How To Keep Tree Roots From Damaging Your Main Water Pipe

If you own your own home, then you likely have a main water line that runs from the street to your residence. This main water line will likely remain in good shape, unless you have a number of trees that sit over the top of it. Tree roots can easily reach down to the depth of the pipe and can eventually work their way inside it. This often happens when the roots force small holes to form in the piping. Water will then flow out of the pipe and the fluid will feed the roots. This will cause the roots to grow more aggressively around the exterior and the interior of the pipe until the water line ruptures. Fortunately, you can prevent this from happening by controlling the trees in front of your home.  

Consider Removing Trees

Some trees have large and expansive root systems that spread out quite wide. In general, the roots of a tree can spread out two to four times the length of the tree crown. This means that a tree that is 20 feet tall may grow roots that can damage your main water line even if the tree is 50 feet or more away from the front area of your home. This is only the case though, if the tree has an aggressive root system that grows deep into the earth.

The most common trees that grow deep and wide roots are elm, poplar, maple, cottonwood, aspen, and willow trees. If you have one or several of these trees near the front of your house, consider hiring a contractor to remove them.  

Plant Trees with Shallow Roots

Once you have removed trees with invasive root structures, consider replacing the trees with varieties that have shallow roots. Evergreen and conifer trees have root systems that will not grow deep into the earth. This is true of ornamental trees and shrubs as well. Make sure you prune these trees once you have planted them, because this will help to keep root systems from spreading out.  Prune trees soon after they blossom or bloom to remove new tree growth.  

Stop Root Growth

Locate Your Main Water Line

If you do not want to remove the trees from your property, then you can control root growth. One of the best ways to do this is to install a root barrier. Root barriers block the progression of invasive roots and this forces them to grow down instead of out. When the barrier is placed just outside the edge your main water line, then this can keep roots from moving close to the pipe.  

Before you install a barrier, ask a plumber or your water company to locate the main water line on your property. Property records can be found that indicate where the water line is located or devices can be used to detect the metal pipe in the ground

Install Root Barriers

Once the main water line is found, place stakes in the ground to mark the area. Purchase either solid sheet metal or polypropylene root barriers at this time. Buy enough materials to create a barrier on either side of your water pipe. Use either a trench digging tool or a shovel to dig three feet into the ground on either side of the water pipe. Secure the root barrier panels in the earth and make sure that a small amount of the panel sticks up out of the ground. This is best to prevent roots from growing over the top of the barrier.

Once the barrier is in place, secure a small amount of dirt in the trench and add water to help compact the earth. Fill in the trench the rest of the way and place a small amount of dirt over the top edge of the root barrier to cover it.  

If you own a home with large trees across your property, then you should understand that these trees can form deep roots that can damage your main water line. You can prevent this from happening though, by either remove your trees or by controlling root growth.

Be sure to visit for more information on how you can care for your home's water line and other pipes.