Can Tree Roots Damage House Foundations?

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Who doesn’t love the rustic look of a beautiful, old tree in the front yard or one that holds up the kids’ tree house in the backyard? While the tree provides aesthetic beauty to your property, you may be wondering, “Is that tree too close to my house? Or can tree roots damage house foundations?”

When Tree Roots Attack – The Effects of Tree Root Damage

Trees are valued by many for their natural ability to provide shade, filter water and beautify a landscape. Unfortunately, they’re also capable of causing serious damage to your property. But can tree roots damage house foundations? It depends. Roots actively seek and grow toward moist soil, but will stop growing completely when the soil is dry. The soil near a building’s foundation is usually extremely dry, and often generates heat, which dries out the soil next to it. The result? The majority of the roots will grow away from the foundation toward moisture nearby.

However, there are situations in which tree root damage to the foundation occurs, including:

  • Pre-existing cracks in the foundation, which can be penetrated by the roots
  • Foundation uplift caused by larger root systems extending beneath the building
  • Water leeched from the soil, causing the concrete to settle and sink unevenly

How Tree Roots Affect Soil

You’d be surprised how strong tree roots can be. In their search for water and nutrients, they’re constantly extending themselves. The result of their movements largely depends on what type of soil the tree was planted in. Before you start thinking about cutting down a tree near a house you should understand what kind of soil you’re dealing with.

Two primary types of soil that can affect tree growth:

Clay – compacts easily and becomes more densely packed as tree roots push through
Mainly loose dirt and rocks – shifts and becomes displaced, allowing roots to move through easier

The fact is, foundation damage is not solely caused by tree roots themselves. More often than not, it’s spurred by changes in the condition of the soil. This typically manifests itself in settling, shifting and cracking concrete, as mentioned above. With this comes further tree root damage as the roots attempt to penetrate the cracks.

Trees to Plant Near House Foundation

Whether you’re looking into cutting down a tree near a house and replacing it with a different species, or you’re planting trees for the first time, you’ll want to which are safe for the foundation.

  • Avoid trees that grow long, lateral roots, including cottonwoods, maples and ash trees
  • As a general rule, it’s best to plant trees that have taproots, such as oaks, conifers, walnut trees and hickory

If a tree on your property has caused you to wonder, “can tree roots damage house foundations,” contact your local tree professionals for expert advice. A tree care company is the best to evaluate your landscape and determine which trees to plant near house foundations.