The Warning Signs of Root Damage
Most homeowners like having trees in their garden or close to their home. However, while they may make for a more attractive outside space, trees are also the root cause of many plumbing and drainage problems.
Because trees need water to grow, their roots will seek out an active source of water underground, which is usually drains or pipes. In most cases, the ground around drains and pipes is disturbed, making it easier for roots to grow alongside them.
How do roots damage drains?
There are many ways that roots can get into a drainage system and cause problems, although they only tend to enter pipes and drains that are already damaged or leaking.
Over time, wear and tear on pipes can lead to cracks and leaks, with extreme weather also a common cause of damage.
Once a root has found its way into a crack or fracture on the surface of a pipe, the size of the crack will increase as the root grows. In time, this can lead to leaks, blockages and even burst or ruptured pipes, all of which can be very costly to repair, especially if there is flooding or structural damage as a result.
Tree roots can also enter a pipe or drain along its joints. Sand and cement is used for many drainage systems’ joints, so there is little resistance to growing roots. The rubber sealing on newer drainage systems can even succumb to root ingress in some cases.
Signs of root damage
As tree roots grow underground, it can be difficult to know when they have found their way into your pipes or drains. However, it’s worth keeping an eye out for the following:
Green patches – If there’s a lush green patch on your lawn, or an area of the garden has seen unnatural bush or tree growth, it could be a sign of excess water underground, possibly caused by root growth in the pipes. A plumber will be able to tell you if that is the case, and if so, quote for any necessary repairs.
Water draining slowly – Slow draining sinks are a common indicator of pipe and drain blockages. As there’s not as much space for the water to pass through, it’ll take longer to drain, and root ingress is regularly the cause of such issues.
Odd smells – A blocked drain or pipe will often give off an unpleasant odour due to wastewater and other substances being trapped inside for a period of time. If you get a whiff of something nasty, it’ll probably need inspecting.
Sinkholes – Although sinkholes are rare in the UK, they can appear as a result of root growth in pipes, with the leaking water creating soft patches in gardens. This is more likely in areas with high levels of chalk or limestone.
Drain cover tipping – If a drain or manhole cover appears to be tipping and isn’t sitting flush against the ground, it may be because a root has entered the drainpipe and forced it upwards. If this is the case, you will need to contact a local drainage technician.
Bulges in access pipe – As the name suggests, an access pipe provides access to the drains beneath your property. By lifting the manhole cover, you’ll be able to see if there any discernible bulges in the side of the pipe, which may indicate minor root ingress.
How to prevent roots entering your drains
Ideally you’ll want to stop tree roots in their tracks before they get anywhere near your pipes. Here are just some of the ways you can prevent root damage:
Find sewer lines – Before landscaping your garden or planting new trees, make sure you know the location of the sewage pipes beneath your land, ensuring you don’t plant too close to them. Your local water authority or plumber will be able to assist with this.
Make a barrier – Placing a barrier between roots and pipes is another effective way of preventing root ingress. This could either be a metal or wooden barrier buried below ground, or a chemical such as copper sulphate or potassium hydroxide, which can deter root growth.
Plant trees with less aggressive roots – Some tree species grow quicker than others, meaning their feeder roots are more likely to find their way into pipes. Ask a local arborist about tree species with less aggressive root systems, or simply take a look online.
Inspection and maintenance – Regular maintenance of your plumbing and drainage system will identify whether there’s any sign or risk of root ingress, allowing the issue to be addressed before it becomes too serious.
How Drain Doctor can help
Whether you’re looking to protect your drains from root damage, or are in need of emergency repair work, get in touch with Drain Doctor today. Depending on the scale of the problem, we can offer a range of solutions from drain repairs and excavation to cured-in-place pipe repairs and drain jetting.
Where necessary, our technicians can also conduct a CCTV drain survey to check the current state of your drains and report back on any blockages or damage we find. This is a more cost-effective solution than digging into the ground.