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Small roots, big problems: Preventing Pipe Damage

10/20/14

Tree roots can clog and damage pipes

Believe it or not, your landscaping could be a danger to your plumbing system. Tree roots will travel long distances to find water, especially when drought conditions persist. When trees and shrubs get thirsty, they follow the trail of moisture vapors escaping from small cracks, holes or poorly sealed joints in water and sewer lines. Roots penetrate these openings to reach the nutrients and moisture inside the pipes. If not stopped, roots can completely fill a pipe with multiple hair-like root masses at each point of entry. These root wads quickly become clogged with grease and other debris flowing from homes to the main sewer line, resulting in reduced flow and slowed drains. A complete blockage may occur if the roots are not removed. With nowhere to go, waste water and sewage may back up into your home.

Root systems are extremely powerful – everyone has seen cement sidewalks actually buckle from their pressure -  and they can place considerable strain on a crack or pipe joint, often breaking the pipe and resulting in a costly repair or replacement. If your home is over 25 years old you probably have either steel pipes (which are susceptible to corrosion) or clay (terracotta) pipes. These pipes have a porous characteristic requiring an additional level of care as they have likely reached the end of their useful life. Clay pipe, which is most common in older water and sewer lines, is also easily penetrated and damaged by tree roots. Concrete pipe and PVC pipe may also allow root intrusion, but to a lesser extent than clay. PVC pipe usually has fewer and more tightly fitted joints which are less likely to leak as a result of settlement around the pipe.

If incoming water or outgoing sewer lines gurgle, bubble or run slowly and you suspect a clog, the problem isn’t likely to go away on its own. It’s time to call in a professional to investigate the problem. If roots have entered your pipes, a professional plumber can remove them using powerful cutting blades. This process may require digging or new, trenchless technology to reach the affected pipe, which is usually several feet down. Once the trench is dug, the plumber can repair or replace the pipes and cut away any threatening roots.

You can minimize the chances of root intrusion by limiting the number and types of plants near sewer lines. When planting large trees, consider locations carefully and be sure to place them where the roots can’t reach pipes.

Think you may already have a tree root problem?

Don't wait - call in a professional before the trouble worsens. Your local Benjamin Franklin plumbers are always here to help. Give us a call and we'll investigate the problem for you.
 



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