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Subject: Tree roots invading pipes
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RyanW1
(Florida)

Posts:8


07/22/2020 7:36 AM  
So I live in a 142 unit townhome community in Orlando, FL, and we are having wide-spread issues with tree roots (always from the tree in front of each unit) invading pipes and causing blockages. Anyone here have to deal with this issue? Is the solution just pulling the trees out of the ground? Or is there such thing as a root barrier which can be placed between the pipe and tree to keep the roots away?

Thanks,
Ryan
RyanW1
(Florida)

Posts:8


07/22/2020 7:44 AM  
I've noticed there is this product... https://www.homedepot.com/p/24-in-D-x-120-in-L-Polyethylene-Dual-Purpose-Root-and-Water-Barrier-Rolls-CR2410/304635196
AugustinD


Posts:3683


07/22/2020 8:02 AM  
Posted By RyanW1 on 07/22/2020 7:36 AM
So I live in a 142 unit townhome community in Orlando, FL, and we are having wide-spread issues with tree roots (always from the tree in front of each unit) invading pipes and causing blockages. Anyone here have to deal with this issue? Is the solution just pulling the trees out of the ground? Or is there such thing as a root barrier which can be placed between the pipe and tree to keep the roots away?
I have been through this at two different HOAs. I have also had many family members and friends relate their experiences.I have heard of the barriers to which you refer. After much study for the two HOAs, I found arborists and plumbers alike were that the best solution is to remove the tree and, if desired, replace with a less invasive tree.

I grant that other solutions, like regular camera-ing and clearing of sewer lines and maybe the use of root barriers, are not mere band-aids. But they certainly require regular attention and demands on people's time and pocketbooks.

Lifting of foundations of buildings and homes by tree roots is not uncommon, resulting in more like $50,000 to 100,000 of damage vice a few thousand to several thousand dollars with invaded sewer lines and patios uplifted by tree roots. Insurers can be uncooperative.

I advise: Remove and replace.
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:3358


07/22/2020 9:02 AM  
I also live in a townhouse community and this was a huge problem in our community 10 years ago. I'd start with having an arborist go through the community to identify which trees are causing the most problems and cut those down. That's what we ended up doing - people may whine (as one homeowner did), but when you tell them about the financial impact, like repairs starting at $5K a pop and increasing assessments to pay for it all, they usually calm down.

Trees are wonderful, but we learned most were planted when they were small and no one thought about what would happen when the tree reached maturity. Tree roots are twice as long as the tree is tall and they're often planted too close to the buildings. The developer doesn't care about this very much because they're long gone by the time the trees grow up and the invasion begins. ou don't say how old your community is, but when ours began in the 1970s, everyone was using clay tile pipes and we now know they're notorious for tree root invasion.

Ask the arborist to prioritize which trees are causing the most problem and get rid of those first.
In the meantime, walk around your community and ensure the sewer cleanouts are accessible for each unit because you may want to have a plumbing company walk through every six months or so and rot out all the lines. A friend once lived in a condo building and this is what he persuaded his board to do. It did lead to an increase in assessments, but it's better to spend, say $5K on prevention rather than $10K or more on one or two blockages a year. If you'd rather use root kill you can pour down the sewer cleanouts, get the kind that foams because that'll cover the entire inside of the pipe whereas the liquid stuff may only affect the roots at the waterline.

This will mean you'll have to ensure all the cleanouts are accessible. In my community, we found many people (including moi) didn't have accessible sewer cleanouts because the previous (and sometimes current) owners planted shrubs or install flower beds over them. The cleanouts were flush to the ground, so if you found them, someone had to install a small cleanout that stuck out of the ground that you could see. Our previous president and I walked through the entire community and found many of the homes were this way. We asked homeowners to check and correct this because they usually planted the shrub or installed the flower bed without prior consent by the board. A few may have done this, but unfortunately, the board didn't do a complete follow up because we were too busy dealing with delinquencies.

In addition to the arborist, I'd also consult a plumbing company to see what would work best for your community. You may need to consider trenchless piping to resolve the problem once and for all - none of this will be cheap and depending on your finances, it may require a special assessment. If you go this route, you can still schedule replacement based on which trees caused the most trouble.

Finally, encourage all your homeowners to get sewer and water damage coverage on their homeowner insurance policies. Our community documents state the Association isn't responsible for any damage from the point the utility lines enter a unit, so if someone winds up with tree root disruption, the Association can only fix the line from the point the line leaves the house to when it hits the main line that the water company is responsible for. That can lead to extensive repair expenses for the homeowner - a few have tried to go after the association for damages, but it seldom worked.
AugustinD


Posts:3683


07/22/2020 9:14 AM  
Shelia's information is excellent. The only part where I want to post some differing info is as follows:
Posted By SheliaH on 07/22/2020 9:02 AM
Our community documents state the Association isn't responsible for any damage from the point the utility lines enter a unit, so if someone winds up with tree root disruption, the Association can only fix the line from the point the line leaves the house to when it hits the main line that the water company is responsible for. That can lead to extensive repair expenses for the homeowner - a few have tried to go after the association for damages, but it seldom worked.
State case law where I am says that, after proper notice, the owner of property holding the tree trunk that has roots invading another person's property line (and into the person's sewer lines) is liable for the damage done to the other person's property.

In the last forty years or so, the case law for a number of states has gone in this direction. One local attorney where I am explained the reasoning, calling the invading tree roots a "trespass." Where the trees are the HOA's responsibility to maintain, the HOA pays for damages the trees' trespassing roots do to others' property.
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:3925


07/22/2020 12:14 PM  
Posted By SheliaH on 07/22/2020 9:02 AM
... people may whine (as one homeowner did), but when you tell them about the financial impact ...

We had a homeowner who was on our landscaping committee seriously claim at one meeting that, "The developer built the houses too close to the trees". She didn't miss a beat when we showed her a picture hanging on the wall that shows the property from the air and as it was 32 years ago before being developed... the entire 28 acre parcel was clearcut when they started. Beware of fanatical tree huggers.
LetA
(Nevada)

Posts:997


07/24/2020 9:31 AM  
Sadly when some communities are built, developers often go for looks over practicality. It is often overlooked what a trees root system will do long term. Our HOA got rid of Palo Verdes because the roots started lifting sidewalks and driveway aprons. There are plenty of trees out there that are just a pretty to look at and won't wreak havoc when the roots look for water.
KellyM3
(North Carolina)

Posts:1529


07/26/2020 3:13 PM  
Ryan,

If your neighborhood is several years old, and the trees are viewed as an asset to the homes, then I'd suggest hiring a plumber to run a sewer auger down the line to literally cut the roots out if the toilets are backed up. Yes, they will grow back so this is a very long term maintenance play (unless the trees in question are a variety called "River Birch," which are quick spreaders).

That same qualified plumber can recommend products to dissolve roots once the existing ones are gone. Most likely, it will be copper sulfate-based product.

The 10 seconds needed to cut down a solid tree will require 10 years (or more) to truly replace.

NOTE: I've had this very same experience w/ 25 year old trees in my front yard. I hired the guy with the sewer auger rather than remove my shade.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:2902


07/26/2020 4:29 PM  
Just an opinion, but I would probably support tree removal and replacement with non invasive varieties.

Fix the problem now.
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