The Homeowner's Responsibility for Roots in the Sewer Pipes

Written by bruce emmerling
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The Homeowner's Responsibility for Roots in the Sewer Pipes
Home sewer pipes lead to underground sewer systems (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Most homes in suburban and urban areas have some type of sewer pipe leading to a sewer system. Sewer pipes can be damaged from tree roots, and unless a homeowner takes action, tree roots can ultimately destroy a sewer pipeline. In most districts and cities, the homeowner is responsible for maintaining her own sewer pipeline on her property. Homeowners can hire a plumber to video their sewer pipe to find out its condition.

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The Cause of Tree Root Intrusion

Sewer pipes have a constant flow of minerals and water, both of which are desirable for tree roots. A tree root system will seek out sources of water, even if the water is inside a pipe. A pipe that has any type of fracture or damage can experience root intrusion. At first, a tree will grow small, hairlike roots into the pipe. Then the small roots will grow larger and cause drains to slow down. Finally, if left untreated, the tree roots will take over the sewer pipe, causing a blockage.

Symptoms and Repair of a Tree Root Intrusion

Symptoms of tree roots in a sewer pipe can include gurgling noises when flushing water down a toilet, a slow draining drain, and water blockages. There may also be water outbreaks near the sewer pipeline, or even sewage backup. A sewer pipe with tree roots will need professional repair. Plumbers can use augers to try to flush out smaller root intrusions, but more advanced tree root invasions may require digging up the sewer pipe and replacing it.

Keeping a Sewer Pipe Root-Free

To help maintain a sewer pipe free of tree roots, a homeowner will need to take steps to keep roots away from the pipe. The first step is to avoid planting any trees near the pipe. If trees are planted near the sewer pipe, they should be trees that have slow-growing root systems. A second step is to regularly have your sewer line checked by a plumber for any root intrusions.

Homeowner Legal Responsibilities

In most communities, a homeowner is legally responsible for ensuring that his sewer pipe is healthy and free of blockages. Depending on the legal jurisdiction, a homeowner may need to pay for any damages resulting from sewer pipe problems. Some sewer pipes may need to be replaced, resulting in the need to dig up civil property such as a sidewalk, or even a street. Beyond the sewer pipe system, a homeowner may also be responsible for any tree roots that cause damage to a neighbour's yard or to civil property. When in doubt, consult with a local attorney knowledgeable about your jurisdiction's laws.

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