Asked on Feb 1, 2012

I had a 40 year old Maple tree about 10' away from a 40 year old septic tank. Guess what happened.

Paul MTeresa DHandyANDY - Handyman & All Repairs, LLC


The Maple tree, early in its life, began putting roots into the tank through the sealed top. Yes the top has a sealed z-shaped lid design that is supposed to keep everything out. Well when it comes to trees and roots that is just not going to happen. The roots got in, pushed the lids apart to some degree, over time, and filled the septic tank with roots. The incoming line from the house is filled with roots, the out going drain field line is filled with roots, so of course the system stopped working. We thought that the tank was just full and overdue for a cleaning. Well in a sense it is full, full of roots. There is no discernible solid material in the tank. Apparently the tree sucked up everything except for some of the water. So now it is a matter of removing all of the roots, incoming, outgoing, and those in the tank, pump what is left, clean it up good, and then fix the yard. This is a fairly common scenario and one that needs to be brought to light on a regular basis. Don't plant anything of consequence anywhere near your plumbing lines or septic tank, the roots will always do you in eventually. So that is the bad news. The good news is that the drain field is like new, nothing has gotten in there in 15 years or longer. <(^_^)>
12 answers
  • Erica Glasener
    on Feb 1, 2012

    Paul, Glad you were able to resolve your root problem. Your story is also a reminder not to plant large trees too close to the house, driveway or sidewalk. This is especially true for trees like maples with all the surface roots.

  • This is a good tip for people. Many may not realize just how destructive that beautiful tree is that they just planted. Bet that one you had was well fertilized lol!

  • So true, in landscaping it is all about proper placement. The planting of trees under power lines is another common issue. Everyday I drive by a house that planted a row of beautiful Magnolia's directly under telephone wires, now they are a few feet from the wires.They had plenty of room in this big yard and easily could have been planted 12 feet back. Now, the trees have to be topped, not pretty.

  • Douglas Hunt
    on Feb 2, 2012

    A cautionary tale that cannot be told too many times.

  • Ricardo B
    on Feb 2, 2012

    LESSON #1 Life finds a way... We moved into our very first home (previously owned) in 1975. I planted my first tree there several weeks later only to find out it was directly above the sewer line. The Roto-Rooter guy saved me, then scolded me... Fast forward to almost 40 years later... neither the lesson nor the scolding has faded with time.

  • Faidra at CA Global Inc
    on Feb 2, 2012

    yep, septic issues are no fun, went to have mine pumped since I had not done it since I moved in. Pipes were cracked and caught it just in time! Had to dig pipes up and repair and put a new hood on it. Glad you could remove roots. Have heard many horror stories.

  • Maple roots are very thirsty and you do need to be careful where you plany. Weeping willows are so very beautiful, yet aworse offender than just about anything. Weeping willows must be at least 50 feet from any water source/lines such as pipes, pools, sewers, septic, pools, and the like.

  • Southern Garden Coach
    on Feb 3, 2012

    I'm betting that was one awesome Maple tree, before it was cut down! (You didn't leave it, did you?)

  • HI Paul, who did the work for you? Hard to find a good septic company these days. I redid the field myself on one of my rentals...what a nightmare!

  • Paul M
    on Feb 3, 2012

    Southern Garden the tree was removed about three weeks ago. Handy Andy I am doing the work myself. I, unfortunately, have done this before and I can't seem to find people in general who do work as meticulously and carefully as I do. Since I already have several hundred dollars in this and it can be salvaged at a minimal cost if it is done correctly I don't want to take any chances about the outcome. BTW if there were any issues besides the tank I would have an even bigger problem because the previous owners of this property built a 1000 square foot garage on top of the drain field. Not too smart if you ask me. Yes that was a big healthy tree, I really didn't want to cut it down because it looked very nice. Never the less it had to go.

  • Teresa D
    on Feb 3, 2012

    Wow, Paul. Sounds like a nightmare. Lucky you, as the homeowner, know how to handle it. Thanks for the warning. I'm wondering how often this happens to people on city plumbing? I've got some really big Acorn trees in my front yard maybe 8 - 10 ft from where I imagine the water line runs to the house and I know the water lines have already been replaced once (before I moved in). I believe it was PB that burst and not roots. Should I be concerned about the acorn tree roots though?

  • Paul M
    on Feb 4, 2012

    Possibly, but consider that it took 40 years for my problem to become obvious. I think that the main concern would be lines that are not under pressure, drain lines to be specific. These lines are typically not as durable and the incoming water lines, because they don't have to be.

Your comment...