Tree roots are a major issue for home sewer drains, so it's important to understand the causes as well as preventative tactics.
How do roots get into a drain?
It's important to note that tree roots can be quite thin, nearly microscopic in size. Because of this, they can make their way into an undamaged drain pipe through the joints that connect two lengths of pipes. The roots may also get in from hairline cracks that aren't really large enough to pose a leak concern otherwise. Of course, sometimes the roots do make their way into a drain via more severe cracks or holes, or the roots may actually puncture some pipes depending on the material it is made from. Once in the pipe, the roots quickly grow until they form a matted blockage.
Do the roots cause permanent damage?
Roots are more than an inconvenience. Roots that get in through joints and small cracks will eventually enlarge the opening they found, thus leading to leaks that will require a pipe replacement on relining. Roots can also cause damage from outside the pipe by encircling it and crushing it slowly over time. Inside the pipe, the root blockage causes sewage backups into the home and puts undue pressure on the pipe, which can lead to a burst pipe in the yard.
Can roots be removed from the drain pipe?
Fortunately, most major root-related problems can be avoided if you act quickly. If your drains are emptying slowly or becoming blocked frequently by tree roots, a full drain cleaning is in order. A service may use an auger, similar to a drill on a cable, to tear out the roots in the pipe. Another common method is to spray high-pressure jets of water down the pipe to completely eradicate both large and small roots so the pipe is completely clean. This may need to be done annually depending on how quickly the roots grow back.
Are there ways to prevent root incursion?
Removing trees and woody shrubs that grow near the drain pipe can help reduce root incursion, but it may not be enough. Tree roots can spread out quite far, which means the problem tree may not be near the pipe or it may not even be on your property. Your drain cleaner may also recommend that you use a tree root treatment at regular intervals. These treatments are poured down the main drain or flushed down the toilet every month or two. They kill any intruding roots before they can become established in the drain.
Contact a drain cleaning service if you suspect tree roots are damaging your drains.