3 Strategies To Prevent Sewer Backups Caused By Tree Roots

9 July 2015
 Categories: Business, Blog


If you have been dealing with sewer backups because of tree roots invading the sewer line, try some effective strategies to prevent this from happening again.

Tree Roots & Sewer Pipes

Sewer pipes that run from a building to the municipal sewage system or to a septic tank are usually made of clay or concrete. Those materials tend to develop tiny cracks, which attract tree roots seeking water and fertilizer. After the roots move into the sewer pipe, they may catch things people flush down the toilet, such as dental floss and sanitary wipes. Eventually the pipe becomes clogged enough to cause a backup into the house. 

Strategies for Prevention

Use Copper Sulfate

You can kill roots in the sewer pipe by flushing copper sulfate crystals. This doesn't hurt the tree.

The usual process involves pouring a half-cup of crystals into the toilet bowl and then flushing a few times. Give the crystals about a month to finish the job and then call a plumber to clear out the dead roots. After this, maintain the clear pipe by flushing a half-cup of crystals every three or four months. 

Try Rock Salt

Some homeowners have good luck with flushing two pounds of rock salt down the toilet, a half-pound at a time. This needs to be done a couple of times a year to continue killing root growth. You also can add a half-cup of the salt every few weeks if you've had a lot of trouble with roots.

There are two main disadvantages with this process. It can't be done at properties with a septic tank, as salt is bad for the septic system. And unlike copper sulfate, trees can gradually absorb the salt through the roots and may not survive. 

Have a Plumber Do Annual Maintenance

If the other steps seem like a lot of work and you don't have the time or the inclination, you can hire a plumber to clear roots from the sewer pipe each year.

The plumber may use a chemical or a mechanical process -- or both. 

The chemical application usually involves a foaming herbicide known as dichlobenil. This product is only available to plumbing professionals. The plumber pours it into the basement drain or sewer cleanout, if your home has one; otherwise, they will flush it down the toilet works.

A mechanical process involves sending a power auger with a rotating head into the pipe, where it shears away the invasive roots.

In addition to your other strategies, be proactive by not flushing anything other than human waste and toilet paper between sewer pipe treatments. For more information, call a local plumber like Shakley Mechanical Inc.​