How do I fix a sewer under a tree?

You shouldn’t have to pick between your tree and your sewer

Fixing sewers that run under trees with minimal disturbance


A $70,000 tree may shock some, but to our client who just had a fully mature tree delivered and planted, it was the cherry-on-top to complete his dream lawn. His joy was short lived though. A stormwater pipe that ran beneath the tree started having problems draining and began to backup in to his yard. The first plumber he called stated that the tree would have to be torn out for the pipe to be accessed. We were happy he called us next, because we disagreed. In our experience, 9 times out of 10, there is a way to fix the plumbing and spare the tree. In our client’s case, we were able to reroute the pipe around the perimeter of the new tree’s drip edge so as not to disturb the tree.

Do you have to tear down a tree to fix a sewer that runs beneath it? If your sewer runs under a tree, how can you use preventative maintenance to keep issues at bay? Before planting a new tree in your lawn, how can you be sure it won’t affect your sewer? As nature enthusiasts and plumbing experts, we’re happy to answer these questions.

What problems can trees make for sewer lines?

Sewer lines that run below a tree tend to become damaged more than those that do not, simply because of the tree’s roots. Tree roots seek out moisture and nutrients. In older sewer lines, the joints between sections of pipe degrade.  

With terracotta piping, these joints are sealed with concrete. Concrete cracks as it ages and roots sense the moisture and “nutrients” flowing through your sewer.

If a there is even the smallest crack in a sewer pipe’s joint, tree roots work their way in. The tree grows big and healthy, thriving off the nutrients in the wastewater flowing through the pipe. Root intrusion in sewer lines creates clogs. In turn, clogs create backups. Sewer backups render your bathroom unusable.

Repair the sewer and spare the tree

If your sewer runs under your tree, don’t fret. There is almost always a way to avoid cutting down a tree. It all depends on where your sewer line is located in proximity to the tree.

Before C.A. Taciak & Sons does any sewer repair where a tree is in harm’s way, we create a plan of attack. We use pipe locating techniques to determine:

  • Is the sewer directly under the tree or just under the roots/drip edge of the tree?
  • How much fall is available in the sewer line to work with? Is there enough drop between the house and the street connection for the sewer to be rerouted outside of the most efficient pathway?

The farther the sewer is to the side of the tree’s drip edge, the more options there are to repair or replace the sewer.  If the sewer line runs directly under the center of the tree, a trenchless sewer repair may be necessary.

Depending upon your level of investment, trenchless pipe repair such as pipe bursting, pipe lining, or pipe patches, are a great option to avoid cutting down a tree.

Although more expensive than conventional sewer repair, trenchless repair is less expensive than tree-removal, stump grinding, and a sewer replacement – not to mention the price of having a tree replaced and replanted.

If you call Baltimore home, you know that a tree in city is a rare sight. A client of ours who lives in a lovely Charles Village townhome has a 50ft mature tree growing in her backyard. Unfortunately her sewer exits her home in the rear and runs directly under the tree. After being told that the only way to repair her sewer was to cut down the tree, she got a second opinion from us. We were happy to be able to use pipe bursting and surgical sewer repair methods to replace the sewer line underneath the tree without disturbing the tree or its roots.

pipe bursting beneath the roots of a tree

Keep your tree and your sewer in home maintenance plans

If you have a tree that you love, you should consider the possibility that your sewer line runs under it.

How can you know for sure? A video pipe inspection and pipe locate are a great place to start. This is also a good first step if you are considering adding a tree to your property. Working in conjunction with your plumber and landscape designer, you can map the route of your sewer line, completely avoiding potential headaches in the future.

There are many more options for sewer maintenance than there are for emergency sewer replacements. We encourage you to think about your trees and sewer before either becomes an issue.  It’s great to have a quality contractor on your side who understands the value of your horticulture and your home.

C.A. Taciak & Sons takes care of your concerns as if they were our own, because they are.  We love trees and nature just as much as our customers. We also understand the impact that trees have on our environment and the beauty they bring to your landscaping.  Mature, beautiful trees are not easily replaced. A price cannot be put to their value for many of our neighbors. We work with all of our clients and their budgets to save their trees.  

Are you interested in pipe locating to determine the proximity of your sewer line to a tree in your lawn? Take advantage of our pipe locating and camera inspection guide:

If another plumber has told you that your prized tree needs to be removed in order to fix your sewer line, we’d be happy to give you a second opinion. Get in touch with us:

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