We all love the trees in our garden. They shade our houses in summer and provide homes for a myriad of small animals and birds. But trees can also pose a risk to your property. Most homeowners worry about trees falling on their houses during violent storms, or dead branches snapping off and being blown around in strong winds. But what about the threats you don’t see? Are you aware of the dangers that are lurking underground?
Tree roots can damage the foundations of your home, but probably not in the way that you imagine. Don’t conjure up images of roots pushing through the floorboards and invading your house like a scene from a bad horror. It is actually far more subtle than that. We are taking a closer look at how tree roots can compromise the structure of your home.
Tree roots need to be powerful. They need to feed and anchor a massive structure above the ground that is often battered by storms and strong winds, and root systems can be two to three times the height of the tree. The tree’s survival depends on the roots pushing through the soil to find a constant source of water and nutrients.
The structural integrity of your soil and property
Tree roots affect the structural integrity of the soil. Different soils react differently to roots. Clay, which compacts easily, will become more densely packed as roots pass through it. Sandy or loamy soil, on the other hand, will be displaced by the movement of the roots. In drought conditions roots may shrink as the soil dries out, causing subsidence. During heavy rain, roots may expand as they absorb water and push the soil outwards. Both these scenarios can lead to concrete shifting in buildings. For the most part, this is merely unsightly but in the worst cases, it can damage and dangerously destabilize the foundations of your home. Support beams may shift, walls will crack and ceilings can warp, severally affecting the structural integrity of the property.
Tree removal is the last resort
Having read this far, don’t rush out and chop down all your big, old trees. Tree removal is not the only answer to any potential problems. You can have beautiful trees in your garden without constantly worrying about soil subsidence and foundation damage, but you do need to manage your trees properly.
- When you plant new trees, always consider the size of your yard and look for slow growing species with less aggressive root systems, like oaks and sugar maples. Avoid willows, silver maples, and elm trees as these have insidious roots. If you’re uncertain about the ultimate size of a tree or want to know more about its root system, consult an arborist, like Martin’s Tree Services, for advice before you plant.
- It is important to keep any trees near your home properly watered so that their roots do not shrink or expand excessively.
- You can build a root barrier between your home and any large trees. To prevent a complete tree removal, you can cut back roots that are encroaching on your foundations. This is not a quick fix but it may be well worth it to protect your property in the long run.
- If you are building a new home, or enlarging your house, and don’t want to remove big, old trees on your property, make sure your foundations are deep enough. Shallow foundations are far more vulnerable to changes in soil conditions caused by the movement of roots.
If you are concerned about the condition of your soil, and potential structural damage to your home from invasive roots, contact a qualified arborist, like Martin’s Tree Service to assess the trees on your property and advise you accordingly.