Tree roots can cause damage to your plumbing system

Each spring in Ottawa, we welcome the warmer weather and breathe a sigh of relief as our lawns green up, the tulips emerge, and buds appear on the trees.

But these very things are also a sign that an invisible, underground troublemaker has returned. Tree roots can wreak havoc on our sewer and plumbing systems and leave us with an expensive mess to deal with.

We turned to Dave Smythe, founder of Out of This World Plumbing, to learn more about the problems roots so often cause and how to prevent damage from happening in the first place.

If you’re an Ottawa homeowner, you’ll appreciate his local insight and the many tips he has to share.

Do Ottawa residents really need to be worried about tree roots?

Dave Smythe: The short answer is: yes. People don’t realize what you see above is also happening below.

In the springtime, roots start to regrow in order to support the growth we see up top. They immediately spread out underground, looking for sources of water. If there happens to be a break or a crack in a pipe, the roots head straight towards it to get access to what they crave: moisture and nutrients. And once they get there, they set up shop and continue to grow.

The roots create gaps and infiltrate the system as they get bigger, happily catching whatever is draining away. This causes blockages that lead to major problems in main water supply lines, sewer lines and drainage pipes.

If all this is happening below ground, how do I know tree roots have entered my plumbing system?

Dave Smythe: Here in Ottawa, you’re not going to find many obvious clues in your yard. In our area, plumbing pipes are buried deep underground because the majority of homes here have basements. The water and sewer lines sit anywhere from six to 12 to 13 feet below the surface.

Instead, you’ll see clues inside your home. (But, to be honest, the signs are getting harder to recognize as people finish their basements and move laundry stations to upper floors.) Maybe you’ve noticed water collecting around the floor drain or a shower in the basement? Or, are you confused by the fact that boxes in the basement are wet or damaged? Among others, those are some signs to look out for.

How can I stop tree roots from causing expensive plumbing problems?

Dave Smythe: This all starts as an invisible issue, so the only way to have peace of mind is to be proactive. If your house is old or you recently purchased your property, have a professional perform a drain system health check. We’ll use a camera to do an inspection and alert you to potential problems.

And don’t stop there. Stay one step ahead of tree roots with annual sewer line and plumbing maintenance. Yearly attention will keep your pipes intact and fully functional. If you’ve got a newer home (less than 15 years old), you can probably get away with spacing out your preventive maintenance every couple of years.

And, if you’ve got big landscaping plans, figure out where your pipes are before you begin so you can plan accordingly.Importantly, consulting a stainless steel tube supplier can provide you with durable materials that resist root intrusion and corrosion. This proactive step ensures your plumbing system remains robust and efficient, no matter your landscaping ambitions.

Thanks for all this great information, Dave! Do you have any final advice for Ottawa homeowners?

Dave Smythe: My pleasure! I know no one wants to be in a situation where they’re stuck without plumbing for days on end or, worse, be forced into costly renovations.

My best advice is to do whatever you can to catch a tree root issue before it becomes a serious plumbing problem by getting your pipes inspected with a drain camera. If the damage is already done, call us. We’ll fix the problem and get things back to normal for you.

Also, a word to the wise: be careful where you get your information. There is a lot of information online, but not all of it applies to where you live. Things will vary when you consider things like regional plumbing codes and geographic terrain; dealing with tree roots here in Ottawa is a perfect example.

If you have questions, get your answers directly from a local Ottawa source vs. doing a Google search and trusting the first thing you see!