How to Get Rid of Tree Roots in Sewer Lines

Trees can boost your curb appeal, offer shade on a hot day and even provide privacy from neighbors, but if poorly placed, they can also wreak havoc on your home plumbing. If tree roots grow too close to your sewer pipes, they can invade the pipe, causing a blockage and potentially creating a crack or structural collapse if left unchecked. None of the above are good for your home plumbing, but unfortunately, tree roots in sewer lines are relatively common. Learning to spot the warning signs and responding quickly to root intrusion in your sewer line can ultimately save you a big headache and prevent costly expenses in the future.

How do tree roots get into sewer lines?

Tree roots are drawn toward water, so if your pipes sprout a leak, tree roots are likely to grow toward the pipe for nutrients. The closer they get to the water source, the faster they’ll grow, eventually entering that same crack or another opening in the pipe and preventing water and waste from flowing through. These problems often escalate because leaking water keeps feeding the tree roots until they’ve grown out of control in your sewer pipes. In turn, tangled roots trap other undesirable elements, too—grease, oil and grime can all build up and worsen the blockage. 

Many homeowners who live in older homes inherit decades-old sewer pipes installed back when the home was built. Cast iron, clay, cement and Orangeburg pipes were commonly installed back then, and all are susceptible to wear and tear that can lead to cracks over time. Today’s landscaping best practices indicate trees should be planted at least 10 feet away from pipes underground, but you can’t go back in time and reverse the growth of a tree that has been blooming for decades. Tree roots may already be working their way into your pipes and preventing proper flow.

Still, if you live in an older home or have trees in your front yard and are concerned about potential tree root damage to your pipes, there’s still time to protect your home against more significant damage. If water is unable to reach the municipal sewer main due to a blockage in your sewer line, there’s only one place for it to go: back into your home. Plumbing backups can lead to slow drains, soggy lawns and flooded basements, so it’s best to be on the lookout for potential warning signs before disaster strikes. Tree roots in sewer lines display many early symptoms that must be quickly resolved.

How to Know if Tree Roots Are in a Sewer Line

Root intrusion in a sewer line blocks water flow, causing simultaneous inconveniences like slow drains, clogged toilets and low water pressure. Tree roots in sewer lines can also result in potentially disastrous symptoms, including sinkholes, sewage gas odors and flooding in your basement if left untreated. It’s not as simple as knowing there’s a tree in your yard because trees grow at different paces and not all tree roots will reach nearby sewer pipes. Recognizing what’s normal for your home plumbing makes it easier to determine when something is off. 

Slow Drains, Clogged Toilets & Low Water Pressure

One of the most obvious signs something is wrong with your home sewer line—also known as a sewer lateral—is simultaneous plumbing issues with your sinks, toilets, showers and tubs. A clogged sink can be fixed by unplugging the sink, but if tree roots have invaded your home’s main sewer line, all plumbing fixtures will show symptoms of a clog. Showers, sinks and tubs drain slowly and loudly after use, toilets won’t flush and suddenly, your home’s water pressure is at an all-time low: all of these indicate a blockage in your sewer lateral preventing proper water flow to and from your home.

Increased Water Bills

If your water bills unexpectedly go up, your sewer pipe may have a leak, which reduces your home plumbing efficiency. Tree roots in sewer lines can cause leaks and vice versa—if tree roots haven’t already invaded your sewer system, they’ll start to head that way once they detect moisture nearby. Either way, higher water expenses are a sign your sewer needs attention. 

Fast Tree Growth

If one tree on your property seems to be experiencing significant growth compared to others nearby, it’s likely its roots are absorbing nutrients from your sewer pipes. If tree growth seems unnatural or abnormal, root intrusion in your sewer line may be the culprit.


Leaking pipes wear down surrounding soil, often creating sinkholes and potentially hazardous soft spots on your lawn. Whether the leak is caused by tree roots in your sewer line or another issue, sinkholes are dangerous to your home and your family and require immediate attention for your sewer system.

Sewage Gas Odors

Besides the ick factor, sewage odors resulting from backed up pipes can put your family at risk. Unpleasant smells aren’t fun, but those smells can often carry harmful sewer gas or bacteria. If sewer smells are permeating your home, it’s time to consult a professional to see if tree roots or another issue are invading your plumbing.

Flooded Basement

The most obvious sign your plumbing is backed up due to potential root intrusion in your sewer line is when water floods your basement. Because basements are often closer to your home’s sewer pipes, a blockage in your sewer lateral can send all that wastewater back to the closest opening, typically found in your basement. If plumbing is overflowing and overwhelming your sewer system, it’s possible something as seemingly innocent as a tree root is the cause. If left untreated, tree roots in sewer lines can cause irreparable damage to your home.

What to Do If You Have Tree Roots in Your Sewer Line

Anyone who has poured drain cleaner down a sink likely knows chemicals aren’t always the best way to remove a clog. They often require repeated attempts to fully clear out the drain, and your sink is out of commission in the meantime. This can result in hours lost to ineffective solutions. The same can be said about tree roots in sewer lines, which are particularly tricky and potentially dangerous to untangle and remove by yourself. The best way to safely and effectively remove tree roots from your sewer line is to work with a professional who has the tools and expertise necessary to locate the source of the problem and clear out the pipe. 

Consult with local sewer professionals to see if anyone offers a free sewer camera inspection. A sewer inspection can identify the root of your sewer problems and point to the best solutions to restore your plumbing to its full capacity. Whether or not root intrusion is the cause of your sewer line problems, an inspection performed by a professional is the best way to diagnose the issue and move forward with the most cost-effective solution to resolve the problem. Tree roots in sewer lines are very common, so most professionals likely have extensive experience removing tree roots from sewer lines.

Many professional sewer cleaning or repair methods also include prevention measures so root intrusion doesn’t occur again, future-proofing your pipes and protecting them from more damage due to a recurring issue. Working with a professional ensures no further damage is done to your sewer system, so you can avoid expensive procedures that involve digging up your yard or replacing a costly pipe. Ask a sewer professional about trenchless sewer cleaning and repair solutions that won’t require any digging or damage to your home.

Methods to Remove Tree Roots from Sewer Lines

After performing a sewer camera inspection, sewer professionals will likely present several potential methods to remove tree roots from the sewer line, though the extent of the damage will determine which method will be the most effective. Common solutions include:

  1. Drain Snaking
  2.  Hydro Jetting
  3.  Sewer Repair
  4.  Sewer Replacement

1. Drain Snaking

Drain snaking is a meticulous process that involves inserting a long metal “snake” into the drain or sewer pipe to break up any blockages inside. The snake is flexible enough to maneuver throughout the pipe, and the auger at the end of the tool is designed to grab any debris so it can be pulled out of the pipe or pushed through it, eliminating the blockage. Drain snaking does a decent job of removing tree roots or any other debris, but it doesn’t prevent more tree roots or grease and grime from building up in the pipe again. That’s why hydro jetting is the best proven technique to quickly, safely and cost-effectively remove tree roots from a sewer line.

2. Hydro Jetting

Hydro jetting requires no chemicals, no digging and no risk to your property or home plumbing. CME Sewer Repair specializes in trenchless sewer cleaning and hydro jetting services for Ohio residents. Utilizing a small access point known as a “cleanout,” our sewer technicians target the blockage with our powerful hydro jetting equipment, which points a pressurized water stream at the blockage to blast it away. 

Once loosened up, dislodged tree roots and other debris are free to continue flowing to the main sewer line, restoring flow to your sewer pipes. The best part is hydro jetting also serves as a preventive measure to protect your pipes from root intrusion and other risks in the future. The water blast is strong enough to cleanse the pipe walls and remove grease and scale buildup that can further complicate pipe flow if left ignored. The whole process is completed in just a couple of hours with little to no downtime for your utilities and no chemicals required, keeping your family and the environment safe.

3. Sewer Repair 

In some cases, tree roots can cause sewer pipes to crack or even collapse if enough pressure is on the pipe. For more extensive damage, trenchless sewer repair solutions like pipe lining and pipe bursting can essentially replace your existing sewer pipe and return your plumbing to as good as new. CME’s technicians are leaders in trenchless pipe lining, an innovative technique involving the installation of a solid resin liner to coat the inside of a cracked pipe, with no digging required. Once we remove tree roots from the sewer line, the liner strengthens the pipe and seals up leaks, preventing further damage from tree roots or debris.

Pipe bursting involves pushing—or “bursting”—a new pipe in place of the old one, essentially replacing the pipe but without having to dig up the area. Pipe bursting is most effective for collapsed pipes when there is no existing pipe structure for a pipe liner to cling to. Both sewer repair solutions provide decades of relief to your home plumbing and prevent root intrusion in your sewer line with stronger pipe materials that lessen the risk of cracks.

4. Sewer Replacement

A full sewer replacement is often a last resort if plumbing damage is left untreated for too long. Sewer replacements require digging a trench around the sewer pipe to remove it and install a new one. Because the process is more extensive and requires digging, sewer replacement is often more costly than sewer cleaning or trenchless repair solutions. Addressing any plumbing concerns early on ensures you have more options available to effectively remove tree roots from your sewer line without having to install a whole new sewer system.

How much does it cost to remove tree roots from a sewer line?

Depending on the extent of damage done to the pipe and the method used to remove tree roots from the sewer line, tree root removal typically ranges from $250 to $1,100. The average cost to snake a drain is about $300, while hydro jetting ranges anywhere from $250 to upwards of $1,000. However, hydro jetting is more effective as a lasting solution that will fully eliminate tree roots and prevent future intrusion.

Unplanned plumbing expenses are never ideal, but proactively removing tree roots from your sewer line can save you a lot of money in the future. If tree roots continue growing long enough to cause extensive damage to your sewer line, a full replacement can cost an average of $7,000 to $8,000, while a sewer repair costs an average of 25 - 30% less. It’s smart to consult a professional as soon as you have concerns about your home plumbing so the costs don’t add up over time.

CME Sewer Repair makes it easy to get started with a free sewer camera inspection; no further commitment is required. Our technicians will use our camera technology to view the condition of your pipe and pinpoint any tree root blockages. From there, we can help you make an informed decision about which tree root removal method works best for you, and we’ll share our available financing options to help support the work needed. We are your local sewer line experts, ready to safely remove tree roots from your sewer line.

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Suspect Root Intrusion in Your Sewer Line? Call CME for a Free Inspection!

If you’re worried about a tree invading your sewer pipes, it’s very likely your concerns are rooted in truth. Root intrusion in sewer lines is incredibly common across Cincinnati and beyond. Homeowners in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana count on CME to quickly tackle tree roots in sewer lines and restore their home plumbing to as good as new. To speak with our highly trained technicians, contact us online to get started with your free inspection today.