Ask a Question forum: How Long Are the Roots of Bushes/Shrubs?

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Chicago, IL
Chi42
Feb 26, 2017 2:38 PM CST
Hello.

A plumber has told us that our main sewer pipe has to be replaced. The pipe runs underground, near two bushes/shrubs. The pipe also runs near a big tree.

The plumber believes that the roots of the bushes may be interfering with the sewer pipe, and he prefers that the bushes be removed before he starts his work. However, a tree-removal specialist came to our home, and the specialist said that bush roots are very short and that it is therefore very unlikely that the bush roots could be interfering with the sewer pipe. The specialist says that it is more likely that the roots of the big tree are interfering with the pipe.

So, I'm looking for information on just how long bush roots can be, and I can't seem to find anything on the Internet. Can someone on this forum please tell me how long bush roots can be? Are bush roots much shorter than the roots of a big tree?

Thank you for any help you can give me.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Feb 26, 2017 4:18 PM CST
Welcome!

It all depends upon the plant in question. Can you tell us what the shrubs and trees are? If you don't know, send a photo and we will help you work it out. How close are they to the sewer line that needs to be replaced? Also, please update your personal information to include a location.
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Chicago, IL
Chi42
Feb 27, 2017 1:02 AM CST
DaisyI said: Can you tell us what the shrubs and trees are? If you don't know, send a photo and we will help you work it out. How close are they to the sewer line that needs to be replaced? Also, please update your personal information to include a location.


Hi, Daisyl.

First of all, I live in Chicago, IL.

As for the bushes, they are evergreen bushes. I don't know what kind of tree we have.

I have attached a photo.

The black line represents the underground sewer pipe. You can see that the pipe goes between two evergreen bushes that are located near a big window. The plumber believes that the big bush's roots (and maybe even the small bush's roots) will be interfering with the replacement of the sewer pipe. Therefore, the plumber wants the big bush (and maybe even the small bush) removed.

The tree-removal expert said that, if any roots interfere with the sewer-pipe operation, it will be the roots of the tree standing in the center of the picture. The expert believes that the bush roots will not have any effect on the pipe operation at all.

The plumber said that, if he can replace the sewer pipe without removing any bushes or trees, he will charge us only $3800. If the plumber has to remove the bushes himself, he will charge $1000 extra. However, the tree-removal expert said that he can remove both bushes for only $250. But is it necessary to remove any bush? Will the bushes interfere with the pipe operation at all?






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[Last edited by Chi42 - Feb 27, 2017 1:04 AM (+)]
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Name: Sally
central Maryland
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sallyg
Feb 27, 2017 6:44 AM CST
He may have to have the bushes out, or at least severely pruned, just to have access to the pipe and house, seems to me.
I would have the tree guy do some work. Get rid of the big one that is blocking the sidewalk anyway, and the other that is blocking the pipe work. It's a good time to refresh the landscaping there. They will cut some tree roots to get the pipe done, ask the tree guy if that will do major damage to the tree.
Maybe a birdbath in the newly opened corner, with groundcover or mulch and flowers.
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Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Feb 27, 2017 7:09 AM CST
Welcome! The big tree is pretty close and I too would suspect that, but then the bushes are close enough too. If you read the article in the link below about a study on roots and sewer lines (not from your area though so some plants on the list are irrelevant), even shrubs can cause problems and they look close enough that if there were cracks in the pipe the roots might go in. I agree with Sally, regardless I would take out the big shrub that is blocking the pathway, the front of the house would look better and you'd get more light for that window. Is the tree in front a maple? Did the tree guy suggest doing anything with it?

http://horticulture.oregonstat...
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
Feb 27, 2017 7:37 AM CST
Those bushes have been improperly maintained for years, they need to go anyway.
Is there any reason that you couldn't remove those bushes yourself?
I could take a mattock and have them out in 15 minutes each... Getting them out is a lot easier than trying to salvage them....

Might be the bushes, might be the tree roots.... But that is a beautiful tree... Would definitely not let anybody mess with the tree.

If the plumber replaces the entire length of sewer pipe with new PVC, there should not be further issues with the pipe for decades.

While trees can send roots under plumbing and push joints apart, it occurs more often with high pressure lines.
Chicago, IL
Chi42
Feb 27, 2017 11:11 AM CST
stone said:If the plumber replaces the entire length of sewer pipe with new PVC, there should not be further issues with the pipe for decades.



The pipe is about 60-70 years old. The plumber believes the pipe is ceramic. The plumber has said that he wants to replace the current pipe with another ceramic pipe. He has kind of balked at the idea of replacing a ceramic pipe with a plastic pipe.
Chicago, IL
Chi42
Feb 27, 2017 11:15 AM CST
sooby said: Is the tree in front a maple? Did the tree guy suggest doing anything with it?



A member of my family planted the tree about 20 years ago. At that time, the area where the tree is located was our property. Since that time, our local laws have changed, and the tree is now on the municipality's property.

Furthermore, this family member has, for years, been asking our municipality to remove the tree. The municipality has refused.
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
Feb 27, 2017 11:28 AM CST
Have you talked to more than one plumber? A second opinion could be interesting.
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Feb 27, 2017 11:40 AM CST
If this article is as relevant as it appears to be, it looks as though PVC is not allowed. You could ask the municipality since a permit is required according to another page I looked at:

https://chicagocode.org/18-29-...

The tree, especially if a maple, may not like excavations right beside it but if it's not on your property there's not much you can do about it I guess.
Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Feb 27, 2017 11:50 AM CST
First I would suggest talking to 2 other plumbers because it sounds like this one is too....(I don't know the word I'm looking for)...let's just say maybe there is a plumber more easy to work with.

The house would look better if the old shrubs were removed and replaced. When we had the plumber do work I happily tore out the old stuff that had been there since the beginning of time and created a new look.

One thing that has not been mentioned. If the plumber is going all the way the the street with the new pipe, you may need to replace part of the sidewalk. After our plumbing work was done two sections of sidewalk settled unevenly and were a danger so we re-did them.

The Maple tree may get very unhappy and start to show signs of stress after the work is done. You may slowly lose the tree.

Good luck and hope everything turns out good.
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Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
Feb 27, 2017 4:05 PM CST
greene said:
The Maple tree may get very unhappy and start to show signs of stress after the work is done. You may slowly lose the tree.

Actually... The problem with maples... The roots are all at the surface, sever the roots, and the tree topples.
The solution is using a sideways auger.
Saw one of those employed last week, they went under the driveway without needing to cut through it... No reason the plumber couldn't do the same with the valuable tree.... And... Maybe the sidewalk too.

I'm surprised to hear the plumber wants to use ceramic. I thought the whole dealio in tearing out the old sewer pipes... was to replace with something longer lasting.
Chicago, IL
Chi42
Mar 2, 2017 4:01 AM CST
stone said:


I'm surprised to hear the plumber wants to use ceramic. I thought the whole dealio in tearing out the old sewer pipes... was to replace with something longer lasting.


Actually, the plumber has said that he wants to replace only the section of pipe that is busted (8 feet of pipe), not the whole pipe. According to the plumber, the new section has to match the rest of the pipe. If the new section is plastic while the rest of the pipe is ceramic or clay, then the transition from clay to plastic could cause toilet paper to get clogged in the pipe.
Chicago, IL
Chi42
Mar 2, 2017 4:09 AM CST
greene said:.

The house would look better if the old shrubs were removed and replaced. When we had the plumber do work I happily tore out the old stuff that had been there since the beginning of time and created a new look.



Well, a member of my family really likes the shrubs.

Now, we spoke to the plumber about this, and we proposed the following:

1) He would get started on the work.

2) If it became necessary to remove the shrubs, the plumber would pause his work so that we could hire a reasonably priced tree-removal expert to remove the shrubs.

3) The plumber would then resume his work.

The plumber said that he would be OK with this proposal.
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
Mar 3, 2017 7:37 AM CST
Chi42 said:
Well, a member of my family really likes the shrubs.

Who likes those?
They've been very poorly maintained... There's simply no bringing them back into the 'correct' shape.... Much easier to replace them with new.... And... Now is a great time to start checking the nurseries for something nicer....
Consider fruiting shrubs, or at least something that blooms.... Or maybe a nice combination....
Edible landscaping is all the rage right now....

Re only wants to replace a short section....
I think I'd look for a plumber that would replace the entire length all the way to the street... The more that I hear about this plumber, the more iffy he's sounding.
Those old clay pipes...
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN, USA zon
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Leftwood
Mar 3, 2017 8:24 AM CST
As an aside, if you actually owned the land the tree is on, and now the city actually does, then they by law they have to pay you for it. More likely, they simply increased the municipal right-of-way.
Name: Rj
Just S of the twin cities of M (Zone 4b)
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crawgarden
Mar 3, 2017 8:57 AM CST
Get a few more opinions (estimates) from other plumbers
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Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
Mar 3, 2017 10:02 AM CST
It seems to me that any time you're doing a splice in a pipe like that, you're running the risk of clogs catching on the transition areas. I would want to at least speak to one or two other plumbers.
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Chicago, IL
Chi42
Mar 3, 2017 3:18 PM CST
stone said:
Re only wants to replace a short section....
I think I'd look for a plumber that would replace the entire length all the way to the street... The more that I hear about this plumber, the more iffy he's sounding.
Those old clay pipes...


The plumber said that, if we replaced the whole pipe, we would have to pay about $10000 for the job. Replacing only 8 feet costs $3800. He's charging an additional $425 for all the permits he needs to get and the fees he has to pay.

Anyway, we have already signed the contract, and, as soon as the permits are approved, he will do the job. If the plumber really needs the shrubs to be removed, he will pause the work, and we will hire an inexpensive tree-removal expert to remove the shrubs.

Edited to add: I just called another plumbing company, to get a second estimate as to how much it would cost to replace the entire sewer pipe. The second company told me that, even though the first plumber has already power-rodded our sewer line and examined the sewer line with a camera (at the cost of $450), the second company would ALSO have to come to our home and power rod the sewer line and put a camera into the sewer line (at the cost of $770). The second company can NOT work from any information obtained from the first company.

[Last edited by Chi42 - Mar 3, 2017 3:33 PM (+)]
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Name: Rick Moses
Derwood, MD (Zone 7b)
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RickM
Mar 3, 2017 3:37 PM CST
Welcome! Chi42

DEFINITELY get a 2nd and 3rd opinion.

Our neighborhood was built in the late 1960s. As such, a lot of people are having to have their water mains replaced from the street meter into the house. The ALWAYS replace the entire section. Even if they were to do a splice, A good plumber should be able to do it without creating any snag spots. The only reason I can think of is that they want to use a smaller pipe than what is there.

Regarding the shrubs . . . they gotta go. And it won't be easy. Judging by the shape, they are yews and have an ugly root system. I would get the tree guy to take them all out. That way, you're not breaking your back and you'll have a nice new 'playground' for some gardening stuff. And I'm sure you'll get plenty of opinions on what would work. Whistling

Please keep us posted.

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