Who doesn't appreciate the elegance of a majestic tree growing in the front yard? A big tree offers shade in the summer, wind protection in the winter, and enormous natural beauty. However, if trees are sited close to a home, their roots can cause problems with the foundation.
Some trees have aggressive roots that can take water from the soil near a home, shrinking the soil and resulting in foundation cracking. They can also get under the foundation and lift it.
Consider Trees and Their Roots
Every part of nature serves a purpose. Tree roots have a job to do. It is their task to locate water and nutrients and import them into the tree to water and feed the leaves and branches. They often form a dense network of fine roots in loose, moist, nutrient-rich areas to uptake water and nutrients from the soil. Some tree roots are aggressive, and some are not. Some delve deep, while others remain on the surface.
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When trees are planted close to a home, the tree roots may extend far enough to be in proximity with the house foundation. Tree roots are not strong enough to crush foundations or even sewer pipes and can be turned away with barriers. However, tree roots cause damage to foundations in two ways. They can get under the foundation and raise up the building, or they can shrink the soil by removing water from it. This is most common if the home is built on clay soil.
Understand Foundation Issues
Houses can have foundation problems that have nothing to do with trees. Just because a tree is growing nearby and the house has foundation issues doesn't mean the two are related. Many roots will grow toward the foundation and then be deflected by it and turn away from it or grow laterally next to it instead of under it.
Many building foundations that crack do so independent of any trees in the landscape. Though tree roots that take water can cause soil to shrink, clay soils can and do shrink on their own in dry weather, causing foundations to crack. Before getting out the chain saw when you have foundation issues, contact an expert to determine whether the roots are actually impacting the house.
Protect Your Foundation
The trees to look out for are trees with shallow roots that grow relatively fast. The rooting environment strongly affects root growth. To discourage root invasion of the foundation, create an environment for optimal tree root growth far away from the foundation. Water them and provide soil amendments around the drip line. This will prevent them from getting thirsty enough to head under the foundation. Root barriers can also be used to keep roots out of the house area.
Another possible solution is to add water near the foundation. If the foundation problems are caused by the soil shrinking from loss of water, this addition of water can swell the soil back to its original level, closing the cracks.