What is Tree Root Intrusion? | Signs, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

What is root intrusion? Root intrusion occurs when tree roots infiltrate plumbing pipes. Tree roots seeking water, heat, and nutrients will grow toward plumbing pipes. Over time, the growing roots put pressure on the pipes, eventually cracking and growing into them.

At first, root intrusion is virtually unnoticeable — at least, until the roots multiply. As the roots continue to grow, they’ll cause major blockages in your home’s plumbing system.

Leaving root intrusion unchecked will eventually weaken your pipes and cause them to collapse, resulting in higher sewer repair costs. Contact a sewer repair specialist near you as soon as you notice major blockages to diagnose and fix the problem as soon as possible.

Signs of tree root intrusion

You might not notice any signs of plumbing damage when roots first infiltrate your system. Over time, you might notice the following signs. Please note this isn’t a complete list — if you’ve noticed any unusual plumbing issues and suspect that root intrusion is the cause, give us a call today for an inspection.

Unexplained blockages

If your toilet or tub is backed up and you’ve ruled out all other potential causes, you might have a root intrusion issue.

Plunging the toilet more frequently

If you’re pulling out the plunger more often than usual but you haven’t noticed any other changes in your plumbing, root intrusion could be the culprit.

Gurgling drains

Strange sounds coming from your drains could indicate a blockage due to tree root intrusion.

Slow draining

Does it take longer than usual for water to drain from your sinks or tub? A tree root could be blocking water flow through the pipes.

Causes of root intrusion

The obvious cause of root intrusion is roots breaking through and growing into the pipes. But there are more specific, preventable causes. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Tree species

Did you know some trees are more likely to cause root intrusion than others?

Tree species that often cause root intrusion

  • Oak
  • Fig
  • Elm
  • Birch
  • Maple
  • Aspen
  • Willow
  • Sycamore

Hoping to plant one of these trees in your yard? No need to choose a different species just yet. Consult with one of our plumbing specialists, who can advise you on root length and the best places to plant to minimize the risk of tree root intrusion.

Tree species that are less likely to cause root intrusion

The following species have shorter root systems and are less likely to cause root intrusion in Denver and the surrounding area:

  • Cedar
  • Cypress
  • Juniper
  • Myrtle
  • Palmetto
  • Magnolia
  • Dogwood
  • Crabapple
  • Hornbeam
  • Fan palms
  • Most fruit trees

Some subspecies of the trees on this list may have roots that spread farther than others. If you’re picking out a new sapling and you’re concerned about root intrusion, ask your local arborist or nursery about root spread.

How to treat root intrusion

The first step in treating root intrusion is to call in a local plumber. It can be tempting to try commercial root killer chemicals first, since these are relatively cost-effective. However, these treat the symptoms of root intrusion, not the cause. If you’re noticing major plumbing issues, chances are the damage is severe and requires professional attention.

Here at Golden West, we use state-of-the-art drain cameras to inspect your drains and find the roots and cracks.

Once we determine the roots’ location, the severity of the damage, and the repairs needed, we’ll get to work. For extensive tree root intrusion, we’ll use a special device to cut and remove the roots from the pipes.

If required, we’ll then replace the damaged section of the pipe. However, the main line will need to be replaced if the damage is severe or if the line is too old for repairs.

Got questions about our Denver rooter services? Give our technicians a call today. We’ll be happy to provide more insight on our process and personalized advice for your needs.

How do I prevent tree root intrusion?

Now that you know the causes and signs of root intrusion and how to treat it, here are a few steps you can take to prevent it.

Know what to plant and where

If you’re planning to plant new trees, do your homework. Learn about the species’ average root length, and choose an area to plant that’s far away from your plumbing system. Keep in mind that some shrubs and smaller plants can also cause root intrusion.

Stunt root growth with chemical agents

Copper sulfate is a top choice for killing troublesome tree roots. When choosing a chemical root killer, read the product information to ensure it won’t harm your tree and will prevent root regrowth.

Set up root barriers

Root barriers effectively fence off the roots from the pipes. You’ll find several types of root barriers on the market.

Woven root traps allow root tips to continue to grow through small holes while preventing the roots from gaining girth, minimizing the risk of damage. Root deflectors are usually made of hardy plastic or metal. Root barriers with added chemicals work well in the short-term, but the chemical agents will lose their potency over time.

Here are a few tips for choosing a root barrier system:

  • Opt for a barrier that’s at least 30 inches (2.5 feet) deep. The deeper the barrier, the more control you’ll have over root growth. For maximum protection, choose a barrier that’s 48 inches (4 feet) deep.
  • If you’re going for a deflector, choose one that’s at least 15 millimeters thick. The thicker the barrier, the better protection against root intrusion. Root deflectors work better than root traps — they’re easier to install and won’t cause damage to your landscaping.
  • If you choose a barrier with an added chemical growth inhibitor, search for one containing cupric carbonate or trifluralin. These compounds stunt root tip growth.

Got questions about tree root intrusion? Contact Golden West, the trusted name in Denver sewer repair

Tree root intrusion is a fairly common problem that can incur major expenses if not diagnosed and treated early. Call Golden West at the first sign of tree root intrusion to minimize damage and save on repair costs.