Are you having problems with tree root infiltration in your sewer lines? Tree roots can be particularly obnoxious because they are thick, tough, and relentless when it comes to seeking out nutrients and water. Of course, they have to be in order to support the tree and provide it with all the nutrients it needs, but those same tough tree roots can destroy sewer pipes and lead to clogs and breaks in the pipe. Let’s take a look at why tree roots infiltrate sewer lines and what you can do about it with help from NuFlow.

Why Tree Roots Infiltrate Sewer Lines

Tree roots infiltrate sewer lines in search of water and nutrients. Since sewer lines have a variety of items that flow through them, including human waste and food scraps as well as water, they are a rich source of nourishment for trees. Usually, tree roots seek out sewer pipes that are already cracked and leaking water. They can do this because tree roots sense water and automatically grow toward the source.

The most susceptible pipes for tree root infiltration are clay pipes, which are sometimes referred to as terracotta sewer pipes. These were most commonly used during the 1960s and 70s before plastic pipes became available. Once plastic piping was in wide use, clay pipes were slowly phased out. However, to spite clay sewer pipes being out of use for the last 40+ years, your building may still have clay sewer pipes, especially if it was built in the 1980s. This is because clay pipes have an average expected useful life of between 50 and 60 years.

When we talk about clay pipes being susceptible to root infiltration, it’s because they have seams that can wear out faster than the rest of the pipe. In this scenario, the seam may have already cracked, which attracted the tree roots due to leaking water and waste. In a second scenario, the tree was planted too close to the sewer line and the roots themselves cracked the pipe as they grew around it. Of course, once those tree roots sense water, they’ll continue to grow into the pipe so that they can maximize their exposure to that water and soak up all the moisture and nutrients.

What Trees Most Commonly Infiltrate Sewer Pipes?

Some trees have more aggressive root systems than other trees. Trees that you shouldn’t plant anywhere near your sewer line include aspen trees, birch trees, elm trees, fig trees, maple trees, oak trees, sycamores, and willows. By contrast, cypress, cedars, magnolias, fruit trees, sabal palmetto, Mediterranean fan palms, and wafer ash trees pose very little threat to underground sewer pipes.

Problems Caused by Tree Roots

In order for wastewater to flow freely down your sewer pipe and into the city’s water treatment system, the interior of the pipe must be smooth. Once tree roots start to infiltrate the pipe, the surface is no longer smooth, and any solids that are flowing through the pipe can get stuck on the tree roots. This includes food particles and toilet paper that hasn’t fully dissolved. Once one item gets stuck in the pipe or on the tree root, it attracts more items until the clog is bad enough that it causes a sewer pipe backup.

Sewer pipe backups occur when water can’t exit the far end of the sewer pipe faster than the water is flowing, or there’s a blockage that’s completely preventing the water from exiting the pipe. As the water continues to flow down the drains of your building, it gets stopped at the clog. As the pipe fills up, the water starts to back up into the lowest drains of your building. These could be basement or floor drains, or they could be bathtubs, showers, and even sinks in your first-floor units. This can cause hazardous flooding in your building.

It’s important to understand that the water that flows into your sewer pipe is blackwater because it contains human waste. Blackwater is very toxic to humans and can cause illness if there are bacteria or other pathogens present. For this reason, it’s important to get tree roots and blockages cleaned out of your sewer lines as soon as they are noticed.

How to Spot Tree Root Infiltration

If you’re concerned about tree root infiltration, it’s best to start by getting your sewer pipe mapped so that you know exactly where it’s located. Then, take a look at the vegetation that’s around your pipe. If you have any of the trees on your property that are listed as having highly invasive roots, you want to be extra-vigilant in paying attention to the signs of tree root infiltration, which include:

  • Multiple slow drains
  • Sewage backups, especially in the lowest drains of your building
  • Smells of sewage or sewer gas
  • Sounds of your drain pipes gurgling
  • Stinky wet spots or puddles around your sewer pipe

If you’ve had tree root infiltrations in your sewer pipe before or you wish to stop it before it happens, it may be a good idea to remove any trees that are known for having extra-invasive roots and plant different trees on your property.

How Pipelining With NuFlow Can Thwart Tree Root Infiltration

At NuFlow, our pipelining technicians clean out sewer pipes as part of the epoxy pipelining rehabilitation process on sewer pipes. The process typically starts with a camera inspection of the sewer line to determine the degree of damage and corrosion. These images also show us where tree roots have infiltrated along the seams of clay pipes and through cracks and holes in other types of piping materials.

The good news is that the milling machines that we use to remove sediment, corrosion, and debris from all types of plumbing pipes also clear out tree roots. Once the pipe is clean and clear of debris, we start the pipelining process. For sewer pipes, this means preparing a felt liner and thoroughly soaking it in our two-part epoxy.

Next, we thread that liner through the pipe and ensure it’s in the proper position. Then, we inflate an air bladder, which pushes the epoxy-soaked liner against the pipe walls of your sewer pipe. The air bladder remains in place while the liner cures.

Once the curing process is complete, the air bladder is removed, and we perform a second camera inspection. This camera inspection is performed in order to make sure the line is fully cured, and that there aren’t any issues, like wrinkles in the liner.

After we’ve checked to make sure the line is properly installed, we remove all of our equipment and restore service to the sewer pipe.

What to Expect After Your Sewer Pipe Liner Is Installed

Once the liner is in place, dry, and cured, it acts like a new plumbing pipe, except it’s now resistant to future tree root infiltration. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that cured-in-place piping is designed to last between 35 and 50 years, which is comparable to the average lifespan of a new plumbing pipe. In accelerated laboratory testing, epoxy pipeliners have shown the ability to last upwards of 80 years, and of course, here at NuFlow, we offer 10-year warranties on all our pipelining work, so that you don’t have to worry about problems creeping up after you’ve had your sewer pipe-lined.

As an added bonus, you don’t have to fill in any trenches in your yard or on your property because pipelining is a trenchless technology. This is because we use existing cleanouts or create new cleanouts in order to access your degraded sewer pipe and install the liner. It means that once we’re done, the work is done.

To learn more about how epoxy pipelining can help prevent future tree root infiltration of your sewer pipe, give us a call at 815-790-9000.