Treacherous Trees: How Tree Roots Affect Your Sewer Line

a plumbing pipe inundated with tree roots that needs replacement

a plumbing pipe inundated with tree roots that needs replacementHere in the Pacific Northwest, we like to think of trees as our friends and neighbors. After all, like a dear friend, they’re always there for you, and they give great hugs. But did you know that the trees in your yard may be plotting against you? It’s true. Oh, they might look like they’re innocent, but deep down they want nothing more than to sneak into your pipes and turn your plumbing system into their drinking straw. BAD TREES, bad! 

If you’ve never had tree roots invade your plumbing before, consider yourself lucky. It’s a surprisingly common problem – and it can lead to huge consequences if not addressed. So today, let’s talk about how tree roots can affect your sewer line.

The First Sign: Frequent Clogging

Here’s a common scenario that plays out all too often. A homeowner calls a plumber for a clog. The plumber comes out and snakes or hydro jets the drain. After that, the basin drains much faster. The problem seemingly resolved, the plumber leaves. But the problem wasn’t resolved – the tree roots are still there.

Sure, the basin is draining faster. This is likely because there was some gunk to be removed that had slowed the flow of water, but since the tree roots are still causing an obstruction further down the line, the clog will return much quicker than expected next time. Here are the early warning signs that there could be tree roots in your pipes:

  • Recurring Clogs: If you clear clogs and they keep coming back, it could be a sign there are tree roots somewhere in your pipes obstructing water flow.
  • Gurgling Sounds: Gurgling is caused by trapped air inside pipes. When the air bubble releases, it makes a sound. Think of it like your drain has indigestion and can’t stop belching.
  • Unexpectedly High Water Bills: If your water bill suddenly goes way up, it might be because your utility company recently raised their rate. Check first to see if that’s the case, and if it’s not, your best bet is you’re dealing with a leak somewhere that you can’t see. Leaks often lead to increased water usage and inflated utility bills.
  • Unpleasant Odors: When there are blockages in the pipes, things get stuck. They decay in your plumbing system. Those odors will eventually make their way back through the drains into your home. Yuck.
  • Reduced Water Pressure: Gauge your water pressure at fixtures throughout your home – sinks, showers, and toilets. If it seems less forceful, that’s a strong sign that there’s a clog or leak in your plumbing.
  • Rapid Tree Growth: If a tree in your yard is growing suspiciously fast, like that one player on your kid’s little league team with a mustache who looks like he’s about to turn 25, it’s a sign that it’s getting overwatered by your plumbing.

How Do Tree Roots Get Into My Pipes in the First Place?

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “my trees would never betray me,” but the truth is tree roots don’t listen to anybody. The only thing they care about is getting more water and nutrients to support the tree. Young roots are tiny, wispy tendrils and can wriggle into almost any space. In pipe sections with joined pipes or gaskets, there’s plenty of room.

Once inside the pipe, the tree gets as much water as it wants. The root grows thicker and stronger. Clogs start happening. It grows too big for the pipe. This is when the risk of serious plumbing issues becomes a concern. It’s estimated that one tree root has a tensile strength of anywhere from 10 to about 60 megapascals. That’s incredibly strong. To put it in perspective, an item stuck in cement has a tensile strength of about 10 to 30 MPa.

What Does Long-Term Tree Root Damage to My Plumbing Look Like?

It might not take long for a small tree root problem to grow into a large one. Here are some of the major problems tree roots in your plumbing can cause to your property:

  • Foundation Cracks: Tree roots are powerful. If they grow large and apply constant pressure on your pipes, this can very easily lead to cracks in the foundation of your home.
  • Soggy or Flooded Yard: Tree roots can crack underground pipes, releasing water and sewage into the ground. You’ll notice this in the form of an overly saturated yard.
  • Muddy or Discolored Water: In certain instances, blockages caused by tree roots can cause discolored water to come through the faucets.
  • Sinkholes: Just like a soggy or flooded yard, but worse. If a large enough volume of water is leaking underground, it can lead to sinkholes in your yard.

Early Detection Is Key

Trees: with friends like that, who needs enemies? But before you go out into your yard and scold your trees for their conspiratorial ways, it’s important to understand that this is an easy problem to solve – as long as you catch it early. Because the early warning signs mimic minor plumbing problems, most homeowners do not realize tree roots are a problem – or even that they can be a problem – until there’s a complete blockage or even flooding.

That’s why, if you’re experiencing recurring blockages in your plumbing, gurgling sounds, reduced water pressure, or any of the other early warning signs, call D&F to come take a look. 

The boys in plaid are trained to detect leaks quickly and easily no matter where they are in your plumbing system – even in pipes buried underground. They come equipped with cutting-edge camera imaging technology to give you a full picture of the situation.

Sewer-Safe Landscaping Tips

Of course, if you’re landscaping a new property, there are some things you can do to prevent tree roots from becoming a problem. For example, planting trees a safe distance from existing pipes makes a huge difference. Your plumber can tell you where your sewer line is located.

There are also certain species of trees with less potential to damage pipes. Believe it or not, sewer-friendly trees are a thing. These trees have roots that don’t travel as wide or deep, so if you plant them away from your lines they shouldn’t cause problems.

Call Today to Find Out

If you’re dealing with mysterious plumbing problems that don’t seem to go away, the problem might be tree roots in your plumbing. If this is a possibility, we recommend acting quickly because it’s likely the problem will only get worse, and can lead to a full sewer line repair, which is a much more expensive and intensive job.

Don’t let your tree friendships wither – leaf it to the plaid-clad pros at D&F and call us today.

Brown Friday: Why Plumbers Are So Busy After Thanksgiving

Plumber holding a toilet plunger

Plumber holding a toilet plungerEveryone looks forward to Black Friday shopping deals. But plumbers have an entirely different experience on the Friday after Thanksgiving!

Our experienced D and F Plumbing team knows better than to make big shopping plans on “Brown Friday” because we’re sure to be busy. Today, we will talk about common plumbing emergencies that happen on this notorious day. Enjoy!

Big Family Gatherings Put Extra Pressure on Your Plumbing

All year long, your Grandma’s plumbing has the “duty” of disposing of gray water, waste and solids for one or two people. (See what we did there?) Slightly clogged drains and plumbing don’t act up, and no one suspects a problem. Maybe Grandma only runs the dishwasher a few times a week, and she has a small appetite.

Everything seems fine! The toilet flushes and the sinks and showers drain normally. All is well at Grandma’s house.

Then, after a magical day of cooking for 20 family members, feasting, cleaning and overindulgence, the added strain is suddenly too much. Toilets back up, sinks get clogged, and Grandma doesn’t know what to do.

Grandma needs to call a plumber.

Grandma, You’re Not Alone

The day after Turkey Day is almost always our busiest day of the year. We don’t make plans to watch the Macy’s Christmas Parade or stampede the local Walmart for cheap electronics.

Like the professional football players on TV on Thanksgiving Day, we’ve been training for this all year long. Brown Friday is our time to shine!

What Causes Plumbing Problems on Brown Friday?

Every household is unique, and every plumbing job has challenges. On Brown Friday, we usually find ourselves dealing with:

  • Clogged toilets and pipes because someone flushed feminine products, diapers, wipes and the like.
  • Sink problems and garbage disposal issues caused by turkey bones or tin foil in the system.
  • Bathroom drain issues that went unnoticed until five extra guests spent the weekend.
  • Guest bathroom issues that no one noticed because the room hasn’t been used much since last year.

If you’re like Grandma and need emergency plumbing services on a holiday, contact the “Plumbers in Plaid.” We’ve been training hard for this all year and are ready to serve the entire Portland Metro area.

Your next question is, “How can I prevent Brown Friday emergencies?” Let’s find out.

How to Prevent Holiday Plumbing Problems

Grandma has an old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And, as usual, she’s not wrong!

During the pre-holiday scramble, be aware of your water use. You may wash more laundry — think drapes and guest bedding — and run the dishwasher more often after making all those pumpkin pies. Keep an eye on your drains, and call a licensed journeyman plumber if you notice any slowness. Sometimes a quick “snake” can solve problems before they happen.

If you have a guest bathroom that’s rarely used, take it for a test drive! Spend some quality time there before Turkey Day. (You can even use the little fancy guest soaps and embroidered towels. We won’t tell.) Instead of fleeing your personal aromas immediately, stick around to ensure everything drains and flushes quickly and quietly.

Warning Signs

The best way to prevent Brown Friday mishaps is to maintain your plumbing before the holidays. Watch out for these warning signs:

  • Toilets that need plunging often, even when you’re not flushing a #2.
  • The kitchen sinks drain slowly.
  • The dishwasher backs up into the kitchen sink.
  • Any water backs up into your bathtub or shower.
  • Gurgling sounds are coming from a faucet.
  • Poor water pressure.
  • Unusually high water bills.
  • Any wetness in your basement or a puddle around your sump pump.

Hopefully, your Thanksgiving weekend will go off without a hitch. But emergencies don’t always happen during regular business hours. And if you need emergency plumbing on a holiday weekend, you can count on the team at D and F Plumbing. We’ve been training for this all year.

How to Prevent Clogged Sewer Lines

Diagram showing the common causes of sewer line clogs - D&F Plumbing, Heating and Cooling serving Portland OR & Vancouver WA

Diagram showing the common causes of sewer line clogs - D&F Plumbing, Heating and Cooling serving Portland OR & Vancouver WA

If you’ve had a clogged sewer line before, you know it’s a smelly, unsanitary mess that needs to be taken care of immediately. It causes you to panic, ruins your lawn, and it just stinks!

Relax and don’t you worry! Because At D&F Plumbing, Heating and Cooling, we’ve got you covered. So snap out of it and read about how you can prevent clogged sewer lines.

1. Don’t Plant Near the Sewer Line

Improving your curb appeal? Great! Just make sure to keep a minimum of 10 feet in between your trees and the sewer line to allow space for those roots to grow. Tree root intrusion is a common cause of sewer lines breaking since the roots naturally grow toward sources of water. In fact, our contractors have seen this many times while performing sewer camera inspections.

2. Maintain Your Drains

Your plumbing system is a workhorse, but it can still suffer a clog. Make sure not to put anything harmful down your drains or anything that may become lodged, including grease, diapers, flushable wipes, and fibrous foods. You can see a more exhaustive list on our Bathroom Drain Cleaning page.

3. Have Your Sewer Line Inspected and Serviced Regularly

Even if you’ve stayed vigilant about your drains and tree planting, your sewer line may still fall victim to roots, which if left unchecked, can lead to irreparable damage and costly replacements. You can keep your sewer line in check by contacting your local plumbing contractor for a sewer line cleaning once a year.

Experts in Sewer Lines

If your sewer line is clogged, you have no time to wait. At D&F Plumbing, Heating and Cooling, we know that any plumbing issue can be overwhelming, especially a clogged sewer line. That’s why we offer emergency plumbing services. Day or night, rain or shine, our highly-experienced plumbing contractors will provide you with the help you need. Best of all, we offer affordable financing, so you can get your plumbing taken care of now before it becomes a costly project later.

How to Drain Water From Your Yard

Downspout and flooded lawn. D&F Plumbing, Heating and Cooling in Portland OR & Vancouver WA talks about how to drain water from your yard.

While a gentle, steady rain can be great for your trees, plants, and yard, a sudden downpour can do just the opposite. Flooded lawns can ruin your yard, cause odors, and lead to pests. If that pooled water leaks into your basement or foundation, you could also be left with water damage and mold.

Fortunately, there are some ways to help combat this. Let’s get right into them.

French drain in lawn. D&F Plumbing, Heating and Cooling in Portland OR & Vancouver WA talks about how to drain water from your yard.
French drain.

French Drains

French drains are slightly sloped trenches with a perforated pipe inside that’s surrounded by gravel and then buried. French drains are very effective in diverting groundwater away from your home to somewhere safer like the street, a drainage ditch, a dry well, or a low-lying area on your property.

By the way, this type of drain doesn’t get its name from the country, but from the person who invented it, a Massachusetts man by the name of Henry Flagg French. 😉

Channel drain in lawn. D&F Plumbing, Heating and Cooling in Portland OR & Vancouver WA talks about how to drain water from your yard.
Channel drain.

Channel Drains

Channel drains are similar to French drains only they work to remove surface water rather than groundwater. They are usually lined with concrete and covered with steel grates to help prevent debris from entering. Channel drains are great for driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, and around pool edges.

Dry Wells

Dry wells are great at distributing stormwater into local groundwater and work well as an end-point for channel drains and French drains. They consist of a hole in the ground with a perforated plastic barrel inside that is surrounded by stone or gravel. They hold water and slowly allow it to soak into the ground.

Catch basin in lawn. D&F Plumbing, Heating and Cooling in Portland OR & Vancouver WA talks about how to drain water from your yard.
Catch basin.

Catch Basins

Catch basins are large drains typically placed in low-lying areas in your yard. They’re designed to catch surface runoff water. Catch basins consist of a box that sits underground and a visible grate above to catch debris.


Sump Pumps

Sump pumps have a sump basin that collects water around your basement or foundation and pumps it out and away from your home and into a storm drain or dry well. They are especially helpful for properties with flat yards where standing water is common.

Yard Drainage Solutions

There are many advantages of having a drainage system installed on your property, especially here in the Portland and Vancouver metropolitan area where we experience a lot of heavy rainfall.

The licensed plumbers at D&F Plumbing, Heating and Cooling are well versed in drainage systems like French drains and catch basins. If you constantly suffer from basement leaks or standing water on your lawn, contact us.

Then once your yard drainage system is installed, we’ll perform the regular maintenance so that it will always work its best.

Signs You Need Your Drains Cleaned

Garbage disposal unit under sink. D&F Plumbing, Heating and Cooling talks about signs you need your drains cleaned in Portland OR & Vancouver WA

Garbage disposal unit under sink. D&F Plumbing, Heating and Cooling talks about signs you need your drains cleaned in Portland OR & Vancouver WAYou rely on your drains every day to keep your plumbing working properly. But have you thought about the last time you gave them any attention? Don’t wait until you have a full-on drain clog. They can be messy and not to mention–smelly! Here are some ways to help determine if its time you have your drains cleaned by a D & F Plumber.

Slow Draining

Are you tired of waiting for your toilet to drain after flushing, or for your sink to drain after washing dishes? Slow-draining plumbing fixtures are more than just annoying, slow draining is also a sign of a clog deeper in your plumbing system.


While slow drains are a signal of a potential blockage, backups and standing water are too. If you’re noticing standing water or sewage in your shower, tub, or even washing machine, you should contact a plumber immediately. Sewage should only go down your pipes not the other way around.

Unpleasant Odors

No matter how much essential oils or candles you use, you cannot get rid of the smell of sewage. If sewage odors are coming from your drains, they shouldn’t be masked. They should be investigated. These gasses are not only hazardous to your health but they’re also a sign of a line break.

High Water Bills

Paying more than usual on your water bill? You might have a leak in your plumbing. While some leaks are obvious, others may be hidden. The only way to know for sure is to hire a professional. They may use video inspection tools to inspect your plumbing, identify issues, and make repairs.

Pests in Your Plumbing

Pests are very clever when it comes to finding ways to enter your home. If for example, tree roots have infiltrated your sewer line, rodents and insects can use that gap to enter your home. So if you keep seeing these unwanted visitors in your home, this could signal a plumbing line break.

Experts in Drain Cleaning

Hiring a professional plumber is one of the best and safest ways to maintain your plumbing. If you’re noticing any of these problems, contact D&F Plumbing, Heating and Cooling. We provide drain cleaning services!

Over-the-counter drain cleaning products are only short-term solutions and can actually ruin the lining of your pipes. When you have us serving your drains, we’ll locate any blockages and safely clear them using our state-of-the-art hydrojetting method.

Keeping your drains cleaned will help prevent serious and costly problems in the future, saving you both time and money. So give us a call today for expert drain cleaning!

Spring Plumbing Tips

Man cleaning the kitchen sink. D&F Plumbing, Heating and Cooling serving Portland OR and Vancouver WA talks about spring plumbing tips.

Man cleaning the kitchen sink. D&F Plumbing, Heating and Cooling serving Portland OR and Vancouver WA talks about spring plumbing tips.With spring right around the corner, many homeowners will be decluttering and starting fresh by checking off their spring cleaning to-do lists. Make sure plumbing is a priority on your list with these helpful tips from D&F Plumbing, Heating and Cooling.

Check Your Water Heater

Drain at least 2 to 3 gallons of water from your water heater to flush out sediment. Sediment can create blockages, reducing your unit’s efficiency and shortening its lifespan.

  • Ensure your water heater is set to 120°F to reduce energy, help prolong your water heater’s lifespan, and help prevent scalding.
  • Inspect your unit for leaks and corrosion, looking for rust or puddles
  • If your water heater is older than 15 years old, you may want to consider replacing it for a newer, energy-efficient model. Generally, water heaters last around 10 years.

Check Other Appliances

  • Inspect your refrigerator, washing machine, and dishwasher for water leaks or bulging hoses. Replace any hoses that are bulging, leaking or are over 10 years old. Consider installing stainless steel hoses. They are more durable as they don’t burst as easily as other types of appliance hoses.
  • If your washing machine has a lint trap, clean it out to help prevent blockages.
  • If your kitchen sink has a garbage disposal, you can grind ice cubes to help sharpen the blades and help clear away any waste buildup. You can also grind lemon or orange peels to provide a fresh scent.

Inspect Indoor Plumbing Fixtures

  • Pour a gallon of water down infrequently used drains to fill the p-trap and help prevent any odors.
  • Look underneath all of your sinks and make sure there are no signs of leaks
  • Test your toilet for leaks. One quick and easy way to test your toilet for leaks is by adding food coloring into your tank. If the water in the toilet bowl turns that color within about 30 minutes, you have a leak.

Check Outdoor Faucets

  • Remove your outdoor faucet caps and turn on the faucets, if you notice water leaking in your home, your pipes may have frozen and burst over winter and need to be replaced.
  • Remove any debris from plumbing vent pipes.

Cleanout Gutters & Downspouts

  • Inspect your gutters and downspouts and remove debris and animal nests from them. Blocked gutters can lead to standing water (which can attract pests), soil erosion, and flooding. Blocked gutters can also affect the integrity of your roofing.
  • Make sure your yard drains are also clean and free of debris.

If you don’t feel comfortable performing any of these or you’ve discovered you need to repair or replace a plumbing fixture, contact us. We’re your local source for all of your plumbing needs. We’ll diagnose the problem and offer you solutions that work with your needs and your budget.