Did you know that tree root ingress is one of the biggest causes of drainage problems in the UK?
When they first contact us, many of our customers are convinced that it’s the build up of excess dirt, grease and other debris that’s responsible for their blocked drains. But on closer inspection with a CCTV camera, we often find that it’s tree roots that are encroaching into the pipework, taking up space, and significantly restricting water flow.
How do tree roots get into your drains in the first place?
The materials used to construct our drainpipes are surprisingly unresistant to root growth.
Most of the pipes on our turf here in Essex are made from standard vitrified clay. They boast great anti-corrosion and anti-abrasion properties – but they are not particularly good at wheedling out fine tree roots, which can find their way into pipe structures via cracks, fractures, chamber walls, and gaps in the pipe joints before developing into larger tap roots and root masses.
Roots spread in search of moisture and nutrients. They will certainly find it in the condensation-ridden walls of drainpipes and the water-soaked fissures of faulty drain joints. It doesn’t help that ground that has recently been dug up or disturbed provides a quick and easy pathway for a new root system – so if your drainage network is relatively new, or has been installed on a new development site, in theory, it’s even more prone to root damage.
More contemporary drainage systems, such as those fitted using rubber-sealed, leak-proof couplings, are not immune from root ingress, either. They are rarely installed with root barriers and so are often susceptible to to the same problems as clay installations.
The bottom line is, it doesn’t take much for roots to take hold of your drains – and once they’re in there, they will quickly spread, causing blockages, leaks, and even burst pipes!
What are the tell-tale signs of root ingress?
Here are some of the red flags:
- Gurgling noises coming from your drains
- Frequent clogs and blockages in your toilets, sinks and showers
- Slow draining drains
- Low water pressure
All these signs indicate that there’s not enough room in your pipes or main water line system for water to flow away quickly and easily.
Are you insured for root damage?
Thankfully, most UK insurers will account for tree root drain damage in their policies. But, as always, check your insurance documents to make sure you’re covered.
How we repair root damaged drains
As we mentioned earlier, the first thing we’ll do is carry out a CCTV drain survey onsite to identify the cause – and scale – of the problem.
(For customers who are in the pre-purchase stage of buying a property, we’d recommend a Home Buyers’ drainage survey, which will provide complete peace of mind that there’s no underlying damage to your system, from tree roots or otherwise.)
If this initial assessment tells us that the system joints are still intact, we may be able to flush out the offending roots with our high-pressure water jetting equipment or cut the root system with our Picote mechanical machinery and pull them straight out of the ground.
After using either of these methods, we will normally be able to reline the pipework without needing to dig down and disrupt your landscape.
If there has been more severe displacement to these joints, we will usually need to excavate. This will be a bigger job, not to mention a costlier one – but the works will be vital to maintaining the health, performance and safety of your drains in the longer term.
Steps you can take to prevent root ingress
Root infestations can’t always be prevented – but there are some things you can do to stop roots from taking hold of your drains in the first place.
It’s important to keep a close eye on your drainage system and maintain it regularly to keep it free from build-ups and blockages. Silt and excess water can create a breeding ground for tree roots, as they will be actively seeking out the nutrients on offer from them, so it’s best to flush out your pipework as often as you can to get rid of anything that might encourage further growth.
You also need to avoid planting species of trees and shrubs that have particularly aggressive root systems. Keep willow, plane, poplar, sycamore, elm, birch, and maple trees well away from your drainage lines (and your home’s foundations). Choose unthreatening plants for these areas instead, like fruit trees and and fan palms.