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Trees are thirsty and they will be looking in your pipes for water

With summer in the air promoting new growth and drought parching the soil, our trees are desperate for moisture – and this puts your sewer pipes in danger.

Tree root damage is a common cause of blocked sewer pipes. Undesirable consequences include smelly backyard overflows, costly clean-up operations, council fines and ongoing environmental issues as the back-up may also pollute stormwater drains and affect local waterways.

If you have the older style clay or terracotta pipes your home is especially vulnerable to infiltration by tree roots.

Tree roots seek the water, nutrients and oxygen available in the pipe and can enter via leaking cracks and joints. Where they cause damage, more plants, grasses and trees will grow in the pipes.

Signs you could have a blocked pipe

If you have noticed signs of a blocked sewer – such as gurgling noises in sanitary drains, slow to empty toilets and basins and overflowing toilets, gully traps or sewer access pits – try to find out if tree roots are the cause.

If you have clay pipes, tree roots are likely culprits. Check your home’s site plan, work out where the sewer line runs and identify any tree-root systems (including your neighbour’s) that might be running interference.

Call in Curran Plumbing who can confirm the cause with a fibre-optic camera inspection.

Treatment steps

  1. Don’t run any water down the drains.
  2. Avoid caustic chemical clearance options, as old remedies like copper sulphate are corrosive and in septic tanks can also kill beneficial bacteria.
  3. Call in a professional plumber. As the property owner you are responsible for the services to your property including sewer and stormwater pipes.
  4. Curran Plumbing can use a special fibre-optic camera to locate the damage points and extent of the tree root invasion.
  5. Curran Plumbing can remove the roots using a number of methods.
  6. We can conduct a long-term repair of the damage using state-of-the-art, ‘no-dig’ pipe relining services.

Tree-root proofing

Clay pipes have a use-by date, so it is a sound decision to have your pipes re-lined, especially if sections of pipe must be excavated and replaced.

Curran Plumbing applies a hard epoxy lining to the old pipe, by using compressed air to force in the lining and form a new hard and durable pipe that will resist tree roots.

Once the pipes are repaired you can take active steps to cut back the offending trees (within council guidelines) and identify potential plant menaces.

Reassess your next garden planting in light of this tree-root removal exercise and its repercussions.

Planting for the future

Don’t be put off planting. Trees provide shade, beauty, food and shelter in our world. However, do factor in your home’s drainage system ­– and your neighbour’s – when you plant.

Try to plant trees at least 3–5 metres away from your property’s sewer or stormwater pipes and 10 metres if they are problem species. Problem plants and trees are rapid growers, have invasive root systems or long tap root systems that grow straight down.

Common examples of the worst options in Australia are Figs, Bottlebrushes and Paperbarks. Poplar, Palm and Willow trees are notorious. Shoalhaven Water also rates Camphor Laurels and Rubber Plants as ‘extreme’ in their list of damaging plants, and indicates creepers like Wisteria vine are ‘High’ risks.

Further resources

Check the Shoalhaven Water list of trees on their Tree Roots and Sewers page at https://shoalwater.nsw.gov.au/Your-Home/Around-Your-Home/Tree-Roots-and-Sewers

The Sydney Water website lists the characteristics of nearly 1000 plants, https://www.sydneywater.com.au/SW/your-home/saving-water-at-home/garden-and-pool/plant-selector/index.htm Their plant selector can be advanced search by tree, and includes warnings for specific tree species. For example, the Eucalyptus punctata (Grey Gum) is marked “Known to damage underground services, do not plant within 6 metres of any wastewater pipe.”

Contact Curran Plumbing today to access our special offer where we will conduct a camera inspection of your pipes and jet blast troublesome tree roots before the hot weather really hits.

Need a plumber? Call Curran.