Long story short:
Out of town, back to find slab leak and 75% of house flooded. The water
actually came up in the master bathroom, leak was in the Kitchen 25ft
away. Got leak fixed and house dried out. Now removing damaged
cabinets and wall to repair. Got the toilet removed from the floor to
find a mass of tiny roots embedded in the wax ring. This is where the
water came up from under the slab. The roots do not appear to be inside
the sewer line, just in the waxring from what I can tell. There is an
external wall nearby, the only plants nearby are roses. Neighbors have
lots of growth in their yard, but they are at least 40ft away. This
root growth is also quite new as we had the toilet up about 3 years ago
to lay ceramic tiles. No roots then.
Any ideas about how to kill this stuff off and remove it? Whats the
usual procedure with this situation?
That's a new one. You can do what you want there, but you are not
likely to be able to kill of the roots. To do that would require killing
off the whole plant. Right now you don't know what plant it is. Assuming
the roses are close the the wall, it could be them, but really I would not
expect them to go under the footer and find there way that far, but a large
old rose bush.
Some trees could go 40 feet, and they would be a larger problem. I
suggest you figure this one out before you find that those roots are
damaging your foundation, which they can.
I don't follow why the roots are a problem. Think for a minute, the
toilet does not have enough water to cause the amount of damage that you
saw. You had a big leak from somewhere and the roots may be a symptom. Use a
poison on the roots to get rid of them and find out where all that water is
coming from. You may have a leaking pipe in the slab or a drainage problem.
I think the OP knows about the leak and it has been fixed
"The water actually came up in the master bathroom, leak was in the
Kitchen 25ft away. Got leak fixed and house dried out."
It has been my experience that once roots find a source of water, poison
is only a temporary fix. Maybe this is different in different areas. I
would expect the OP would be interested in any additional information about
what "poison" might work for him. I would like to have offered some advice
on how to address the root issue, but frankly I don't know.
Sorry, probably need a bit more explaining here. We found the leak
already. The leak was actually in a hot water pipe between the hot
water heater and the kitchen sink. We found it through acoustics. We
abandoned that line and ran a new one through the attic. When the pipe
gave way water that escaped built up under the slab until it forced
through at the first point it found. This happened to be the path the
roots I found also took. I know this is where the water came up because
the entire room was filled with silt from under the foundation. I've
never had any problem with roots before, but I do know how destructive
they can be. I didn't even know about the roots until we moved the
toilet yesterday to begin sheetrock repair. But now that I do things
make much more sense.
My question here was really about how to defend against the encroaching
root system and how to clean them out of there before they get even more
out of hand. I'll try to get some pictures on a website for visual
I'll try killing them off with a poison an see if anything outside dies.
I don't have anything outside that I prefer more than my foundation
that's for sure.
Copper Sulphate or just about anything with (ionic) copper in it will keep
roots at a distance.
You can dissolve the copper sulphate in water and saturate the crack in the
slab. Roots will never live in that soil again and the source plant may not
even be damaged if the treated area is localized and plenty of other roots
still exist. It is not technically a herbacide but roots cannot function it
A spoonfull of the stuff down the drain once in a while is supposed to help
also but I would think it would be washed away too soon to have long lasting
effect but it might help clear a partially invaded drain pipe.
Live in Arizona, by any chance? Friend used to have Oleander roots from
the neighbors hedge regularly put a shoot up the drain hole in his bathtub.
I had a hot water line break under my slab, also. Based on the water bill,
I figured about 30,000 gallons leaked out before I figured out something was
wrong. I was told the expansion/contraction of the water line against a
rock under the slab was probably the culprit, but I think more likely it was
the 90 pound water pressure from the city. After the second leak a year
later, I added a pressure regulator to the house. The 90 pound pressure
used to unscrew the sprinkler heads in my yard. Now, I'm back in Illinois
where we never seem to have those water pressure problems but unfortunately,
this year we do seem to have Arizona heat.
This is truly bizarre, and the OP seems to indicate not only a large
amount of water but a lot of pressure. No rose bush will send roots
under a slab and up under a toilet. I would suspect that there is also
a leaky sewer line and a tree adding to the trouble. If the "roots" are
truly only in the wax ring, and not in the sewer line, perhaps they are
fungus and not real roots.
We had sewer back up couple of months ago, both toilets at the same
time. Obviously not a toilet problem. Called the condo chief, told me
to call a plumber. Did so. Whilst they drilled out the main sewer line
for the condo, all the way to the other side of the street, a neighbor
stopped by and said their toilet also backing up. Also called the city
to see if main line problems reported, they said no. They had already
done a lot of work on sewer, including a new pump station down the
street about a year before. Last week there was a hang tag on the door
to the effect that the city will be working on sewer lines and we should
limit our water use. They worked on lines directly across the street.
Now, I am thinking that if there were really roots in your wax ring,
they might have come from seeds in sewer sludge that backed up and
leaked under your toilet. My brother in law used to use sewer sludge
for garden fertilizer, and got lots of free tomato plants in the deal :o)
Though you can't see in this image, there are no roots *in* the sewer.
I haven't been able to get my plumber out yet so I'm not really wanting
to mess with it just yet. I'm going to dig around in the bed just out
side where the sewer access point is. Maybe something has followed it.
Thanks so much for all the valuable input.
looks like you may find more roots under the vinyl flooring. Roots like
that won't cause a crack but will readily follow one to a source or
nourishment (what could be tastier to a plant than a leaking toilet). I
sure hope it don't lead to a vegitable garden :)'
May not matter, but that is Ceramic tile. I doubt there are any roots
there, under the mastic and grout. We'll find out when i clean it all
off. No veggies nearby, only shallow root system wildflowers and a
couple of 2-3 year old rose bushes. Nearest big root system comes from
the neighbor about 40ft away from this location.
I finally talked to my plumber who says this is a pretty common
occurrence in our area. He says what usually happens and hadn't
happened yet in our case is that the feeder roots grow up and over and
down into the sewer pipe. Mine hadn't done that, but he's seen them
grow 10+ ft down into the sewer. So his suggestion was to just clean
out the old wax ring and visible root system and then soak with lots of
salt water. I may try the ionic copper another poster suggested. So
looks like things are going to be okay and could have been much worse.
Thanks again to all posters. I'll post a new pic after the cleanup.
That is definately a strange problem. I tend to think one of two
1. The roots are coming up around the OUTSIDE of the pipe from a tree,
even if it is 40feet away
2. Do you put a lot of kitchen waste down the toilet? It looks like
that wax ring was leaking on the one side. If a seed got under there,
it may have sprouted.
One other thing, what kind of tree is that one that's 40 feet away?
Some have more root spread than others. I can not answer which ones
though. We need a botonist for that. Trees look for water,
especially in drought times, and a leaking toilet supplies water AND
fertilizer. plus the loose gravel in the pipe trench make for easy
spread of roots.
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