Plumbing Pipes

Common Symptoms of Root Intrusion

Trees and bushes grow roots over the lawn or underground. Unfortunately, these botanical parts also affect plumbing systems and pose problems because of root intrusion, the growth of roots through pipe openings such as cracks and bad joints.

tree root intrusion
Tree root expansion. Featured image by Tim Green / Flickr (CC)

Remote trees and bushes may reach your residential area and hit the pipes. Plants that are hundreds of yards away can do major damage to old pipes. The older the plumbing system, the more easily it yields to breaks, cracks, and changes in shape. Thus it is more susceptible to root intrusion.

With plumbing systems vulnerable to major blockages caused by root intrusion, it’s vital that you look for signs to avoid this from happening. The lowest plumbing fixtures inside the house often reveal the symptoms.

For example, pay attention to the shower after taking a bath. If the water swirls down the drain, that means you are safe. If not, it may mean a backup or flooding is close at hand. The solution: call a licensed plumber or rooter with an expertise in root intrusion.

A qualified, licensed plumbing technician, independent or from a rooter company, uses a sewer drain camera to check plumbing systems underground. It is an advanced piece of equipment that allows the plumber to determine the problem and find the best solution.

Common Symptoms of Root Intrusion

Water backup usually is the first symptom you will see as indication for pipe repair or upgrade. To confirm this, check if a pool of water is building up in odd places at the backyard; check if the basement is flooded with used water; and check for sewage backup.

A foul smell from the sewage means the septic tank is full and has to be pumped out. But if you are using a tank, you most likely have a damaged main sewer pipe. If this is caused by root intrusion, and the roots have passed through the water or sewer pipes, you will see a reduction in water flow. This will only get worse as time progresses.

tree root intrusion under slab
Tree root intrusion under slab. Featured image by BY-YOUR-⌘ / Flickr (CC)

Symptoms like these, especially the damaged sewer pipe, may reveal other problems, so it’s best to consult a qualified plumber before thinking of other solutions. An on-site inspection of the problem allows the plumber to give an educated solution. And oftentimes the source of the problem is not what it seemed to be.

The Video Camera Inspection

A clogged sewer drain often requires a video camera inspection if the problem persists, or if it has occurred before. Most clogs are easy to locate and fix. If you are having a hard time looking for it, call a professional to bring in a video camera and perform a complete inspection on your plumbing.

sewer drain snake
Ridgid SeeSnake, a sewer drain snake with a lighted camera. Featured image by Wonderlane / Flickr (CC)

A competent company has the right equipment for the task. It will do a complete inspection of your plumbing system to sort out the root of the problem. And if the plumber requires a video camera to look for the blocking object, it means the stopping agent lies deep within the pipe.

Using a video camera to detect and fix the problem is the best approach to pinpoint the clog and figure out the best solution. The clog may be caused by root intrusion, but you cannot hire the services of a professional rooter unless a video camera inspection has been performed.

Playing With Figures

People often estimate plumbing fees at discounted rates. Thus they often overlook other services that a plumbing company may provide beyond fixing, installing, or replacing clogged drains and pipes. The company may advise you on other parts of your plumbing: water heaters, water softeners, water chillers, and root intrusion.

changing pipes after root intrusion
Changing the pipes after root intrusion. Featured image by Ben Lucier / Flickr (CC)

Root intrusion probably is the most cumbersome problem for plumbers. Trees and shrubs can grow their roots into a pipe and clog it entirely after some time.

If you are creating an estimate for plumbing fees, make sure that you ask the plumber about your entire plumbing system. You may even get a discount.

The plumber may give you a good advice on the proper specifications for residential and commercial applications. Moreover, the plumber may advise you on budgeting in case some parts need replacements or maintenance, especially for root intrusion.

Commercial Plumbers

Never deal with a commercial plumbing contractor that, or who, directly quotes for plumbing work without even seeing or inspecting your pipes. Plumbing work has many variables involved that it is unethical to provide an estimate over a phone call, unless the qualified plumber has seen and diagnosed the problem.

Plumbing problems may get as complicated as root intrusions, with tree roots penetrating sewer lines, or the old pipes and drains are now defective.

Always ask the contractor what free services are offered. For example, some companies such as Mr. Rooter Plumbing provide free estimates after an on-site inspection.

The Gist

If you are certain that the backup or flooding is caused by root intrusion, call a qualified, licensed plumbing technician.