What does it mean when there is root intrusion in your sewer pipes? And how do those suckers get in there?
Amazingly, it's simple biology: roots like water. And, as we all know, here in San Diego --> water is in short supply.
When trees, bushes or large plants grow near* pipes, they are attracted by the moisture near the lines. (Thanks, condensation!) If the lines have cracks or small imperfections, roots can start to grow into these cracks to get at the water inside of the pipes.
In the initial stages, you may not even know that a root issue is starting to form. Pipes are underground, your sewer flow hasn't been obstructed, all is well.
Fast forward a few months or years and these tiny root tendrils have become thicker and longer. Once they get large enough to catch debris like toilet paper, you may start to notice that the drains aren't working like they used to. This is the time to call a plumber out.
As you can see from the pictures, calling sooner is better than waiting.
Our client was lucky and we were able to clear the roots from the lines but once roots get as large as these, there is almost certainly some real damage to the pipes as well.
If roots can't be cleared from the lines or if the pipes are too damaged, the only way to fix this issue is a pipe replacement.
So - how does a homeowner prevent this from happening?
*Near is a relative term here. Some trees, such as ficus, can send their roots as far away as several neighbor's yards once full grown. Even relatively small trees can have huge root systems. Amazingly, if you've got a ficus tree with a 6" root diameter, the roots will be about 20' wide.