Tree root invasion and blocked drains
How it happens and How to avoid it
There are a number of reasons why drains get blocked. The most obvious reason is probably the build-up of debris and/or foreign items (such as wet wipes, cotton buds and the like). Another less known reason is the poor installation of pipes. Pipes that have not been installed correctly (often the case if not installed by a professional plumber) are more prone to environmental forces such as tree root invasion: the least known but most common cause of drain blockages.
Whilst trees provide shade and add aesthetic appeal to a backyard, their roots are a sewer pipe’s worst enemy. Tree roots, whilst firmly planted in the ground, actually move in search of the moisture and nutrients that they require to flourish and survive. They are drawn to the vapours from the warm water inside the sewer pipe that sewer pipes release into the surrounding soil. Generally, tree roots make their way through pipes that have a fault. They can infiltrate a sewer pipe through the smallest of cracks. Once they’ve made their way inside they will continue to grow and spread, thus blocking the sewer pipe and creating havoc to the household’s drainage.
Pipes that have been invaded by tree roots may be affected in different ways. If their impact is small, you may experience bubbling or gurgling noises in your sewer system, or water draining slowly in sinks and basins. On the other hand, if the roots that have made their way into your pipes are quite forceful and continue to grow inside the pipe whilst catching pieces of debris on its journey, this may result in total blockage of the pipe. At worst, your sewer pipe may collapse completely due to the pressure the tree roots have placed on the crack or joint that was their entry point to the interior of the pipe.
It’s actually uncommon, however, for tree roots to invade pipes that have been installed correctly and that have been well-maintained. If you have earthenware pipes, one way to prevent tree root invasion is to replace the existing pipes with PVC pipes and ask your plumber for pressure seals too, for further protection.
If you’ve decided to plant trees on your property, do some research on which varieties are safe to plant in close proximity to sewer pipes and which varieties are not. Some species of trees are more likely to try and infiltrate your sewer pipes than others. Your local water supplier should be able to steer you in the right direction.
If you know for a fact that your pipes have been damaged by tree roots, then the best course of action is to have them repaired. Nowadays. Sewer pipes can actually be repaired without the need for excavation – something that deters many householders from addressing their sewer line issues. Once your pipes have been repaired, they will become far more resilient towards thirsty tree roots. Never ignore a sewer system in trouble. The problem will inevitable worsen, not go away.