Tree Root Removal from Pipes: How and When to Do It

root removals

Whenever drain pipes around the house start to clog, the first thought that goes into your mind is that it is probably because of something you did. Maybe you left too much hair in the shower drain or flushed something that shouldn’t be flushed. While these are possible causes, sometimes the drain pipes obstruction can occur from causes outside of the house or underground.

If you have trees and vegetation around your home, sometimes the roots can cause obstruction in the pipes. When cared for properly, trees around the house continue to grow above and below ground, and sometimes the roots can encroach on sewer lines as they look for more space for growth. Eventually, the roots grow large enough to block pipes or even cause damage to the pipes.

If you have been trying to get rid of pipe obstruction with no success, the chances are that you have a root obstruction. Here is everything you need to know about tree root obstruction and tree root removal from pipes.

How tree roots find their way into sewer lines

When drain pipes are first installed, they are tightly fitted and safe from root invasion. However, the fitting becomes loose over time and causes the lines to develop tiny openings. When a root grows, it may find its way into the openings and cause an obstruction over time.

Naturally, tree roots grow in search of areas in the ground that are moist and nutrient-rich, and sewer pipes carry both of these properties. The tree root system matures and widens over time as they grow deeper in search of nutrients. It is normal for root systems to grow up to 4 times the diameter of a tree crown. This means that a tree as far as 30m from the sewer lines can still eventually cause obstruction in the pipes.

The roots at the very end of the root system are tiny enough to go through small crevices and cracks. Once a part of the root finds its way into a pipe, it continues to grow and creates a larger opening in the pipe’s walls. Eventually, this leads to clogging.

Source: How do tree roots get into sewer pipes?

Signs of root invasion in drain pipes

Sinkholes on your property

A root invasion will eventually damage your sewer lines. When this happens, water begins to leak into the soil around the pipe. With time, this added moisture in the ground can make the surface of the affected area sink. This is one of the most common tell-tale signs of a tree root invasion in drain pipes.

Foul odor

If you have a serious blockage in your pipes, you will notice a rotten smell emanating from the drains around your home.

Slow or gurgling drains

If the sinks, tubs, or toilets around your home are draining slower than usual, it may be an indication of a clog in the drain pipe. This is also a common sign when it comes to tree root obstructions.

An overly “green” area on the property

This is more of a long-term sign of root invasion. When tree roots successfully invade the pipe network, the particular plant starts to get more sustenance compared to the rest of the foliage around it. This results in an area with more green or lush than its surroundings.

DIY options for tree root removal from pipes

If you start to notice any of the signs above, it is always advisable to seek the help of a tree expert for a proper diagnosis. However, if you are sure that you are experiencing a root invasion in your pipes, there are several home remedies you can use to correct the problems.

These homemade remedies involve the use of different natural salts to kill the roots growing in your pipes. They are also excellent preventative measures to keep your pipes free from root invasion.

Copper sulfate

These are bright blue crystals that look like salt and can be bought from most home improvement stores. This is a natural herbicide that can be used to kill small tree roots in sewer lines. You only need to flush half a cup of crystals down the toilet to start the process. This is not a safe option for a septic system.

Rock salt

This is a safe alternative to copper sulfate for septic systems. One application is enough to kill the roots, as doing so often can lead to tree poisoning.

Chemical tree removers

It is also possible to remove roots from pipes using chemical formulations specially designed for the task. These products are alternatives to salts and are used to poison the sewer lines and kill the root structure, preventing it from growing again.

Permanent tree root removal from pipes

While flushing down salts and chemicals may help rid the pipes of the blockage, new roots can sometimes start growing in the pipes months later. When this happens, a more permanent solution is required.

If you want a permanent tree root solution, you need to call in the professionals. Tree specialists and sewer line specialists have specialized tools that make it easier to remove roots from the sewer system permanently.

They will use a special camera to look into the sewer pipes and use a snake to investigate the extent of the problem. Once they find the obstruction, they will create a plan to remove the roots.

Rooter and mechanical augers

These are the most commonly used tools for tree root removal from pipes. The auger is fed into the pipes to the obstruction, where it chops up the roots. The chopped-up roots are then flashed down and out of the piping system.


This is a professional method of removing tree roots from pipes that uses high-pressure water flow. This pressure is strong enough to cut and disintegrate tree roots.

Pipe replacement and repair

Once the obstructing roots have been successfully removed from your drain system, the best way to prevent it from happening again is by replacing completely damaged pipes or repairing the ones that can be repaired. Professionals are best placed to give recommendations based on the extent of pipe damage. Replacing old piping systems with modern pipes like PVC is an ideal preventative option.

The bottom line

While trees are excellent additions to your backyard and garden, they can also be the silent enemy causing drainage issues in your home. Any of the options mentioned in this article are excellent tree root removal from pipes remedies. If you notice any sign of tree root invasion, it is advisable to take the necessary steps to prevent a full-blown drainage problem or the expensive cost of replacing an entire drainage system.

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