Preventing Sewer Line Damage
Common Causes of Sewer and Water Line Damage
Tree root infiltration is the most common cause of sewer line damage. If a complete sewer line replacement is not something you wish to have in your near future, follow these simple tips to prevent root damage and keep your home’s waste plumbing flowing freely.
It’s basic common sense that some kinds of trees and plants pose more potential harm than others to water and sewer lines if they’re planted too close. However, all trees have at least some ability to invade pipes.
Tree roots are most likely to poke through sewer lines that are already damaged and that rest in the top two feet of soil. Lines and sewers that are in good shape usually resist root damage well, but lines with weak spots or cracks are susceptible to infiltration. Large trees that grow quickly are the main culprits, so avoid planting these trees near your sewer system and keep an eye on existing trees that have been growing near lines. Some of the most aggressive trees include ash, sweetgum, poplar, cottonwood, lowland oak, locust, willow, basswood, tuliptree, sycamore, boxelder, and many maple varieties such as sugar, red, Norway, and silver.
Properly managing landscaping near sewer lines is important. Water-seeking trees should be replaced every eight to ten years before they can grow into pipes and plumbing lines. This helps limit the distance that roots grow beneath the soil and shortens the time they have to infiltrate sewer line cracks, foundations, sidewalks and other elements in your yard.
Steps to Prevent Tree Root Damage
According to agricultural experts at the University of Tennessee, following these steps can help prevent tree root damage to your home’s sewer lines:
- Plant only small, slow-growing trees near sewer lines.
- If you must plant fast-growing species, plan to replace them every ten years or so.
- Even slow-growing trees can damage sewer lines, so be aware that these trees must also be replaced periodically.
- When building new sewer lines or upgrading existing ones, consider landscaping plans carefully and do whatever is necessary to avoid root infiltration from trees and robust shrubs.
There are no “safe” trees when it comes to sewer lines, but UT recommends planting small, slow-growing species such as Amur maple, dogwood, redbud, Japanese maple, or fringetree.
What If You Suspect Tree Root Damage?
If you already suspect root damage to your home’s sewer lines, there are a couple of things you can try before the problem gets out of control. You can buy commercial root killers that slowly release chemicals to stop root growth. You can also try naturally compacted layers of soil to make it harder for roots to penetrate; laying down chemical layers such as sulfur, zinc, borate, sodium, salt, or herbicides; creating air pockets using large stones that may help redirect root growth; and solid barriers such as metal, plastic or wood. These barriers can be effective in the short term, but it’s hard to guarantee long term results with any of these methods; you may also cause significant damage to or even kill the tree, which carries a whole other set of risks. Before you try anything, it’s always best to consult a professional.
Contact Horizon Services
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