Tree roots can become a problem when they invade your home’s underground water and sewage pipes. Slow or gurgling drains can be from a clog, but could also be caused by intrusive tree roots. Strong odors coming from drains can be another sign you might have tree roots growing into your pipes.
Other signs include extra green spots in your lawn over drainage pipes, which could mean roots have broken through and water is leaking out into the ground. Low areas or sinkholes can also be a sign of leaking water.
So what to do, when you see these warning signs that could lead to a messy, expensive disaster?
There are a few ways to get rid of the roots without killing the tree. Copper sulfate can be purchased at your local hardware store. When flushed down the toilet, it can kill the roots in the sewer lines that are slowing your drains.
A more natural recipe is to mix vinegar, salt, baking soda, and hot water together and flush it down the lowest toilet in your home. Both of these methods may take several applications to rid your pipes of the invasive roots.
Additionally, the roots may come back, so repeated treatments are necessary. Since they only kill the roots that come in contact with the solution and don’t travel up, these methods not harmful for the tree.
Cutting the roots can be effective if you can identify which ones are causing the problem. It can be dangerous for the tree, however. You can cut the root and dig it up, which will effectively kill that specific root strand.
When cutting roots, be sure to cut as far from the tree as you can. It will be less likely to harm the tree. Be sure not to overcut, which can stress the tree or even kill it.
Dig around the entire area to expose the whole root, in order to make it easier to see where you are cutting.
Since it may be hard to identify which roots are causing the problem, dealing with the problem directly in the pipes may be a better way. There are a few non-chemical methods remove them.
You can purchase a sewer jetter, or high power pump that can remove the roots with powerful blast of water. Some even come with a spinning root cutter attachment. These are not a cheap solution, however.
A plumber or professional sewer cleaner can remove the roots from your pipes with a drain cable machine, referred to as a roto rooter. The flexible steel cables spin to chop up the roots so they can be flushed away. They also have cameras that allow them to see the extent and location of the problem.
Calling a professional may be the better option for drains that are more heavily blocked. Drain lines will still need to be treated with root killer afterwards. This is because the holes will remain in the pipes, and tree roots can grow more rapidly when cut.
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The only way to permanently ensure that roots will not grow back is to replace the pipes. However, this method is not cost effective for most people. Trying these methods first is a good place to start.