The Roots Of A Clog: What Lurks Under Your Yard?

Most people don't give a second thought to what's beneath their carefully landscaped front lawn, but in this case it's what you don't see that could pose an annoying and expensive plumbing problem. Tree and bush root systems are naturally drawn to your underground plumbing pipes, and given a few year's growth, can actually invade the pipe and cut off the flow of outgoing waste. Your city is not responsible for the pipe once it leaves the main pipe at the street, so read on to learn more about how roots can cause problems with your plumbing pipes.

The lateral pipe and what it means to your plumbing system.

This main plumbing line carries the waste products from toilets, sinks, tubs and washing machines from your home to the main city line near the street. When trouble strikes, you may notice that the toilet has begun to be slow to empty when flushed, and when it does it makes strange gurgling sounds. Soon, some of your drains will begin to back up into your house. In worst case scenarios, raw sewage will enter your home from this drain.

How did the tree root get in the pipe in the first place?

It is likely caused by tiny leaks around the jointed areas of the lateral pipe. It doesn't take much moisture to draw roots in the direction of the pipe, and soon the pipes are filled with roots and trapping toilet paper, hair, cooking oil and other unpleasant objects that routinely get sent down the drain.


1. Contact your local water utility to help you pinpoint your lateral pipe location.

2. Keep all large bushes and trees several feet from the lateral pipe.

3. Look for plants that have less aggressive, slower growing roots systems.

The Fix

Don't delay calling in a plumber as soon as problems surface; self-help for this type of problem is just not practical. The plumber will need to use specialized equipment, such as a tiny camera probe, to inspect the blockage and evaluate the repair. For minor root invasion, a root saw can be employed along with high pressure flushers. For extensive damage, the pipe will need to dug out, removed and replaced.

Roots invading your plumbing pipes is a 100% preventable problem, so take care when planning your landscaping and call your plumber at the first sign of a blockage. Taking preventative action and getting professional help now—from a plumber like those at Aalco-The Drain Doctor and other locations—could save you costly repairs and prevent the pipe being completely ruined in the future.