Tree Roots vs Drain pipes: How to be on the winning team
On the Atherton Tablelands we love our treelined suburban streets – they provide shade, filter the air, and look beautiful. But underground, your favourite tree could be causing serious and expensive damage to your stormwater or sewer pipes. Here we walk through why tree roots cause blocked drains and how to fix the problem.
How tree roots block drains
Tree roots will grow wherever they can, regardless of where your pipes are. They are drawn to the condensation on the outside of sewer or stormwater drains, which forms near tiny cracks, spaces between joins or imperfections in your pipe. They are powerful enough to grow through the crack to the source of more water, where they can grow and grow. As more water comes down your pipes, the bigger the tree roots will grow. The roots form a type of net, and waste that goes down your pipes can’t pass through, causing a blockage.
A blockage shows up in the form of overflowing pipes, slow draining baths or sinks, gurgling noises or bad smells.
Clay pipes are the most susceptible to having tree roots issues, and they are older and are installed in smaller sections. The sections are joined with cement, which deteriorates over time. All of this contributes to weak points for roots to penetrate.
How to fix the problem
When you call a plumber for a blocked drain, they bring special machinery to inspect, locate and clear blocked drains. This includes a machine that has a large cable with a cutting head, cutting back the roots and clearing the blockages.
We also recommend using the CCTV camera (a long cable with a camera on the head) which is sent down the pipe to see the extent of the damage to the pipe and locate exactly where the tree roots are coming in.
If you’ve had tree roots in your pipes once, there is a high chance you will have them over and over again – the roots will keep finding the same imperfection, space between joins or crack in the pipe and keep growing through it. Some companies suggest relining, however this is a temporary fix - it is like treating the symptoms rather than the cause.
The only way to ensure tree roots do not grow back into your pipes (and cause future blockages) is by replacing the section of pipe the roots have come through with long lasting UPVC pipes. You can also ask your plumber to install an inspection point at the trouble spot, for easier access in clearing future problems.
Make sure you read Part B for what not to do!