Need tree cutting or tree removal in Manhattan & the Bronx?

Sewer line problems are never pleasant, but discovering tree roots are the culprit adds extra frustration. The combination of aging infrastructure and dense urban plantings means NYC homeowners are particularly at risk for this costly issue. Let’s explore how it happens, the signs to watch for, and what can be done.

How Tree Roots Find Their Way In

  • Seeking Moisture: Tree roots naturally grow towards water sources. Even tiny cracks or loose joints in underground sewer lines are enough to attract them.
  • Following the Flow, Hair-like rootlets enter the pipe for nutrient-rich wastewater. Once inside, they flourish, creating root masses that clog the line.
  • Aging Infrastructure: Older sewer pipes in areas like the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, and Harlem might be made of clay or cast iron, which are more prone to cracks and root infiltration than modern PVC pipes.





Soil Type

The composition and texture of the soil surrounding sewer lines influence root growth and penetration

– Loose or sandy soils may facilitate root intrusion

– Soil testing may be necessary to assess suitability

– Compacted clay soils can impede root growth

– Consider soil amendments for improved drainage

Vegetation Density

The density and proximity of trees and other vegetation to sewer lines affect the likelihood of root intrusion

– Dense vegetation increases the risk of root intrusion

– Regular pruning and vegetation management are crucial

– Mature trees with extensive root systems pose higher risks

– Consider the location and species of vegetation

Pipe Material

The material and condition of sewer pipes influence susceptibility to root penetration and damage

– Older pipes with cracks or joints are more vulnerable

– Assess the integrity of existing pipes

– PVC and HDPE pipes offer greater resistance to root intrusion

– Consider pipe replacement or lining as needed

Water Availability

The availability of moisture in the soil affects root growth and proliferation near sewer lines

– High groundwater levels can attract roots to pipes

– Implement measures to control water infiltration

– Leaking pipes provide additional sources of moisture

– Address leaks promptly to prevent root intrusion

Maintenance Practices

Inspections and cleaning play a critical role in preventing and addressing root intrusion

– Timely detection of root intrusion minimizes damage

– Invest in training and equipment for maintenance tasks

– Proper cleaning techniques can remove roots and debris

– Develop a maintenance schedule based on risk factors

Warning Signs of Root Intrusion

Don’t wait for a full-blown sewer backup! Look out for these red flags:

  • Slow Drains: Gurgling sounds or slow-draining sinks, tubs, or toilets might be early signs, especially after heavy rain.
  • Frequent Clogs: If plunging doesn’t resolve recurring clogs, roots may be the problem.
  • Sewer Odors: Unpleasant smells near drains might indicate blockages causing sewage to vent inside.
  • Lush Growth Near the Sewer Line: One tree growing faster than others nearby might have ‘found’ a water source – your sewer line!

What to Do about Tree Roots in Your Sewer Line

  • Don’t DIY: Harsh drain cleaners won’t solve a root problem and can damage your plumbing.
  • Call the Professionals: A plumber specializing in sewer lines will use a camera to inspect the line and confirm the issue.
  • Root Removal Options: Depending on severity, options include root cutting with specialized equipment or hydro-jetting (high-pressure water) to clear out roots and debris.
  • Pipe Repair/Replacement: Repairs or even sewer line replacement might be needed for heavily damaged pipes.
  • Preventing Future Problems: Consider planting trees with less invasive roots further from your sewer line. Regular sewer line inspections, especially with older pipes, help detect issues early.