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How to Protect a Foundation From Tree Roots

A tree is a beautiful asset to any yard; however, not at the expense of your home’s foundation. A tree’s root system can expand in various directions as it seeks out nutrients, water, and oxygen. As the roots grow, seeking out these needed nutrients and oxygen, they can grow above the soil’s surface and cause property damage to your foundation, driveway, footpaths, and pipes for sewer lines and plumbing.

If you’re worried that some of your trees are a threat to your home’s foundation, it’s a good idea to take early action. Though serious problems develop slowly, you will want to catch them before they grow into larger, costlier damage. Fortunately, you can take steps to prevent roots from damaging your foundation. Read below to learn how to protect your foundation from tree roots.

Tree growing on a wall with roots coming down

Install Root Barriers

How do you know if roots are damaging your foundation? There are signs to look for indicating the root system is encroaching on your foundation. Do you see cracks in your foundation’s floor? Is the surrounding ground or pavement buckling? Are there vertical cracks in your foundation’s walls? Though this can be due to other factors, such as erosion, it may also be a sign of root damage. If you are unsure, dig near the base of your tree and follow the direction of the roots. If they are leading toward the foundation damage, they may be responsible.

Installing a root barrier is a good solution for preventing further damage. This is especially important before planting trees. Root barriers redirect the growth of tree roots so they don’t grow near your property’s foundation, gas lines, or water pipes. There are two types of root barriers: chemical and mechanical. Chemical root barriers stop roots from growing past the chemical treatment by killing the roots. Mechanical barriers use concrete, sheet metal, or plastic to stop tree roots from growing further, redirecting the growth downward, away from foundation and pipes. 

When installing a root barrier, it’s often best to call a professional. They will be able to identify gas lines and water pipes and will also have the best method for correctly installing the barrier. If a root barrier is not placed properly, it will not work.

Maintain Home’s Foundation

Roots are less likely to damage your home’s foundation if they cannot find existing cracks to grow toward and enlarge. Prevention is often key to protecting your home. If there are cracks in the pavement near a tree, the tree’s roots may enlarge these cracks and cause more significant damage. If you notice minor cracks, it may be a good idea to repair them before they become larger cracks causing major foundational damage. Maintaining your home’s foundation reduces the risk of root damage.

Plan Location Based on the Root System

How a root grows depends on the tree variety. When selecting a tree, determine how the root system grows and if it’s suitable for the location you’ve planned. Some varieties of trees have roots that grow straight down, while other species have root systems that grow laterally.

When planting a tree, choose the right tree for the right location. Deep root systems that grow downward are less likely to damage nearby foundations and pipes. Shallower root systems that grow laterally pose more of a risk to nearby pipes, sidewalks, driveways, and gas or sewer lines.

Select Trees With Less Aggressive Roots

Certain species of trees are known for having more aggressive root systems. These invasive roots have well-developed root systems that are often fast-growing. They tend to also have shallow root systems that grow closer to the surface and grow long and straight. Some species have roots that can spread up to 40 meters wide. If you are concerned about damage to your property, it may be best to avoid any trees with aggressive root systems.

Instead, select trees that have non-invasive roots. These trees will have smaller root systems that grow to a more manageable size and are suitable for smaller spaces or spaces near foundations and pipes. Ornamental trees, shade trees, shrubs, and certain fruit trees have less invasive root systems.

Control Water Sources

Roots grow toward water and nutrients. If a water source is not controlled, the root system will grow toward any leaks in pipes as it seeks out moisture. This is especially problematic for water pipes and sewer lines. If the source is not controlled, the roots will seek out the water pipes and possibly damage them.

If the problem persists, you may have to take further action by implementing a chemical root barrier or removing the portion of the root growing into the plumbing. A professional arborist will know how to remove the root without killing the tree. Then, repair the pipe to prevent further leaking.

Remove Dangerous Trees

If a tree is causing severe structural damage to your home, it may be best to cut down the problematic tree and therefore remove the root system. This will prevent further damage and allow you to resurface and level out the foundation. If you need to remove a tree, it’s best to use a professional arborist. Tree removal is dangerous and requires special equipment. If not done correctly, you can put yourself, as well as your house or any nearby property, at risk.

At Mr. Tree, our certified arborists have the experience and professionalism to manage all your tree care needs. Whether it’s just maintenance or it’s time to remove a tree, we are here to help. Our skilled team truly value trees and works to maintain the health and safety of your trees and your property. We even have 24-hour emergency service. Contact us today for quality service.

Now that you know how to protect your foundation from tree roots, take the necessary steps to prolong the safety of both your tree and your home’s foundation. You don’t have to compromise the safety or the beauty of your landscape.