Tree roots in sewer line?

I'm having a clogged main sewer line repaired, and was told that the roots that caused the problem could come back again after a while. There are no large trees anywhere in the area, so these must be old roots? And if so, can they really "come back" into the pipe at some point? I am dealing with a very reputable plumbing company, and I feel comfortable with them and the work they've done in the past, but I really wonder about roots from a no-longer-existing tree being able to "grow back" into the pipe.
  9 answers
  • Karen, if the trees have been gone for some time I would not worry much about the roots coming back.

  • Karen Karen on Jan 21, 2012
    Thanks, Dan (?) I didn't see how roots from a long-gone tree could continue to "grow," even if the soil is well-fertilized by sewage leaks. If the roots can't cause any more damage than they already have, once they're gone (hydroflushed, hopefully; otherwise, it means digging down 10 feet to remove them), does this mean I won't need to "line" my pipes to prevent them from causing further damage? I was told that the hydroflushing would "thin" the pipes, so lining them would be wise for this reason as well. This lining will add thousands of dollars to the repair, so this is no small thing. This house was built in the 50s, so everything is old and not necessarily made of the best materials (the same could be said for me, as well!)....

  • Walter Reeves Walter Reeves on Jan 22, 2012
    Can you describe how close is the nearest tree of any size? Any eucalyptus nearby?

  • Once the roots have gotten into the pipe, then can cut them with special tool so the water will flow once again. But you need to plan on replacing the drain pipe with a new solid plastic pipe in the near future. Even if the old tree that had these roots grow into the pipe is long gone. The openings in the pipe will remain. And as the root rots away it will leave holes where they once came in and sand and silt will begin to enter into the pipe as the water table comes up during wet weather. So begin to budget for this repair. We had ours done a few years ago for same reason and our tie in was about 60 feet from the main sewer line. Cost was $3000. Ouch! Although it seems real high for such a short run. There are only a few companies in our area that are allowed to cut into the street to make the connection so they had us with no other way to go. You have the chance to shop around on this but as the pipe gets older so will the debris that enters will get worse.

  • Karen Karen on Jan 22, 2012
    Walter--There are no eucalyptus trees nearby, but there is one about two blocks away (pretty long blocks). The only other trees of any size are in the neighbor across the street's back yard, and they aren't really all that big. It would take one heck of a tree--especially in this coastal desert environment--to reach my sewer line!

  • Karen Karen on Jan 22, 2012
    Woodbridge--It looks like lining the pipes is my best option to avoid future issues. The lining they showed me actually creates a new "pipe" inside the existing one. This lining is stronger than the cast iron pipes there now. Budgeting for this repair is not an option, however, since the repair needs to be done now. So far, we're up to $7000, and that's the good news--if the hydroflushing doesn't work and they have to dig the 10 feet down to the pipe, I'm in for a much bigger bill. :-(

  • Lining a pipe is not suggested. This makes the interior of the pipe smaller thus more prone to clogs. I suggest that it be dug up. seven grand to dig and put a pipe in seems to be a bit on the high side. But there are to many variables to determine if that is a fair price or not. Get several estimates for this project. Have you checked your homeowners insurance? Some policies will cover this expense.

    • Dottie Unruh Dottie Unruh on May 03, 2015
      @Woodbridge Environmental I'm on a water and sewer board. We are lining all the old pipes with Insituform. It clings to the pipe and does not cut down on the flow of water. It's not cheap, but might not cost as much as digging out the pipe.

  • I'm with Woodbridge - I would be lining the pipe....could care-a-less how "strong" they said it would be...the correct way to repair would be to dig and replace the damaged sections. Walter is our tree guy but roots can grow quite some distance away...and with drought...they will seek out water. Chances are that you cast iron pipes have been in the ground long enough that they are now more susceptible to roots. LUCK!

  • Jack Moore Jack Moore on Oct 26, 2015
    I have actually heard of things like that in the past, Karen. I know it's pretty common for live tree roots to grow into sewer lines, and that can cause a lot of problems. Roots from old trees that are long gone don't usually cause these problems, but they still can on occasion. I hope you get everything worked out!