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Trees are very hearty and survive the harshest winter cold and the worst summer heat. And their roots are no different. These hardy extensions of the tree continually grow throughout the tree’s lifetime and expand the tree’s stability and ability to gather nutrients. In fact, experts estimate that tree roots grow in every season, just as long as the temperature on the ground is above freezing.

However, spring and summer seethe most tree root growth, though some trees may see further growth in the fall. Though this spread isn’t incredibly fast, it is persistent in a way that many homeowners may not realize. Unfortunately, a tree planted in a backyard may slowly extend its roots towards the septic field system.

The area surrounding your septic tank and drain field has overflow water, nutrients and oxygen. These are all the essentials that tree roots will seek out to thrive. The roots can eventually grow through small cracks and wreak havoc on your septic system. Once inside your system, tree roots can block or even break drainage and distribution pipes and can quickly grow large enough to restrict water flow. Tree roots growing inside your pipes are one of the most expensive septic maintenance items.

This root attraction to septic fields is due to the high levels of moisture common in most septic fields. Tree roots possess an uncanny ability to locate the pipes on a septic system and work their way inward. Unfortunately, as the tree roots grow into a tank and expand, they may block up the passage of water or even cause the pipe or tank to burst.


How Tree Roots Can Affect Your Septic System


Tree roots search for water as they grow by stretching out to find sources underneath the ground, they do pose a problem for septic systems. If you have any kind of cracks in your pipes or joints, the roots will crawl into the pipes to get to the water inside of them. Then, as these roots grow, they can actually block the drainage pipes, causing a huge problem. Not to mention, besides clogging the pipes, they can actually bust them.


* Restricted Water Flow

Tree roots are on a constant quest for water, which can lead them into your home’s plumbing. Even small defects in pipes can be enough for roots to infiltrate, and over time these roots will grow and restrict water flow. When this occurs, sink and shower drains will be slow to empty, and common unclogging remedies will fail to work.

* Burst Pipes

As roots grow, they’ll cause pipes to burst and break. A burst pipe calls for major septic repair, and it may even be necessary to replace pipes if they’ve become too damaged. You should have the septic system inspected at the first sign of problems to avoid significant damage.

* Lawn Issues

The leach or drain field surrounding the septic tank filters wastewater before it is distributed back into the soil. If a tree root blocks a distribution pipe, wastewater will leak directly into the lawn and cause vibrant green patches of grass and foliage to grow. While all homeowners want a green, healthy lawn, uneven patches often indicate a failing septic system.



Keeping Tree Roots Out of Your Septic System


* Know where your septic tank and drain field are located. You should have a diagram of your system and the exact location on your property. Keep accurate records of system maintenance for future reference.


* Avoid planting trees close to your system. Remember that tree roots can grow away from the actual tree in search of water and nutrients, so plan accordingly when landscaping your property. It is a good idea to keep trees with spreading roots at least 30 feet away from your system and pipes.


* Before you plant a tree, find out about the nature of its root system. Slow-growing trees tend to have less destructive roots than those that grow quickly. Grass is the best cover for your septic system. Keep in mind that any plant life above your septic tank cover will be damaged or destroyed when you need access to the tank.


* Control root growth with chemicals that deter root growth. Commercially available root treatments formulated with copper sulfate and flushed into the septic system can prevent small roots from growing into mature roots that may completely obstruct your septic system.


* Root barriers are solid sheets or panels of hard plastic or other materials that are buried into the ground and act as a wall of sorts. It is important to note that these types of barriers may stop the tree’s roots from freely growing and could affect the health of the tree. Sometimes removing the tree is a better option than attacking its roots.


* Hydro-jetting: If you suspect that tree roots are to blame for your clogged system, then it is probably time to consider hydro-jetting services. During this service, the highly trained technician will use a special device that emits pressurized water into the pipes. Hydro-jetting can effectively clear away tree roots and other causes of slow draining pipes, including grease buildup.


* It isn’t always easy for homeowners to determine when tree roots are to blame for their plumbing problems. In addition to sluggish drains, the presence of a foul odor may indicate that it’s time to schedule hydro jetting services. You might notice noxious gases coming up from plumbing fixtures, or you may notice a foul odor outside of your home near the leach field. Outdoor odor might mean that the tree roots have grown into the waste line that extends from the house to the tank.


* Have your system inspected at least once a year. Regular septic inspections and maintenance can prevent root intrusion by discovering the issue early.




Covering your septic system with trees, shrubs, and a dazzling landscape may be pretty, but it could be a disaster. We suggest that the best ground cover for your septic system is only dirt and grass. Any kind of plantings with widespread root systems, particularly trees and shrubs, can pose enormous problems on the endurance of your system. Having trees growing in close proximity to your septic system could generate more maintenance calls to service your system than would otherwise be needed.

At West Coast Sanitation, we know that you don’t have time to deal with septic problems. If you think that your system has reached capacity, please give us a call right away. We have professionals ready to answer your questions and get your system working properly again.