Tree roots in our plumbing, not sure how to handle - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 12-17-2011, 07:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I was a little unsure where to put this one, but decided here is as good as any since our issue is basically a big picture household management issue. I am going to ramble through the background info since I am not sure which details will be pertinent to getting good answers I will over share. Bear with me :)

 

We own a small 1970s suburban town home.
We bought in 2005. Neighboring units have both turned over since then. Each sat in foreclosure for a couple years and have new owners. 

One unit has a big old tree whose roots invade our front yard. It is obvious based a some digging we attempted out front and the state of our sidewalk that the roots at least approach the area under our house. They impede some grass growth, and have left our concrete walkway very uneven, but neither issue really bothers us (and even if it did we figured there was no way to know who to reach out to while it was a vacant foreclosure, and feel like we don't want to be PITA neighbors to our new neighbor - we are so grateful to have neighbors now instead of neglected foreclosures).
To give you a sense of how close neighbors are: home footprint is a 640 square foot rectangle with units touching both sides, and lot (including home, front yard and back yard is .04 acre.
Our downstairs toilet has been tempermental (requires plunging for #2) for the past 6 months or so.  After a lot of just making sure folks who did not like plunging used the other toilet, a few attempts at snaking and even resorting to nasty liquid plumber type chemicals we finally bought a better snake and snaked up a piece of living tree root only about 3 feet past the toilet which basically puts it in the middle of the foundation. Arrggg!
My husband did some googling and we bought a chemical to kill the root as a temporary measure. We're not sure what comes next.

 

How big an issue is roots in plumbing?
Will it get worse?
How bad are those chemicals for the environment?

Do we call a plumber to have our pipes relined?
Is it something that insurance would cover? Ours? Our neighbor's?

Do we attempt to short sell the house and run away from the problem? (That feels shady to me).
How best to bring it up with neighbor? She's very nice, no more than an acquaintence so far.
Should we ask her to take down the tree?

What other questions should I be asking?
Would my HOA management company or board be able to provide guidance? (The original trees were all similar so other may have run into the same issues).

 

Anyone have wisdom for me?

 


 

 

 

 

 


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#2 of 8 Old 12-17-2011, 08:05 PM
 
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Ok, here is what I know about the subject. Two houses we previously lived in have had trouble with tree roots. The first was from the two obvious big trees in the front yard, the second only had a few sapling sized trees by the house yet it still caused a problem. What we were told is that ALL plumbing seeps a bit, at the joints & so this is not an unusual problem but it becomes more so when there is less water running than "usual" 'cause the roots start looking for more water & can then infiltrate the plumbing more.

 

The first thing to do is to get a plumber in who has a more powerful industrial snake. He should remove the toilet altogether & do a good snake of the drain. This should make an immediate big difference.

 

In our first house we never had a problem again. In our second house it continued about once a year & we started using the chemical as a proactive step so we didn't keep having a problem.

 

As for approaching the neighbours or insurance that would vary greatly on local by-laws & whatnot. Here I don't think we'd get far, especially if there had been no actual damage done.


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#3 of 8 Old 12-18-2011, 10:56 AM
 
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How big an issue is roots in plumbing?   It can get to be a BIG issue.  Involving ripping up a foundation, replacing plumbing, replacing footings, etc.  Very expensive. 
Will it get worse?  Most likely.  Now that the roots have found an easy source of water, no reason to look elsewhere. 
How bad are those chemicals for the environment?  Most of them are pretty bad. 

Do we call a plumber to have our pipes relined?  Not really going to solve the problem.
Is it something that insurance would cover? Ours? Our neighbor's?  Call your insurance company and ask, worst they can say is it's not covered.  Or they might advise you to talk to your neighbor's insurance company. 

Do we attempt to short sell the house and run away from the problem? (That feels shady to me).  I wouldn't.  It's not a hopeless situation.  Not to mention non-disclosure is illegal in many places.
How best to bring it up with neighbor? She's very nice, no more than an acquaintence so far.  I'd be straight up with her.  Tell her the tree in her front yard is invading your plumbing.  Ask if she's having similar problems.  Ask the neighbor on the other side of her also.  The roots will extend up to 1.5 times the diameter of the canopy (branches).  If the canopy is regularly pruned back though, it will be deceivingly small.  You may need to contact an arborist or do a bit of research on the "normal" canopy size of that type of tree.  That will tell you how many of your neighbors are liable to be impacted.  Talk to all of them, see if they're having any issues.  If you're all having issues (or even more than just you), it's time to take out the tree.  Not sure I'd insist upon it if you're the only one affected by it, but it wouldn't be a completely unreasonable thing to ask, either.
Should we ask her to take down the tree?  See above.  If there are several neighbors having issues, maybe you all offer to pitch in on the removal costs.  Removing a mature tree is not cheap.  And you'll never get all the roots out - you're just looking to prevent further damage by killing the root system.  Maybe do some research into trees with smaller root systems, and offer to pitch in to get a new tree that hopefully won't have the same problems (and place it closer to the property line, away from the houses if possible. 

What other questions should I be asking?  You can try calling a plumber you trust and asking what they would recommend you do.  You may also want to have your pipes scoped so they can visualize if there are any other areas where problems are starting.  Laundry lines are a common problem location - they tend to have more water running through them, and you're less likely to notice an issue right away. 
Would my HOA management company or board be able to provide guidance? (The original trees were all similar so other may have run into the same issues). Someone there might have run into something similar, but they're not going to be able to provide "guidance" per se.  Experience maybe.  Information possibly.  But for "guidance" I'd stick with a plumber, an arborist and your insurance company. 

 

HTH

 

 

 



 

 


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#4 of 8 Old 12-18-2011, 11:36 AM
 
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This is a super common problem. Call a plumber. I doubt if your insurance would cover it, but you could call and ask. 

 

We live on a very wooded lot, (as in we have no grass, only trees), and have had our lines jetted out a couple of times in the 15 yrs we've lived here. Look for a plumber who can clean out lines. The outfit we used is called Drain Express (they're local), and you want someone with a name like that or, Roto Rooter, or Mr. Rooter, Rescue Rooter, etc, or someone who advertises that they can clean out the lines. In the worst case scenario your sewer lines are compromised and you would have to pay to get them dug out and repaired. We haven't had that happen, but have known people who had to do it. There should be a clean-out in your yard and the plumber would go in through that and take care of invading roots.

 

ETA: and it's totally not the neighbor's fault. It's because your sewer lines are old. It's a maintenance issue on your lines.


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#5 of 8 Old 12-18-2011, 04:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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All useful responses - thanks!


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#6 of 8 Old 12-19-2011, 11:59 PM
 
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The issue I see is you live in a 'condo/townhome'.  You need to find out if the land is something you own or if you only 'own' the house.  Many times with condo/townhome set ups there is a division of ownership and the HOA actually owns the land and common areas.  If so, then the tree root could be a HOA issue.  Things like this are very tricky and legal-istic (yes I made that word up).

 

I would start with a call to the HOA/property mgnt area and find out who is responsible for trees and such.  If you get a plumber and start messing with it and its a HOA thing, well HOA's are funny about stuff.


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#7 of 8 Old 12-23-2011, 03:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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It is a town home. Unfortunately, we own the land. 


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#8 of 8 Old 12-27-2011, 01:11 PM
 
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They could run a camera down into the pipes to see if the pipes need replacing. If you are lucky they can just gut out the roots.I would remove any trees I could  and grind the stumps. I love trees but not anywhere near the pipes! I would recommend a neighbor remove the tree.If they did not I would charge them for any plumping costs this time AND make them liable for future damage,because the tree roots will invade the plumbing again and again.

 

She can pay once to remove the tree or pay for your plumbing issues every year.Also,if she tries to sell it can be mentioned to potential buyers that they will inherit this problem.

 

If you want to be super nice you can offer to pay a portion of the tree removal.Get some quotes if you want to help pay.My elderly neighbors tree has broken my driveway. I hack away at the roots and block them.Too beautiful of a tree to kill.

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