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Tree Roots and Sewers

A plant’s roots supply it with the food and water it needs to survive. However, problems will occur if a plant discovers its next meal is hidden in either your property or our sewer pipes.

tree roots in sewer pipe Tree roots can cause major damage to your sewer pipes.

Root damage to sewer lines leads to clogged, overflowing, and slow-flowing drains, sometimes accompanied by a gurgling noise from the toilet. If a problem occurs in your property sewer it is your responsibility to have it fixed. To see which sewer lines are your responsibility see the diagram in the section “How to Cut Sewer Overflow”.

Root damage can also let stormwater into the pipes. During heavy rain, this extra water can overload the sewerage system causing it to overflow into our waterways and pollute the environment.

Avoiding damage to your sewer

Points to consider when planting trees:

  • Plant gardens and trees away from sewer lines
  • Avoid planting species which are likely to cause problems (see below)
  • Consult your local nursery or gardening guide to find out how large a tree or shrub will grow. A tree’s roots will generally extend about one and a half times the distance of the adult plants branches.
  • Depending on the age of your home Council may have a plan of your property’s sewerage pipes. Contact Shoalhaven City Council’s Development Services on 4429 3211 to find out more.

Problem species are listed at the bottom of this page. You should avoid planting these species.

Fixing the damage

If your house sewerage pipes have been blocked by roots you will need to get a licensed plumber to clear them. As well as removing the roots you should consider fixing the damage in a way which will minimise future problems.

  • Contact a plumber who will estimate where the blockage is located
  • Your plumber can recommend the best solution for your particular problem.

If you stop plant roots from re-entering your sewer lines you will save yourself the expense of having to keep on clearing them and you will also protect the environment by keeping stormwater out of the sewer.

Some plants to avoid

The following is a guide only. It is advisable to talk with your local nursery or arborist if you have any concerns about particular species.

Botanical Name Common Name Damage Rating
Cinnamomum Camphora Camphor Laurel Extreme
Ficus Species Figs & Rubber Plants Extreme
Populous Species Poplars Extreme
Salix Species Willows Extreme
Erythrina Species Coral Trees Very High
Eucalyptus Species Large Gum Trees Very High
Jacaranda Mimosifolia> Jacaranda Very High
Liquidambar Styracuflua Liquidambar Very High
Araucaria Species Norfold Island & Bunya Very High
Brachychiton Acerifolium Illawarra Flame Tree Very High
Casuarina Cunninghamiana Casuarinas Very High
Melia Azedarach Australian White Cedar Very High
Pinus Species Pine Trees Very High
Platanus Acerifolia Plane Trees Very High
Schinus Molle Pepper Trees Very High
Ulmus Species Deciduous Elms Very High
Bougainvillea Species Bougainvilleas High
Casuarina Glauca Swamp Oak High
Cortaderia Selloana Pampas Grass High
Grevillia Robusta Silky Oak High
Ilex Species Hollies High
Lagunaria Patersonii Norfolk Pines High
Ligustrum Species Privets High
Magnolia Species Magnolias High
Nerium Oleander Oleander High
Phoenix Canariensis Canary Island Date Palm High
Phyllostachus Species Bamboos High
Rhus Species Rhus Trees & Shrubs High
Tristania Conferta Brisbane Box High
Wisteria Species Wisteria High