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Can Tree Roots Damage Drains?

Posted on October 29, 2021

Tree root ingress is one of the most common causes of drainage problems in the UK. A silent, underground attacker, it’s hard to know whether tree root ingress is posing a threat until it starts causing damage. If you notice any signs with your drainage, you should contact a professional to identify whether tree root ingress is the cause.

In this article, we discuss how and why tree ingress can wreck drainage systems — and what you can do about it.

What is tree root ingress?

Put simply, tree root ingress is where tree roots grow into a drainage system, forcibly entering it through pipe joints, fractures and cracks. Once entered, tree root ingress develops into tap roots and root masses which reduce the internal bore of the pipe and wreak havoc on the system. The problems caused by tree root ingress can be costly to fix.

Part of the issue is that drainage systems in the UK are not built with materials strong enough to resist tree root ingress. The majority of these systems are constructed from clay pipes with joints made from sand and cement. Even modern systems installed using rubber-sealed couplings are typically unprotected by a root barrier. Without a root barrier or some form of concrete divider, the system remains prone to tree root ingress.

Why do tree roots enter drainage systems?

Contrary to popular belief, tree roots don’t just grow in random directions. They are often attracted to a particular area for one reason or another. In this case, the tree roots may be in search of water, especially if you live in a particularly dry area that experiences little rainfall. 

Tree roots may also be attracted to a sewage system, because the waste products found in these systems can serve as fertiliser.

How to fix damaged drains due to tree root ingress

If you have an issue with your drain, your first point of action is to contact a professional drain expert. They will be able to identify the scale and source of the issue and offer the best solution.

A drainage expert will use a CCTV survey to identify and locate the issue with your drains. This involves feeding a tiny CCTV camera through your drains and recording anything out of the ordinary. It is often beneficial to get a CCTV drain survey even if you haven’t noticed any issues with your drain. That’s because CCTV drain surveys can pick up on any impending threats before they become a serious issue. This can include identifying drains that are in close proximity to any trees, shrubs or hedges.

If tree root ingress has already damaged the drainage system, the area may need to be excavated. In more severe cases where the system is unable to be excavated, a solution may be to intentionally burst a pipe, though this will only be suggested if there are no lateral connections or sharp changes in direction in the afflicted area.

In most cases you will be insured for tree root damage, but you should confirm with your insurance provider, as some companies have been removing tree root related claims to save some money.

Wildon UK is a leading drainage and wastewater specialist, helping domestic and commercial customers across the UK with repairs and installations of their drainage systems. We offer CCTV drainage surveys to identify the cause of any issues, and even have a 24/7 emergency callout service to help you whenever there’s a problem. With over 20 years of experience in the industry, we know what it takes to keep your property safe from drainage problems. 

Contact our team today to find out how we can help you.

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