Your yard features a handful of stately old trees that provide much needed shade in the summer. You love the aesthetic effect these trees have on your property as well. They create an air of stability and longevity, and their colors and textures make your yard look stunning. So you consider them one of your property's best assets.

However, even though trees look great, their roots can wreak havoc on your home. They may creep through cracks in your foundation or buckle your sidewalk or driveway. But those roots cause even more trouble when they grow towards your plumbing.

Below, we'll tell you how to handle tree root infiltration so your plumbing and sewer systems continue to function smoothly.

Why Tree Roots Like Pipes

As water or other materials flow through your plumbing and sewer pipes, their heat makes vapor escape the cool surrounding soil. This vapor attracts roots from nearby plants, including trees, and the roots grow closer to the vapor so they can absorb it more easily. At this point, the roots won't necessarily compromise your pipes.

However, some pipe materials crack and corrode with stress and age, and leaks can often occur as a result. When the roots find a strong, steady source of moisture and nutrients, they'll grow closer to that source for better exposure. So the tree's roots grow into the pipe's crack or hole, and then send out more tendrils until they clog the interior. And when grease and other contaminants snag on the roots, the clog only becomes worse.

Additionally, the roots may expand in the hole or fracture. This crevice becomes wider over time and leads to larger cracks along the pipe's length. Eventually, the entire pipe will collapse.

As a result, you will experience increasingly worse problems with your sewer or plumbing systems.

How to Tell if Roots Have Grown into Your Pipes

Once roots have infiltrated your pipes, you'll start to notice a number of problems:

1. Slowly Moving Drains

Your sinks, tubs, and other features normally drain in a couple of seconds. You regularly see and hear the water rapidly rushing down the drain.

But if you have roots blocking your sewer system, the drains won't move as quickly. And as the blockage progresses, your plumbing features might drain so slowly that you don't see or hear them move.

2. Serious Clogs

Your plumbing problems will go beyond your drains if roots infiltrate your pipes. Imagine you find your toilet clogged, and you can't get the clog to come out even after you've used a plunger, snake, and more. You could just have a serious clog—or you might have a snarl of roots deeper in the pipeline. Only your plumber or septic expert can tell you for sure.

3. Debris in the Faucet or Showerhead

Maybe the tree roots grew into your clean water pipes instead. You'll notice dirt and other debris in your sink in this instance.

4. Higher Water Bills

Again, if the roots grow into clean water pipes, they'll cause an ever-growing leak—and they'll also drink some of the water. You still have to pay for that water usage, so you'll see your bills rise.

5. New Roots Growing Near Your Pipes

In some rare cases, you may also see the root growth above ground. Check your trees to see if the roots have started to grow near your pipes. You may have to look at your home's blueprints to find the pipes.

What to Do When Tree Root Infiltration Occurs

The sooner you catch root infiltration, the better. Early detection leads to less expensive repairs. But sometimes you don't notice the signs right away, so your pipe cracks or collapses under the strain, and can cause floods and other problems in your home.

If your pipe collapses, turn off your water and call a plumber or sewer expert right away. Your plumber will have to remove and replace the damaged pipe, so clear anything you don't want damaged out of the area.

However, if you catch root infiltration sooner, you have a few other solutions available to you:

  • Mechanical root cutting: This root removal method involves a toothed, rotating auger that your plumber sends down the pipe. The auger cuts the roots, but does not remove them, so they may grow back later. But in the meantime, your plumbing will operate smoothly.

  • Hydrojetting: This method accomplishes basically the same thing as an auger, but it uses water pressure to cut the root and flush it out of the pipe.

  • Copper sulfate: This chemical permeates the soil around your pipe and creates a poison zone that the roots can't grow through. Your plumber can then more easily clear the existing roots from your plumbing.

  • Root digging and removal: You'll need an arborist to help you with this option. Have him or her cut the roots above ground, remove them, and then install a root barrier. This barrier will keep the roots from growing into your pipes again.

If you suspect roots have grown into your plumbing or sewer systems, call your plumber for an inspection. If you catch the infiltration before it causes serious problems, you can save money by using one of the solutions listed above instead of paying for a full line replacement.