Septic System Roots: Risks & Remedies

Prevent plumbing problems caused by tree roots. 

A lot of things spring to mind when it comes time to buy a new home. One priority that likely doesn’t jump to the top of your list? Your lateral sewer line. However, hiring a professional to conduct a sewer scope inspection is a crucial specialty service for all homeowners to consider.

While we suggest them for all homes; we strongly recommend sewer scope inspections for homes 20 years or older, even new construction can be prone to problems. One of the most common, and costly, causes of sewer line problems? Tree roots. Keep reading to learn all the tree root warning signs and, perhaps more importantly, find out when it’s time for you to contact an AmeriSpec inspector.

Sewer Line Roots Warning Signs

If your sewer system is routinely backing up or clogging, this could be a clear sign that you have roots in your sewer line. You might also notice that water drains slowly from your bathtubs and sinks. A loud, peculiar gurgling noise coming from your toilets is another symptom of a root intrusion. 

Other signs that may suggest serious forms of sewer line damage include foul odors emanating from your drain, soggy wet spots on your lawn or cracking walls caused by pipe problems. While these symptoms aren’t necessarily due to tree roots, they still warrant an immediate sewer scope inspection. 

If you notice any of these indicators it’s best to call an AmeriSpec professional as soon as possible. Leaving a small root intrusion untreated can transform from a minor annoyance into a costly expense.

Why Do Roots Grow in Sewer Lines? 

It’s surprising to hear, but tree roots are naturally attracted to your sewer line system and what’s inside them. These pipes are filled with a combination of nutrients, oxygen and water, meaning it's a great spot for a tree to position its roots. 

When a small crack develops in your home’s sewer lines, vapor escapes. Tree roots grow in the direction of this vapor, searching for moisture and nutrients. Eventually, the roots will invade the pipe’s cracks, growing and growing if left untreated. Then, the roots begin catching the sewage sent through the pipes, impeding how quickly your system drains and ultimately causing a sewage leak which can be harmful for the environment. 

Routine sewer scope inspections aren’t only ideal for those involved in real estate transactions. Identifying a small crack early, before roots have time to grow, can prevent a lot of hassle and money. Not to mention, if roots do grow unabated for long periods of time, they can actually collapse your sewer pipes, necessitating some very costly repairs while also damaging the environment.

Sewer Line Root Removal

If you do have roots in your sewer lines, there are a few different treatment approaches you can pursue. 

  • Sewer machines can cut roots out of your sewer line. These machines feed a cable into your sewer line that spins a root cutting blade. This can be a good option, but is usually only a quick fix. Because roots grow due to cracks in your line, they'll return if you don’t repair the cracks themselves. 
  • Foaming root killers can actually prevent root regrowth. These herbicides kill roots on contact and also leaves behind residue that discourages roots from returning. Usually, root killing solutions can be poured directly into your toilet. Doing this a few times a year can keep roots from growing in your sewer line in the first place.

Prevent Sewer Line Root Growth 

The best, and cheapest, route to combating tree root growth is proactive prevention. Frequent sewer scope inspections conducted by AmeriSpec experts can reveal cracks, clogs and instances of damage. After finishing a sewer scope inspection, your AmeriSpec inspector will both go over the recorded video documentation and provide detailed written notes covering their findings. Not only do sewer scope inspections potentially save thousands and thousands of dollars, but they can keep your mind at ease.