Which Trees Damage Foundations
The risk of a tree causing foundation and structural issues in a home can be avoided with a little work on the front end. There are many ways to ensure that the foundation of your house can be (maintained/upkeep) while enjoying shrubs and trees near your home. First, when you are looking to install a plant or trees near your home you are going to want to research the growth habit and roots of the tree. Secondly, foundation repairs can be needed for a number of reasons, two are often thought of when it comes to the foundation of a home, soil and drought conditions. Finally, we will dive deeper into the damage that tree roots can cause to a foundation and how this can be prevented. For more information on which trees and whether trees will damage a foundation read below.
Do your research
One of the most important things that can be done prior to installing a tree or shrub near your house is to research the growth habit and the roots of that plant or tree. This will ensure that while the tree or shrubs grow you can predict how large that plant will be and the relative area of the root zone. Trees and plants will have an average growth rate and an expected canopy height and spread. The canopy height is the overall height of the tree while the spread is the diameter of the canopy when viewing from tip to tip of the branches. These will vary in situations like soil type, available space, and the temperate zone where the house is located. Many trees should not be planted near a home due to deep root zones, poor structure in the canopy causing frequent breaks or snaps, and fast growth habits. Some species of trees have a deep taproot that will grow directly down in the soil. The taproot is used to stabilize the tree, aid in drought tolerance, and store the sugars and nutrients necessary for the tree to survive. Among the taproot, the tree will also produce lateral roots that will grow in the upper two feet of the soil, this is where the majority of the roots that the tree will produce are grown. It is important to remember that a tree can spread its lateral root zone horizontally with distances that equal up to two to three times the height of the tree! This is why homeowners will want to find a slow-growing tree species if planting near their home! It will always come down to location and the expected goal of what the homeowner wants from their tree. If you are looking for installing a tree or plant in a small area, an ornamental species will be the best option. Look into redbud, magnolia, and serviceberry species for slow to moderate growth rates and beautiful seasonal flowers. For larger areas near a home, given sufficient space from the foundation, a homeowner can look into larger tree species such as Oaks or Maples. Large tree species that are fast-growing can include Poplars, Willows, and Birches. These fast-growing species should be avoided for small areas near your home and foundations. Each situation will be unique so be sure to speak with a certified arborist when looking into planting near a structure or foundation.
Soil and Weather Conditions Affect your Foundation
When a homeowner is looking for the cause of foundation issues it is often the tree or roots being condemned and eventually removed. Although they may be the culprit in some cases, we want to make sure we get the whole picture. If planting a tree near your home or foundation for shade purposes, you will need to check the soil conditions on your property and around the immediate vicinity of your foundation. This will help determine what soil you have in terms of nutrients and organic matter and if the soil can support a tree without fear of future complications. Certain soils or backfills that are used to fill around the foundation can be more porous than the organic soil that was there in the first place. The amount of water that can be held in these porous soils against the foundation can and will cause an expansion and contraction effect during drought and extremely wet conditions that can lead to cracks in your foundation. Clay soil will expand when it comes into contact with moisture, once the water begins to evaporate the soil will contract, this wreaks havoc in the surrounding area.
Tree Roots and Damage to Your Foundation
Although many homeowners believe that tree roots are what cause damage and cracks to the foundation of their home, this is actually not the case. The result of a compromised foundation lies in the soil conditions and the settling and cracking of concrete in your foundation. Certain soil types can become more compacted as a tree root will expand and grow, like clay soils. This expansion of the soil pushed up against the foundation with the added contraction, expansion, and freezing of the soil will lead to the concrete in your foundation settling. Settled concrete will often crack giving the roots a route in which they can continue growth. With the expansion of the root, the foundation damage and repairs can be more drastic. This often leads to water issues, ruined property, and having to repair the foundation. Things to look for in a compromised foundation include a sagging roof, cracked ceilings, water dripping from or pooling along exterior walls in the basement, and large cracks or sagging in the soil near the exterior foundation of the home. If you are dealing with a preexisting tree and a foundation that has already been compromised, consider a root barrier system. The homeowner is at risk of causing considerable damage or even death to the tree near the house with the excavation and cutting of large roots in contact with the foundation, but this can prevent future expansion and damages to your foundation and home.
In theory, having a tree right next to your house is beautiful but the tree must be able to adapt to the soil conditions and growing space that you are providing it available. The best advice for homeowners who are planning on going forward with a tree or plant installation near the foundation of their home is to do your research. Find a slow-growing tree or one that can be supported in the area you are providing it. The second bit of advice would be to determine what soil you have around your foundation and in your yard. If the soil is known for becoming compacted, having poor water drainage, or expanding during drought or flood conditions do not plant there. When looking to install a tree or shrub near your home and foundation be sure to look for a certified arborist to provide recommendations on a species that will fit your needs!