but it is always better to perform regular maintenance on your sewer once a year to reduce the possibility of sewer backups and further damage. 

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