11 March Closeup of the edge of a drain pipe that is filled with tree roots

Signs You Have Tree Roots in Your Drain Pipes

Posted by PlumbWize

For a plumbing system to work effectively, clean water must be supplied to your property and wastewater must be carried away efficiently. As you can imagine, having tree roots in your home’s drain pipes is a serious problem. Though to many new homeowners, this may seem like an unlikely scenario, it’s a case that we, at PlumbWize, are faced with every now and then. We’ve removed tree roots from the drain pipes of numerous homes.

Typically, we get a call from homeowners or property owners who tell us that they are having one or more of the following issues:

These are all signs that you have tree roots in drain pipes. 

However, tree roots in drain pipes are not the only plumbing problems related to tree roots. In fact, tree roots can also infiltrate water lines (the pipes that supply clean water to your home) and they can also infiltrate the septic tank. 

However, in this article, we’re focusing on what signs to look out for specifically if you suspect that you have tree roots in drain pipes. We will also talk about how it happens and what next steps you can take in dealing with this plumbing issue. 

Without further ado, let’s get started! 

Closeup of a cracked drainage pipe filled with tree roots

Tree Roots in Drain Pipes – How and Why Does It Happen?

We can all agree that trees are a beautiful addition to a home’s surroundings. They improve the view, provide shade, provide a place to affix a swing or a treehouse, and much more. However, in certain conditions, they can also wreak havoc on a home’s plumbing system.

Tree roots can infiltrate drain pipes, water pipes, as well as the septic tank. The simple answer to why this happens is because the roots are seeking out moisture and nutrients. 

Unknown to many, the roots of a tree can span for 2-3 times longer than the tree’s height. These roots travel far, seeking nutrients and moisture for the tree as it grows. The larger and older the tree, the more complex this root system becomes. 

When there is a crack or leak (even small ones) in any kind of pipe, the moisture attracts tree roots. A small root can enter the pipe and slowly expand through time, eventually causing a partial or full blockage. In so doing, the tree root/s can also cause the leak to become wider and larger.    

In some cases, however, a leak in the sewer pipe is not necessary to attract roots. Clay pipes have a relatively more porous surface (compared to PVC and concrete pipes.) Therefore, it can attract tree roots even without a leak and the tree roots that impinge on the clay pipe can eventually cause it to crack. 

The 6 Signs That You Have Tree Roots in Drain Pipes or Sewer Pipes 

1. Slow Functioning Drains

One of the main signs of a tree root ingress in drain pipes or sewer pipes is the slow functioning of drains. The underground drainage pipes are meant to carry away wastewater from your home. Therefore, if a tree root has grown into the pipe, it would mean that wastewater flows through very slowly or barely at all.   

However, slow-functioning drains may not always mean you have tree roots in your drain pipes. 

Try to observe if the problem is something you see across many drains in your home. Isolated cases of a slow functioning drain (e.g. the kitchen only, the shower only) can mean that the obstruction could be something that is poured/dropped/flushed into the drain rather than a tree root infiltrating your underground drain pipes.  

2. Gurgling Toilets

If the toilets in your home are all gurgling, it can be another sign that you have tree roots in drain pipes. Typically, toilets gurgle because there is a blockage somewhere. This blockage can be on the toilet drain itself which typically happens if anything aside from the 3 P’s (Poop, Pee, and toilet Paper) is flushed down the toilet. 

However, just like with slow-functioning drains, if all toilets in the home begin gurgling, it is an indicator of a blockage in the sewer line – which could be due to tree root ingress.   

3. Sewer Backups

If tree roots in drain pipes cause a significant amount of obstruction, it can cause sewage to back up into the home. This is typically first observed on drains that are closer to the ground (e.g. first-floor bathroom tub/toilet, kitchen sink) but the backup can also work its way up to higher levels. 

However, tree roots are not the sole cause of sewer backups. Sewer backups can be caused by too much precipitation entering the sewer system, the failure of the sump pump, blockages in city sanitary mains, and collapsed sewer lines. However, if you see this sign along with more on this list, it’s highly likely you are suffering from tree roots in drain pipes. 

4. Contaminated Puddles in the Yard

Earlier we mentioned that tree roots can infiltrate through a small crack/leak. As the root infiltrates and grows, it can widen the crack/leak on the underground drain pipe. This can cause contaminated puddles to form in the yard, usually right above where the leak has been aggravated.  

A muddy puddle in the yard

5. Sink Holes in the Yard

Over time, as a sewer pipe leak progresses, water will saturate and erode the soil, thereby forming a sinkhole. It can be serious if this happens close to your home’s foundations as it can lead to structural damage. Leaking water is one of the most common causes of sinkhole formation. A few warning signs that a sinkhole is progressing near your home’s foundation include structural cracks and windows/doors that are not closing anymore. 

6. The Presence of Bad Odours

Tree roots can cause extensive damage to drain pipes or sewer pipes especially if they’ve grown into the drain pipes for a while. As we’ve mentioned, tree roots can worsen a crack in the pipe or even cause one (especially for clay pipes.) Such damages in the sewer pipe can result in foul odours inside or outside your home. 

Fast Removal of Tree Roots in Drain Pipes/Water Pipes in Toronto

If you suspect that you are dealing with a tree root ingress in your drainage pipes, you need help from the pros as soon as can be!

PlumbWize is a trusted provider of residential and commercial plumbing services in the areas of Burlington, Oakville, Hamilton, Milton, Ancaster, and Stoney Creek. Through our years of service, we have been faced with virtually every kind of plumbing problem there is – including that of tree roots in drain pipes. We can remove tree roots from all types of drain pipes in a safe and effective manner.

Whether or not you are sure that you are dealing with this issue, our expert plumbers will be able to effectively assess the problem for you using state-of-the-art technology and techniques. 
No plumbing concern is too big or too small for us to handle. Worried about tree roots in drain pipes? Just give us a call and we’ll be more than happy to help!


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