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.

Plants That Can Ruin Your Plumbing

A tree and some flowers in a backyard

Plants in yardJust when you thought you had seen the end of your plumbing problems, plant life adds a whole new obstacle to your maintenance regimen. When shooting for aesthetics, many homeowners overlook the repercussions certain trees and shrubs can have on plumbing fixtures.

While new plants may be beautiful, they could jeopardize your septic and plumbing systems. When enhancing your lawn’s appeal with shrubs and trees, it’s vital to know where and how different plants should be grown to avoid a plumbing emergency. 

Types of Trees That Can Affect Plumbing Fixtures

Trees add beauty, personality, and shade to your yard. Unfortunately, their roots present a significant threat to your plumbing fixtures. Depending on the type and direction of the root’s growth, you may experience blockage in your pipes. Here are the trees that most frequently grow into plumbing lines and fixtures:

  • Birch trees are favored by homeowners who appreciate graceful, slender trees. Birch roots usually grow a 4- to 8-inch-thick mat-like structure, but they still present a threat to nearby pipes. Birch trees need no less than twenty feet of space between plumbing fixtures and your home’s foundation to ensure no damage is done.
  • Citrus trees are a tasty source of lemons, oranges, and more. Although these trees yield wonderful fruits, they’re infamous for their damage to plumbing fixtures and are banned by many HOA’s for this reason. When planting a citrus tree, the placement must be at least 6-8 feet from the foundation of your home to avoid damage.
  • Oak trees are notorious for their longevity and strength, though they’re also infamous for damaging foundations and plumbing fixtures. Because oak trees grow slowly, they can penetrate pipes at a sneaky pace that takes a while to notice. Oak trees should be planted a minimum of 15-30 feet away from important fixtures on your property.

Preventive Growth Barriers

There are many methods you can use to protect yourself from expensive plumbing repairs, and one of the most cost-effective options is to have a preventive growth barrier installed.
A preventive growth barrier is an assemblage of walls implanted into the ground around a plant that’s main job is to redirect the growth of roots. A professional landscaper can help install a growth barrier to make it easier to plant a yard without root-related complications.

Experts In Plumbing Repair

Putting up with the complications of plant-related plumbing damages is no thrilling endeavor. If you’ve done your calculations and a plant’s roots still managed to come in contact with your pipes, it’s best to turn to the experts at D & F Plumbing. Here at D & F Plumbing, we make it our top priority to repair your plumbing and protect your plumbing fixtures from any additional damage. If you require immediate plumbing repair, don’t hesitate to contact us today!

How to Prevent Clogged Sewer Lines

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

Diagram showing the common causes of sewer line clogs - D & F Plumbing 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, 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, 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.

What’s the Difference Between Main Line vs Drain Line?

Main line vs drain line infographic explained by D & F Plumbing in Vancouver WA and Portland OR.

 

Unless you’re a plumber, it’s easy to confuse main lines and drain lines. Plumbers get these questions all of the time so we thought we’d finally settle this. Keep reading to finally learn the difference of a main line and drain line, including the roles they play in your home.

Main line vs drain line infographic explained by D & F Plumbing in Vancouver WA and Portland OR.

What is a Main Line?

To put it simply, your main line is your sewer line. It’s a line located underground that carries all wastewater from your home to a municipal connection or septic tank, not just toilet water.

Here is some additional information about your main line.

  • In addition to drain line clogs, another big threat to your main line is tree roots. If you know where your main line is located, you can strategically plant trees in areas that won’t damage your main line.
  • You’ll want to know where your cleanout is located in case it suffers a clog.
  • If you’re experiencing drain clogs at the lowest point in your home, you likely have a main line clog.
  • If there’s sewage coming out, there’s most likely a main line clog.
  • If you hear gurgling noises in another part of the home when using water, you could have a main line issue.

What is a Drain Line?

Drain lines are lines located inside of your home that are connected to your plumbing fixtures such as your toilets, sinks, and showers. They don’t lead directly to your sewer system or septic tank, but they dump into the main line. When you’re having an issue with one drain line, you can generally still use the plumbing everywhere else in the home because they aren’t connected.

Understanding your Main Line and Your Drain Line

Knowing the difference between your main line and your drain line is important because they’re two entirely different things with different fixes and costs.Generally, a main line clog is going to require a professional plumber and involves more steps.

Sewer Line Cleaning Experts

Great, now you’re just a bit more educated on your plumbing terminology than you were before reading this article! Ever consider a plumbing career? 😉

Anyway, if you’re experiencing any issues with your drains or main line, let D & F Plumbing help. We have the experience and knowledge to fix your plumbing quickly and are available for plumbing emergencies!

 

How to Tell if Your Main Water Line is Leaking

Water main leak - D & F Plumbing, serving Portland OR & Vancouver WA talks about how to tell if your main water line is leaking.

Water main leak - D & F Plumbing, serving Portland OR & Vancouver WA talks about how to tell if your main water line is leaking.Spring has sprung! And after a cold winter some of your underground water pipes may have sprung a leak too!

Main water lines are the pipes that bring clean water to your home from your community water line. These pipes bring water for your plants, shower, drinking and anything else that needs water in your home.

Leaving a main water line leaking can cause health and financial problems. Here’s how to know if your main water line is leaking.

Rising Water Bill

A rising water bill is an indicator of a leak, especially when you haven’t used excess water recently. A substantial water main leak will be noticeable on your bill. An increase of several hundred dollars from the same time last year will be an obvious indicator. If you’re connected to city water, you can look at your water meter to give you another clue.

Even if you’ve been using extra water for gardening your beautiful spring flowers recently, it shouldn’t change your water bill too much.

Average household leaks cause up to 10,000 gallons of water waste per year. Ten percent of homes have leaks that waste more than 90 gallons per day. And even basic leaks from a faucet in your home could be the result of problems with your main line.

Don’t let your money go swooshing down the drain. Fix your leaks as soon as you notice them to save money. An experienced water leak detection plumber can test to determine if your leak is related to the main water line.

Low Water Pressure

Low water pressure can be caused by many different types of leaks, but a main water line leak is one of the most common.

How do you know if you have low water pressure? Here’s a little test to check and make sure your intuition is correct — turn on the water in your shower and then flush the toilet. If the shower stops running or slows to a trickle when you flush, then you have low water pressure.

Another way to check if you have low water pressure is by looking over your water meter. Inspect the meter before you begin a two hour period of using no water, and then survey it again after the two hours is up. If the meter changes at all then you probably have a leak.

Cracked Foundation

This one is a serious problem. If you have a leak, water can seep through the ground and get to your home’s foundation. This can cause cracks and eventually make your house unsafe.

If you are noticing wet spots, there might be a leak in your main water line. Don’t just leave them be or try to do a quick fix. Waiting to correct the problem could cost a lot more money later on…major structural cracks can cost anywhere from $10,000 or more to repair.

If you have any of these symptoms of a main water line leak, get it diagnosed as soon as possible.

Fixing it can be costly, but waiting and having to fix your foundation or other property damage will cost a lot more.

Call the plumbers in plaid, because we’ve got a main water line special for you.

 

Warning Signs You Need a Sewer Line Replacement

Broken sewer line. D & F Plumbing serving Vancouver WA and Portland OR talks about the warning signs you need a sewer line replacement.

Pooling water on lawn. D & F Plumbing serving Vancouver WA and Portland OR talks about the warning signs you need a sewer line replacement.Your sewer lines are buried underneath your property. They run from your home to the city sewer or septic tank. When these lines become damaged or clogged, they can burst and lead to sewage backups and pooling water in your lawn — which is not only a smelly nuisance but also a health hazard.

By learning to recognize the warning signs of sewer line issues, you can help prevent a damaged line from becoming a costly catastrophe.

Indoor Warning Signs

1. Sewage Backups

If you’re experiencing frequent sewage backups despite your attempts to clear your sewer line, you may have a more serious problem on your hands.

2. Unpleasant Odors

Sewage odors around your property are generally a sure-fire signs you have a ruptured sewer line or clog somewhere in your sewer line. A plumbing contractor can inspect your sewer lines with a video inspection camera to be sure. This doesn’t require digging.

3. Slow Draining

If one of your toilets or sinks is slowly draining, you likely have a clog somewhere. However, if you have several drains in your home that aren’t draining properly, it’s likely you have a problem with your drain line. All of your drains go into this mainline, so if you’re dealing with several plumbing problems all at once, you may need to have your sewer line inspected and/or replaced.

Attempting to resolve this issue yourself with chemical drain cleaners is not only ineffective for this type of problem, but you may potentially damage your pipes.

Outdoor Warning Signs

When a sewer line suffers a crack or ruptures, you may see evidence on your lawn. Pay attention if you notice any of the below signs.

4. Pools of Wastewater on Your Lawn

Sewage pooling on your property is often the most obvious sign you have a sewer line break. This can also be a sign of a clogged drainfield, if you use a septic system, or a mainline issue if you are connected to the municipal sewer.

2. Soggy Patches on Your Lawn

Do you have soggy patches on your lawn? This means there is a lot of water beneath. If you can’t account for the extra moistness in your lawn, it’s highly likely the pipes underground are damaged.

3. Lush Patches of Grass

When a sewer line breaks, wastewater is released in the soil on your property, fertilizing it. So if you have patches of grass that are more thick and green than the rest of your lawn, you may have a sewer line problem.

Experts in Sewer Line Line Replacement

A damaged sewer line can contaminate your groundwater and flood your property with wastewater, not only causing extensive damage but also putting your family’s health at risk.

Whether you want to learn the condition of your pipes or need your sewer line repaired or replaced, you can count on the plumbing contractors at D & F Plumbing. We’ve been getting the job done right since 1927!

Warnings There is a Problem With Your Main Sewer Line

D & F Plumbing provides sewer line repair services in Portland OR and Vancouver WA.

D & F Plumbing provides sewer line repair services in Portland OR and Vancouver WA.Unless you’ve had sewer problems before, chances are you’ve given little thought to your main sewer line lately. This line runs from your house to the city sewer, and carries all waste and used water away from your home. While the city is responsible for the sewer, you are responsible for the line from your home until it connects to the sewer.

Even the most solidly constructed main sewer line is susceptible to damage or clogging over time. Here are some warning signs that there is a problem with your main sewer line.

Warning Signs of a Sewer Line Problem

Any one of these signs is an indication that something is wrong with your plumbing, and most of them point to a sewer line problem. If one or more of these symptoms occur together, the likelihood of a sewer line clog or damage is high.

  • Persistent or recurring clogs in drains and toilets.
    • Do you have a clog that just won’t clear, or a slow drain that’s gotten worse over time? It could be a clog in the direct line below the drain, but it may also be an indication of a larger problem.
    • If the clogs come and go again, pay attention to the signs we mention below.
  • Issues with multiple drains.
    • Maybe it’s not just an issue with the shower drain, but your kitchen sink drain is also draining slowly. If multiple drains are affected, you most likely have a clog in your system that is located where multiple drains come together.
  • Gurgling or smelly drains.
    • If your drains smell like sewage or gurgles, there is definitely a clog somewhere it shouldn’t be. It could be in the main water drain, or it could be in your sewer line.
  • Water backup in other drains.
    • If you flush your toilet and the sink drain gets filled with water, sewage, or even just gurgles constantly, you have a clog in your system that is located where multiple drains come together.
  • Sewage backup in your basement.
    • This is an even more obvious sign that something is wrong with your plumbing, but it could be a main drain clog, or it could be a sewer line clog.
    • The only way to know for sure is to ask for a professional diagnosis.
  • Lawn changes.
    • Is your lawn unusually green, especially along your sewer line? Are there pools of water in odd places? Is there evidence of sewage?
    • If you answered yes to any of these questions, contact a professional immediately.

What Causes Sewer Line Issues?

You’ve answered yes to several of the points above, and you suspect you have a sewer line problem. But how did it happen?

Main sewer lines are subject to a lot of use. This pipe carries out all the waste from your household, and unless it’s brand new, has been doing that for years. There are a number of things that can cause sewer line issues, including:

  • Corrosion
  • Tree roots
  • Sagging sewer line
  • Broken sewer line
  • Debris flushed down the line
  • Grease poured down drains

Any one of these things can cause significant issues along your sewer line. When you have a professional plumber or drain cleaner diagnose the sewer line repair, they can also tell you the likely culprit. If it’s something the previous occupants did, or something your family is doing now, you may be able to avoid the same issue in the future.

Finding the Source of the Sewer Main Line Clog is Vital

If you suspect a sewer main line clog, we recommend calling a professional immediately. A sewer main line clog is probably not going to repair itself, and has the capacity to get a lot worse very quickly. It’s important to call a professional plumber because if the clog is within your sewer line, it’s almost completely inaccessible, and will need to be carefully diagnosed.

At D & F Plumbing, we use video inspection to diagnose sewer line issues. Video inspection is the easiest and least invasive way to find a problem without digging up your yard or guessing. This is also why you should call a professional who has experience with this technology; without video inspection, there will be a lot of guesswork, driving up the repair cost and time spent on the job.

After the source of the clog is found, whether it’s a cracked pipe or a tree root curled inside the pipe, the plumbing professional will be able to make an assessment of the damage, and estimate repair costs. Finding the source of the clog before repair begins ensures that costs stay as low as possible, and no unnecessary digging is done.