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Why You Should Avoid Planting Trees Near Stormwater Drains

The Threat of Tree Roots

Homeowners who want to plant trees and shrubs around their yard are probably thinking about the aesthetics of their garden more than anything else. But trees can pose a threat to what’s happening under your garden – your stormwater drains and pipes.

Because stormwater pipes are underground and out of sight, we tend not to think about them. But trees can play havoc with the flow of your stormwater which can lead to flooding and other water damage on your property.

Stormwater drains are designed to allow the flow of unwanted rainwater away from your property. They are usually connected to the roof of your home by a downpipe.

This system is separate from your sewer pipes which are joined to pipes inside your home and are designed to drain all of your wastewater away. These pipes link with the sewerage system.

These are the reasons you need to be careful where you plant trees around your garden. Let’s examine in more detail the problems tree roots can cause and when you need to call a qualified plumber.

What are the Signs of Blocked Drains?

Most drains and pipes are underground so we assume they’re doing their job in clearing stormwater from the property. But when you’ve got blocked drains or sewer lines it’s not something you can ignore – it requires immediate action.

Here are some of the tell-tale signs to look out for if you suspect your stormwater drain or other pipes are blocked.

  • Water pooling around your property
  • Water draining slowly in your sinks
  • Surface grates are not clearing in heavy rain
  • Gutters are overflowing during heavy rain
  • Gurgling sounds coming from your drains
  • Bad smells in your garden

If you’re noticing any of these signs, you need to have stormwater drains and even sewer pipes checked by a qualified plumber as soon as possible.

How Do Tree Roots Block Drains?

Tree roots are constantly looking for water to thrive, so it’s natural they would be drawn to the condensation that forms on the outside of stormwater and sewer pipes. This particularly happens during summer when there’s less water in the soil. That’s when roots will work to get into your pipes.

Whether your pipes are made of PVC, cast iron or clay, tree roots will find a way to get into them. Tree roots will find the smallest crack in a stormwater or sewer pipe and, when that happens, the growth will be significant and the problem will only get worse. This can quickly escalate to extreme stormwater pipe blockages.

This can even happen with smaller trees, such as dwarf fruit trees, or any kind of slow growing trees.

How Can I Fix the Problem?

If tree roots have invaded your stormwater or sewage pipes, you’re already in trouble and in need of professional help.

A full investigation by a qualified plumber will be necessary, which will most likely involve using a CCTV camera on a drain snake. This way the plumber can find the blockage and identify the cause of the problem.

If the blockage is able to be cleared, the technician may choose to use an electric drain cleaner or a hydro jet drain cleaner, depending on the seriousness of the blockage.

In some cases, pipes can be repaired using the pipe relining process, which is less expensive and less invasive than a complete replacement. This is done using durable and flexible resins that form a new lining within the pipe. The process helps to get the water flowing again and to increase its resistance to damage.

If damage from trees is more severe, a plumbing professional is likely to recommend a complete replacement, which involves digging up your garden. While it’s an expensive process, it will be an opportunity to upgrade to new PVC or copper piping.

Can I Prevent Tree Roots from Blocking Drains?

It’s not always easy to prevent the natural growth of tree roots – particularly in a well-established garden with old trees – but you can take certain precautions.

These tips are most applicable to a new garden but can also be used in an established garden. Some of the precautions include:

  • Choose the right trees and plants – Try to plant trees and shrubs with small root systems. Some suitable trees include the Crepe Myrtle, Tuckeroo and Bottlebrush.
  • Root barrier systems – A root barrier system can prevent roots from reaching your pipes. These systems can be used with new or established trees.
  • Upgrade stormwater and sewer pipes – If you have old ceramic pipes or cast-iron pipes that are damaged, it’s clearly time to upgrade to modern PVC or copper pipes. Doing this as well as installing root barrier systems will future-proof your garden from this kind of damage.
  • Kill the tree roots – Using tree root killer is only recommended if you’ve decided to remove an old tree. This is the most effective and efficient way to kill tree roots and the stump.

Be sure to speak with an expert at a tree and plant nursery to plan your garden. Consult with a plumbing professional as well, in regard to the best strategy for your stormwater and sewer pipes.

In Conclusion

Even if you’re coping with a well-established garden, it’s not too late to take control of your trees to protect your stormwater drains.

Prevention is always the recommended course of action – repairing or replacing stormwater drains is an expensive business.

If you’re having problems with a tree root system blocking drain pipes, contact the plumbing experts at Mr Emergency today.

Please note: This information is provided for advice purposes only. Regulations differ from state to state, so please consult your local authorities or an industry professional before proceeding with any work. See our Terms & Conditions here.

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