Will Pine Tree Roots Damage a Foundation?

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Pine trees are often used as foundation plantings.
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Your landscaping may look great at a distance ... and secretly wreak havoc on your home's foundation. Allowing pine tree roots to damage a foundation is a surefire way to cost yourself thousands in repairs.

A member of the genus ​Pinus​, pine trees are native to most of the Northern Hemisphere, which makes them easy to grow even for people living in cold climates. And yet some people hesitate to use pine trees because they worry that the roots of a pine planted near a house might cause damage to the foundation. Good news: that's unlikely to happen if your foundation is in good shape and your trees are planted far enough away.

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It's uncommon for pine tree roots to damage a foundation because pine tree root systems largely grow down instead of expanding outward. A foundation will generally only be infiltrated by pine tree roots if it's already weakened or cracked and the tree is too close to the house.

Pine Tree Foundation Fears

Pines planted in yards offer a variety of colors ranging from blue to dark green. In addition, they come in different sizes, shapes and needle structures, and even the texture of needles in different species varies from fine to coarse. All that variety, plus the fact that pines can flourish in so many climates, makes them a popular choice for home landscaping.

Although people often worry that the roots of a pine tree might cause the foundation of a house to crack, that is generally an unfounded concern because pine tree roots tend to grow down rather than spread out laterally across your yard. In addition, the root system of an evergreen will not grow into a foundation unless the foundation already has cracks and leaks, because the roots tend to grow where there is a balance of water and air.

How to Select Pines

Choosing the right pine tree for a foundation planting involves more than just considering the shape of the tree or the color of the needles. Give consideration also to the mature height and spread of the evergreen and to how long the pine tree takes to reach that height.

Make sure there is enough room for the tree branches to spread. Also make sure the roots have enough room to grow without being confined to a small area by the foundation walls of the house or by a sidewalk, which would cause the roots to stop growing and lead to the eventual death of the tree.

Black Hills spruce, Scotch pine and the Swiss stone pine are often good choices for landscaping. Your local gardening center can also recommend pine varieties that will work in your region.

Pine Tree Planting Considerations

Because pine tree roots — like the roots of all plants — always need a balance of water and air to grow, it is never a good idea to plant them too close to a foundation just for the sake of the tree. That is because the first few feet of soil near a foundation are usually kept fairly dry by the overhang on the roof.

You can establish a natural root-free zone near the foundation by not watering or fertilizing that area. To give pine trees the best shot of flourishing without damaging your home, plant them 15 to 25 feet from the foundation.

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Jeanne Young

Jeanne Young began writing professionally in 2000. She was the government reporter for a daily newspaper in central Florida. Young has also covered general assignment and the business, health, science, environment and education beats for newspapers and a wire service, and written about money and politics. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of South Florida.