can tree roots damage drains

Can Tree Roots Damage Drains?

Tree roots have a notorious reputation for their ability to cause damage to underground drains. When your drains become infiltrated by roots, it’s usually a result of trees seeking moisture, especially during times of drought or water scarcity.

As seemingly harmless as trees appear above ground, below the surface their roots can put significant pressure on pipes. Over time, this can lead to fractures, blockages, and even the collapse of your drainage system. So if you’re wondering, can tree roots damage drains, they absolutely can.

In Australia, where fluctuating weather conditions are common, tree root invasion in sewer and drainage systems is common. The early signs of damage might include unusual gurgling noises coming from your toilets, slow draining sinks, or persistent clogs that defy regular clearing attempts.

These disruptions are more than just a minor inconvenience; they can also become expensive and complex to fix. Preventative measures, regular inspections of your pipes, and informed choices about the type of trees you plant can go a long way in protecting your drains from the silent but formidable force of tree roots.

If you suspect that tree roots might be compromising your drains, it’s best to call us at Full Flow Plumbing and Drainage sooner rather than later. We can inspect your pipes with our plumbing camera, and thanks to our augers and hydro jetting machine, can blast away tree roots without having to dig up a single pipe.

How Tree Roots Damage Drains

tree roots in a plastic drain pipe

Tree roots naturally seek out water and nutrients for growth, which can lead them straight to your underground sewer and stormwater pipes. Once in contact, the roots can exploit any existing vulnerabilities, such as cracks or loose joints, and infiltrate the pipework. As the roots continue to grow, the pressure exerted can cause further fracturing and displacement of the pipes, leading to severe structural damage.

  • Cracks and Fractures: Small fissures in pipes invite root entry, which then expand from the inside out.
  • Pressure: Root growth creates significant pressure, potentially leading to burst pipes.

Tree roots seeking moisture and nutrients may infiltrate your drains, which can lead to a reduction in water flow. When roots find their way into cracks or loose joints in your plumbing system, they can start to grow and expand within the pipes. This intrusion restricts the normal flow of water, leading to poor drainage and a range of associated problems.

Signs of Root Intrusion

As tree roots continue to grow and spread within pipes, they often create blockages. The fine hair-like roots form a net that catches all sorts of debris that passes through, such as grease, soap particles, and waste, compounding the blockage. This may result in frequent drainage problems in your sink, bath, or other fixtures, indicating a compromised plumbing system.

Listen for gurgling noises coming from your toilets and drains, which can signify a blockage. Slow drainage and unexplained damp patches in your garden could also point to a compromised sewer line.

  • Gurgling Noises: A distinct sound that indicates the presence of roots in your pipes.
  • Blocked Drains: Sluggish drainage may signal a root-induced blockage.

Common Tree Species Known for Root Damage

In Australia, certain trees are more likely to cause damage due to their aggressive root systems. Species like the fig, rubber tree, and eucalyptus have invasive root structures that can travel n search of moisture from drain pipes. Being aware of these species and their proximity to your underground pipes helps manage the risk of root intrusion.

  • Fig Trees: Known for their vigorous roots, they can penetrate through pipe joints.
  • Eucalyptus: Their roots can grow extensively and disrupt underground plumbing.

The relentless growth of roots in pursuit of water can cause substantial structural damage to your plumbing pipes. The pressure exerted by expanding roots can crack or even break pipes. Depending on the material of your plumbing (PVC, terracotta, etc.), roots can cause different levels of damage and may lead to costly repairs or the need for pipe replacement. Regular inspection of your plumbing system and early intervention can mitigate these risks and protect your plumbing infrastructure.

Preventive Strategies and Solutions

plumbers inspecting a drain for tree roots

Effectively mitigating the risk of tree root damage to your drains hinges on several key preventative strategies. By implementing thoughtful tree planting, physical barriers, and regular upkeep, you can safeguard your plumbing infrastructure.

Planting Trees Wisely

When you’re landscaping, choose the location for planting trees with foresight. Make sure to plant trees away from your drainage system, considering the potential growth of the tree’s root system. Select species with less aggressive root systems to lower the risk of future drain interference.

Root Barriers and Physical Defences

Root barriers are a practical measure you can install to protect your drains. These are physical structures that can redirect tree roots deeper into the ground, away from your pipes. There are different types of barriers available, from solid to permeable ones, which you should choose based on soil conditions and the type of trees you have.

Regular Maintenance and Inspections

Maintaining your drainage system includes regular inspection and cleaning. A CCTV drain camera can inspect pipes for early signs of tree root intrusion. Embrace advanced technology for maintenance, such as hydro-jetting, which can effectively clear minor root incursions before they escalate into major problems.

Professional Remediation Techniques

When facing tree root damage in your drains, professional remediation is essential to address the issue effectively and prevent future problems. Your plumbing system’s integrity depends on timely and accurate interventions by professionals.

Mechanical Solutions: Your first line of defence against tree roots in drains often involves mechanical root cutting. Professionals may use a rotating steel blade or chain attached to a powered drain cleaning snake to cut through the roots. This method requires precision to ensure complete removal of the roots without damaging the pipes.

Pipe Relining: This is a preferred method for repairing damaged pipes with minimal disruption. A pipe reline procedure involves inserting a resin-coated liner into the existing pipe, which then hardens and seals all cracks. This technique not only fixes the current damage but also strengthens the pipe against future intrusion.

Pipe Replacement: In severe cases of root intrusion where relining is not sufficient, pipe replacement may be necessary. This often requires excavation to access the affected pipes. New, root-resistant piping materials are typically used to replace the old pipes, providing a longer-term solution to tree root damage.

Hydro Jetting: As a non-invasive option, hydro jetting uses high-pressure water streams to clear out root blockages and debris. This technique is effective for clearing blocked drains, and serves as a preventative measure by thoroughly cleaning pipes to deter further root growth.

Understanding Costs and Considerations

When facing the nuisance of tree roots invading your drains, you need to weigh the costs involved and the long-term value of professional repairs. It’s crucial to choose the right repair method and consider investments in durable plumbing solutions to prevent recurrent issues.

Comparing Repair Methods

If you have a blocked drain caused by tree roots, the repair method you choose impacts both cost and effectiveness. Engaging a blocked drain plumber may seem costly initially, but attempting a DIY approach to clearing tree roots from drains without the proper tools and expertise can compound the problem. Some options include:

  • Mechanical Removal: This involves cutting out the roots with specialised equipment.
  • Hydro-jetting: High-pressure water clears the blockage and is especially effective for severe root intrusion.
  • Pipe Repair or Replacement: In cases where damage is extensive, sections of the pipe might need to be replaced.

Costs can vary based on the complexity of the blockage, accessibility of the pipes, and the condition of your plumbing system.

Long-term Investment in Quality Plumbing

Investing in quality plumbing from the outset, including the installation of root barriers and more resilient pipes, can lead to reduced water bills and less frequent need for drain repair. Employing a licensed plumber ensures that you have professional assistance, which, while initially more expensive, can prevent future complications that could incur greater expenses.

Regular maintenance and inspections by a professional can help you spot potential issues early, saving you money and inconvenience in the long run. While upfront repair costs might be a consideration, ensuring long-term drain health is invaluable. Your decision should blend immediate affordability with the foresight of future savings.


Tree roots can significantly impact your drain systems. Their growth into pipes is a common issue that may lead to various levels of damage and consequent disruption to plumbing systems. Should you suspect tree root intrusion, it is crucial to act promptly. Delaying could escalate the damage and, conversely, the potential repair costs.

Employing the use of a CCTV drain camera is a reliable method to assess the situation. This technology enables a clear visual inspection of the inside of your drains, locating the specific area of intrusion and determining the extent of the damage without the need for immediate excavation.

If damage is detected, seeking professional help from a qualified plumber is your next step. They can provide targeted solutions like mechanical snaking, hydro-jetting, or even chemical treatments to address tree root growth effectively.

Remember, proactive measures, such as regular maintenance and understanding the placement of trees in proximity to your drain lines, can minimise the risk of root-related issues. Doing so will help you maintain a functional drainage system and avoid the inconvenience and cost of extensive repairs.