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Tree Roots In Drains? A Common Culprit of Drain Blockages

tree roots in drains2

An issue many of us face in the home is blocked drains. There are various reasons why a drain becomes blocked, but tree roots are a common culprit. Understanding how tree roots enter drainage systems and how to address this problem can save you time, money, and frustration. This guide looks at why tree and plant roots are a problem for drains and how to prevent them from keeping your drainage from running smoothly.

How Do Tree Roots Enter Drains?

As trees grow, their roots seek out sources of moisture and nutrients. They can detect even the slightest hint of water, which makes drain pipes a prime target. Once they find a way into your pipes, they will grow quickly. This can lead to severe blockages, resulting in costly repairs and damage to your property.

Cracks and Joints

Drains are not unbreakable. Over time, small cracks can develop due to wear and tear, ground movement, or poor installation. These tiny openings are large enough for fine tree roots to penetrate. Once inside, the roots expand and worsen the gaps, eventually clogging the drain completely.

Signs of Tree Root Intrusion

Slow Draining Water

One of the first signs of a drainage tree root problem is slow-draining water. If your sinks, toilets, or bathtubs take longer than usual to drain, roots partially blocking your pipes could be the cause.

Gurgling Noises

Gurgling noises from your drains suggest air being displaced by water struggling to pass through a blocked pipe. This is an early warning sign of tree root intrusion.

Unpleasant Odours

Blocked drains often give off unpleasant smells due to trapped waste and stagnant water. If you notice foul odours coming from your drains, it could indicate that tree roots have infiltrated your pipes.

Diagnosing Tree Root Intrusion

It’s best to consult a professional drainage company to diagnose tree root intrusion. They use specialised equipment, such as CCTV cameras, to inspect the inside of the pipes and find the exact location and extent of the blockage.

The Impact of Tree Roots on Drains

Blocked drains can cause water to back up into your home, damaging floors, walls, and foundations. The damage can be vast if it goes unnoticed for some time.

Health Hazards

Stagnant water and waste trapped in blocked drains can breed bacteria and mould, posing serious health risks to the people living in the property, especially if the water seeps into the living spaces.

Preventing Tree Root Intrusion

One of the best ways to avoid tree root intrusion is to plant trees away from your drainage system. But if you buy a property with trees close to the home, there is little you can do. However, regular drain maintenance can help stop tree roots from taking hold. This includes routine inspections and cleaning to make sure the pipes are clear of roots or likely entry points.

Root Barriers

Root barriers are physical or chemical barriers installed around pipes to prevent roots from getting inside. They can be an effective preventative measure, especially with trees with aggressive root systems.

Upgrading Pipes

If you have an older home with clay or concrete pipes, consider upgrading to modern materials such as PVC or HDPE. These materials are more resistant to root intrusion and will help prevent blockages.

Solutions for Tree Root Blockages

Mechanical Removal

Mechanical removal involves using specialised tools, such as drain snakes and augers, to cut and remove tree roots from your pipes physically. Although this method gives immediate relief, it may not prevent future blockages.

Chemical Treatments

Chemical treatments like foaming root killers can kill tree roots inside pipes. These treatments are poured down the drain and work by coating the inside of the pipes with an herbicide that kills roots on contact.

Hydro Jetting

Hydro jetting is a powerful method that uses high-pressure water to blast away tree roots and other debris from your pipes. This method is highly effective but should be performed by a professional to avoid damaging your pipes.

Drain Relining

Drain relining, or trenchless pipe repair, involves inserting a flexible liner coated with resin into your damaged pipe. The liner is then inflated, creating a new pipe within the old one. This method can seal cracks and prevent future root intrusion without extensive excavation.

The Role of Professional Help: Choosing the Right Company

When dealing with tree root intrusion, choosing a company with experience in handling such issues is essential. Look for professionals who offer specialised services like CCTV inspections, high pressure water jetting, and drain relining.

Cost Considerations

The cost of fixing drainage tree root intrusion varies widely depending on the damage and the method used. While professional services may seem expensive, they provide a long-term solution that can save you money in the long run.

Common Myths About Tree Roots in Drains

Tree Roots Only Affect Old Pipes

While older pipes are more susceptible to root intrusion due to wear and tear, tree roots can infiltrate any type of pipe. Even modern materials can develop cracks or joints that roots can exploit.

Chemical Treatments Are Harmful to the Environment

Many chemical treatments used to kill tree roots are designed to be safe for the environment when used correctly. It’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and choose products specifically formulated for this purpose.

Removing the Tree Will Solve the Problem

Removing the offending tree may seem like a straightforward solution, but it doesn’t guarantee that the roots won’t continue to grow and cause blockages. Additionally, new trees planted nearby can eventually cause similar issues.

The Future of Drain Technology

Pipe Materials

Advances in pipe materials are making it easier to prevent tree root intrusion. Modern materials like PVC and HDPE are more resistant to cracks, reducing the risk of root infiltration.

Smart Drainage Systems

Smart drainage systems equipped with sensors and monitoring technology can detect early signs of blockages and alert homeowners to potential issues. These systems can provide real-time data and help prevent major problems before they occur.

Sustainable Solutions

Sustainable solutions, such as using recycled materials and eco-friendly treatments, are becoming more popular in the plumbing industry. These options effectively address tree root intrusion while minimising environmental impact.


Tree roots in drains are a common culprit of drain blockages, causing significant inconvenience and expense for homeowners. Understanding how tree roots enter drains, recognising the signs of intrusion, and knowing how to address and prevent blockages can save you time and money. By taking proactive steps, such as regular maintenance, tree placement, and using modern materials, you can protect your drainage system so it remains in good working order. Don’t let tree roots wreak havoc on your home—stay informed and take action to keep your drains clear and free-flowing.