Solved! What to Do About Tree Roots in a Sewer Line

If you need to know what to do when tree roots in a sewer line start causing problems, these tips can point you in the right direction.

By Melissa Graham | Published May 10, 2022 9:58 AM

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Tree Roots In Sewer Line


Q: There’s a sinkhole starting to form in my yard. My neighbor had a similar issue a few years ago, and it ended up being tree roots in the sewer line. Could I be having the same problem? What should I do? 

A: Trees on your property provide beauty, value, and homes for wildlife. But many homeowners may not consider that tree roots can wreak havoc on the pipes that run near and under your property. Tree roots in sewer lines can cause severe issues in your home, including sinkholes, gurgling toilets, and slow drains.

You’re probably wondering how to clear roots from drain pipes. Thankfully, many homeowners will be able to solve this problem independently with some homemade root killer for sewer lines. But consider that it may be easier to opt for a professional plumber’s help, especially if the problem seems beyond your capabilities or expertise.

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Signs of tree roots in a sewer line include sinkholes in the yard, slow drains, gurgling toilets, and fast tree growth. 

Because sewage and water pipes are located underground, tree roots can grow right through them, causing leaks and other issues that could result in significant damage. One sign that tree roots are blocking your sewer line is the presence of soft or saturated spots in the yard. When tree roots grow into plumbing, it can cause water to leak into your yard and create a sinkhole. Sinkholes are a risk for trips and falls, especially if there are kids playing in the yard, so it’s a good idea to call a professional to repair a sinkhole as soon as possible.

Other signs of tree roots in a sewer line are slow drains or gurgling toilets. If you’re finding that all of your drains are slow even after using drain cleaner, or more than one toilet in the house is gurgling, the sewer line could have a leak.

If you aren’t experiencing any of these issues but notice that one of your trees is growing faster than others, it may be because it’s receiving more moisture than other trees on your property because its roots have grown into the sewer line.

Tree Roots In Sewer Line


Tree roots grow toward and into the sewer line for moisture and nutrients. 

Why do tree roots grow into sewer lines in the first place? In the search for moisture and oxygen, roots grow toward and tend to penetrate tiny cracks in sewer lines to tap into excess nutrients. If your yard has many trees, especially ones that are mature or oversize, this could present a problem. A slight infiltration can lead to a significant blockage that damages your plumbing and your yard or foundation. Plus, a tiny crack in the pipe can give roots more consistent moisture, leading the roots to expand to fill the pipe and cause more damage.

Calling a professional is the best way to get tree roots out of the sewer line. 

It may be tempting to save a few bucks and kill roots in a sewer line yourself, but a professional plumber can much better handle this issue. Plumbers not only have the skills and experience to identify the problem, but they also have the proper tools to get rid of it for good and repair any damage. Although paying for a plumber may be more expensive up front, the investment will likely pay off in the long run. Effectively and promptly killing tree roots and repairing the sewer line can prevent more severe damage in the future.

When hiring a professional, you may wonder if tree roots in the sewer line are covered by insurance. Typically, homeowners insurance will not cover this issue. However, if tree roots have grown into a sewer main, your municipality should pay for any repairs to the main.

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DIY solutions include rock salt, foaming root killers, and copper sulfate. 

If you decide to go the DIYroot-killing route, it’s best to learn the most effective methods before picking up a random root killer from Lowe’s or The Home Depot. Rock salt is a popular solution to suck moisture from roots and kill them. You can purchase about 2 pounds of rock salt from your local hardware store and slowly flush it down your toilet. Let the rock salt seep into the roots for about 12 hours without running water or flushing toilets.

Foaming root killer is another DIY option. This solution kills roots in your sewer line and prevents roots from growing back and causing more blockage. To use, you can pour the powder into your toilet and flush. Copper sulfate is another substance that users can flush down their toilets to eliminate roots in drain pipes. However, the chemicals in copper sulfate are dangerous to dogs and are even banned in some areas, so it’s best to check local legislation to see if it’s acceptable to use.

An annual plumbing inspection can keep tree roots from infiltrating pipes in the future. 

Roots in pipes are no small problem, so it’s important to get ahead of them. An annual plumbing inspection can go a long way in giving you peace of mind and preventing major damage before it starts. Professional plumbers have cameras they can put through your pipes to identify and remedy any potential problems. Tree roots in your sewer line can cost a pretty penny to resolve, and annual inspections not only catch problems before they arise but also ensure your pipes stay clear after the removal of the roots is done. Plumbers can provide tips and tricks to keep your plumbing in tip-top shape, from the dos and don’ts of French drain cleaning to proper maintenance.

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