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broken drain pipe with roots

Imagine the distance that it would take for your tree roots to access your underground drain pipes. Is this even a possibility? Absolutely, it is possible for tree roots to attack your drainage pipes. Once you have identified that tree roots are the clogging problem with your pipe drainage, you can ask yourself, How do I clear the roots from my drain pipes? The answer is copper sulfate, rock salt, auger, hydro-jetting, or reroute or repair.

Underground drain pipes.

What Are Drain Pipes

Drain pipes are exactly what they sound like. They are responsible for carrying all of your waste from your home to the city sewer system. This includes all of your plumbing and any gutter system runoff that you may have had installed. Let’s take a deeper dive into how and why root systems can intrude upon your drain pipes.

Roots growing inside a drain pipe cause problems in a yard.

How Tree Roots Enter Drain Pipes

Tree roots gravitate towards moisture and food for the tree and the drain lines happen to be a perfect food and moisture source. If your drain lines become damaged from soil erosion, movement, or older pipes, the roots are going to naturally grow into your sewer lines. In addition, this can dramatically increase the damage to your drainage pipes.

Signs Of Tree Roots In Your Pipes

Believe it or not, there are a couple of ways to determine if your drain pipes have roots in them. Below are a couple of areas to keep an eye out for, prior to calling in the professionals.

Very Green Patches in Your Yard

Roots that have made it into your drain pipes will be healthy and have more access to food. This food source allows the foliage to remain healthy and strong.

Odor Smells

Serious blockage can cause a build-up of waste in the pipes. This will produce a foul odor that needs attending to from a home inspector.


A sinkhole occurs due to the pipes being cracked by the root system. This allows water to continue draining through the soil, leaving the area soft and vulnerable to movement and erosion.

Slow or Gurgling Drains

Slow draining pipes or clogs can also be a result of roots getting into your drain pipes. The only way to tell is to scope the drainpipe with a sewer scope camera designed to snake through the pipes.

Checking for an underground water leak is important. This can be done in five easy steps, starting with checking the water meter.

Cost to Clear Roots from Drain Pipes

The initial costs for you to clear or replace the drain pipes are determined by the professional team that you hire to service the pipes to check the lines for tree roots. This can range from a couple of hundred dollars to thousands. The drain pipes or sewer lines, the size of your home, and the location will determine the costs.

Clearing Roots from Drain Pipes

Believe it or not, there are a few good home remedies for helping keep roots out of your drain pipes. Let’s take a look at some of those options:

  • Copper Sulfate-this will kill any root system in your pipes with just half a cup of these blue crystals. Copper sulfate is a natural herbicide and can be purchased at most hardware stores.
  • Rock Salt (Sodium Chloride)-adding the salt into your toilet that is farthest from the road. You will add a handful to your toilet and flush it down with buckets of water. You will need to avoid flushing the toilets until the following afternoon. This will give the salt time to dry out the roots. This is a temporary solution, as roots will tend to grow back.
  • Hydro Jetting-this involves thrusting a high power amount of water at 4,000 psi through the pipes. The water pressure is so powerful that It destroys the roots.
  • Rooter or Auger-this item will be shoved through the piping system all the way to the obstruction. Once the obstruction is located, the auger will slice up the roots and allow the pipes to be flushed out. Any debris that is left is washed away into the sewer.
  • Reroute or Repair-a professional might locate the issue and cut the pipes in hopes of rerouting the pipe trail away from the root system. This could typically cost the most. Also, materials are not cheap and neither is the time it takes to dig and locate the repair or problem site.

Keep in mind, any of the above solutions might damage your sewer drain lines if they are weak. Therefore, you may have to replace the sewer lines instead.

Sewer Scope Inspection

Homebuyers will want to have a sewer scope inspection completed prior to doing anything. This will allow you to determine the condition of the sewer system throughout your home. In order to do this, you will need to hire an inspector who will snake a camera through your sewer lines and determine if any damage is present. Knowing that everything looks good will give you peace of mind to purchase the home. Waypoint Property Inspection East can help you with your sewer scope inspections in South Florida.

Other Preventative Maintenance Ideas

You should consider maintaining your vegetation in the yard and keeping it away from the house. Also, keeping trees and other plants away from your drainage pipes is key to success. The root systems are always looking for nutrients and water, and both can be found inside your drainage pipes. So, the further away you can keep the plants and trees from your pipes, the better off you will be.

In addition, making sure that the yard gradient slopes away from the home will allow for the water to flow faster through your pipes. You do not want the pipes to end as level or sloping backward. This will cause slower flushing of the items in your drainage pipes and could also cause a backup into your home.

Other Recommended Maintenance

While you are busy inspecting or repairing your drain pipes, you might want to consider inspecting your sprinkler system. There are a few ways to maintain your sprinkler system while you have your yard dug up for drain pipe repairs.

Problems with yard drainage can be due to roots in drain pipes or other issues.

If you have water developing in the yard, check to make sure it is indeed a broken or clogged drainpipe underground causing this. When in actuality, it could be a drainage issue and a drainage system may be a cheaper fix. A professional can help you figure out the culprit.

Be careful of allowing water to sit in your yard for too long as it will be a breeding ground for mosquitos. The good news is there are natural ways to get the mosquitos under control while fixing the issue in your yard.

When Should I Call A Professional

It is highly recommended that you reach out to a professional right away to clear roots from drain pipes. Attempting to determine a clog in your drain pipes can take a long time, and set you back a lot of money. In addition, if you don’t know what you are doing, it can cause a lot of headaches and additional costs. Lastly, the time that it will take you to rent the equipment and dig up the area is not worth the amount that you would pay a professional.


It is always difficult to determine if tree roots have intruded into your underground plumbing. Using rock salts or copper sulfate to help combat the problem is a great idea, however, it is a very temporary solution. Call Waypoint Property Inspection to inspect your home in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Orlando, Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, and surrounding areas.