How Can I Stop Tree Roots from Growing into my Water Lines?

Answered by Jeffrey ~ March 24, 2010 ~ No Comments

Our 1902 home in Roanoke, Virginia has several beautiful oak trees around it. However, the roots are growing into the water pipes and wrecking havoc. How can we resolve this issue without taking down those trees?

Alex J. ~ Roanoke, Virginia

Jeffrey Anderson

Hi Alex, I live right up the road from you, and used to ride my bike down there to get Roanoke, Virginia's famous chili dogs. Now I'm hungry for one! I also used to have the same problem with my drain lines. Old houses used clay drain piping, and as trees send out root feelers, they can sense the moisture in the clay pipe, and it is easy for them to penetrate at the mortar joints. It doesn't happen as often with more modern homes and their Schedule 40 piping, but if a line is cracked they can still get in there.

There are chemicals that you can purchase and pour down your toilet, but I have had limited success with those, but maybe I just wasn't using them correctly. The method that worked for me was putting copper sulfate in the soil. Trees do not like copper sulfate, and the root systems will go in different directions. It should not kill the tree, at least it didn't mine. You ought to consult with a tree expert first though, as I didn't have oak trees.

You may need to get a plumbing contractor involved to get the approximate location and depth of your drain line. You then simply auger some holes large enough to install 1 1/2 inch PVC piping down to a level about 24 inches above your drain line. If you know the approximate location of the roots causing the problem, you can concentrate in that area. Pour enough copper sulfate in the pipe to fill it about 1/2 way up, and then pour hot water in on top of it to fill the pipe. Copper sulfate should be available at hardware stores or nurseries. Make sure the piping is down far enough that you can mow over it, as the piping will remain there. Repeat with the copper sulfate about every 4 months. It may take awhile, but eventually the roots should stop growing there. You may have to auger out the roots that are already clogging up the drain line.

***SPECIAL NOTE***Call Miss Utility before any digging, or doing even one auger in your yard. They will locate any buried utility lines, do not dig until you receive a sign off that all utilities are located, or that none are there.

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