Removing a tree that has sent invasive roots around or under your foundation causes the soil to rise. This “upheaval” is due to the fact the water that was previously taken up by tree roots is now allowed to percolate into the ground. In rare cases, upheaval can lead to foundation flooding or erosion. In most instances, removing a tree that is too close to your house is the best thing for your foundation. It can even correct the settling and leaning caused by invasive tree roots.
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How Do Trees Cause Foundation Damage?
A tree that is sending invasive roots toward your foundation causes harm by pulling moisture from the soil beneath and around your foundation. Over time, the ground sinks as the water is taken up by tree roots. This causes your foundation to shift, twist, crack, and settle. A house will often end up leaning toward an invasive tree because the soil on the side of the house closest to the tree has dried out and sunk several inches.
- Invasive tree roots rob moisture from the soil around and beneath your foundation.
- As water is taken from the soil by tree roots, the foundation will crack, settle, and lean.
- In some cases, tree roots may grow through cracks in the foundation, causing further damage.
A common misconception is that invasive roots must physically invade a foundation to damage it. This is typically not the case. However, if a tree is planted extremely close to your foundation, or if it is a species with very invasive roots, some roots may force their way into foundation cracks to further damage concrete.
How Do You Know if Tree Roots are Damaging Your Foundation?
Foundation damage from tree roots often shows itself first by vertical cracks in the foundation. This is caused when the roots dry out the soil surrounding the foundation, causing it to sink. Some other signs that invasive tree roots have begun to cause an issue with your foundation is if the house is sinking on the side closest the tree. This can show itself through slanted floors or the house visibly leaning toward the tree.
- You observe vertical cracks in the concrete foundation, cracked windows, or surface roots visible near the foundation.
- Your house is slanted or leaning toward a large tree.
- Large trees, such as Oak, Sugar Maple, and Black Walnut planted within 30 feet of your house can cause foundation damage.
- Small trees, such as Japanese Maples, Crabapple, and Dogwood planted within 10 feet of your house can cause foundation damage.
- Trees with invasive roots, such as Silver Maple, Elm, and Cottonwood can damage foundations within 100 feet of where they are planted.
It’s important to know what species of trees are present in your yard. For instance, Sugar Maples can be safely planted 30 feet from the home, but Silver Maples should be kept at least 100 feet from any foundation, to prevent damage from invasive roots.
What Happens To Your Foundation When Trees are Removed?
When a tree is removed, the soil level will begin to rise in the area of the tree’s previous root zone. This is because the ground retains more water that was previously taken up by tree roots. This essentially causes the ground to “swell.” In most cases, this is good. It gradually reverses settling or sinking, creating a solution to damage caused by the tree. The process may take months or even several years.
- The soil will retain more moisture, stopping or reversing foundation settling and sinking
- Increased chance of soil flooding.
- Higher risk of soil erosion.
The downside of tree removal is that without a living root system to soak up all that water, there is an increased chance of yard flooding. If you live in a region with heavy storms or large amounts of rainfall, removing a tree can contribute to soggy and flooded ground. Additionally, if the tree was planted on a sloped part of the lawn, the roots worked to keep soil in place. Without a living tree, there is a much higher chance of slope erosion.
Pros and Cons of Tree Removal to Save Your Foundation
Removing a tree that is damaging your foundation has potential benefits and downsides. As a property owner, it’s important to consider these factors carefully before removing a tree. Your property can benefit from proper tree removal, but cutting down a helpful shade tree can provide more detriment than improvement.
Tree Removal Pros
By killing a tree that is actively wreaking havoc on your foundation, you not only halt the structural damage in its tracks, mother nature can even provide a few repairs. As rain returns groundwater to the soil that was previously dried out by tree roots, the soil will swell in a process called “upheaval,” returning soil height to its pre-tree state. This can correct a leaning or settling foundation.
- Stop ongoing foundation damage, such as cracking and settling.
- Reverse house settling and leaning as water returns to the soil.
- Prevent possible roof damage from falling trees/limbs.
If a tree is close enough to your home that it can damage your foundation, odds are its branches, or the tree itself, is capable of falling on your house. By removing a looming tree, you can take action to protect your property.
Tree Removal Cons
Tree root systems perform essential functions of pulling excess water from the soil and preventing erosion. Once the tree is dead and its roots are no longer taking in water, you increase the chance of standing water in your yard or leaks penetrating your foundation. Not only that, but a yard built on a slope may start to erode without roots to hold it in place.
- Higher risk of lawn and basement flooding in regions with high rainfall.
- Increased risk of soil erosion on a sloped yard.
- Cost of tree removal, as well as stump killing/removal.
- Removal of a shade tree increases summer cooling bills.
- Foundation damage will still be present.
Removing a tree often costs money, although it is possible to safely remove a tree near your house yourself. One of the other costs of removing a tree is that without its shade, your home will experience more summer heat, which will raise your cooling bill. Plus, after all that work, you’ll still be left with a cracked foundation.
How to Protect Your Foundation Without Removing a Tree
Install tree root barriers around your home to prevent invasive root growth from attacking your foundation and causing damage. Because most tree roots are in the top 24 inches of soil, a barrier 24–36 inches deep, like a wall around your foundation, will protect it from root damage. Here’s how to install a root barrier.
- Install this root barrier along your foundation to protect it from roots.
- Dig a trench 2 feet from your foundation. Cut any tree roots present in the soil.
- Install a 24–36 inch root barrier so that it extends from the bottom of the trench to the soil surface.
- Fill in the trench, making sure the root barrier stays upright.
Root barriers are a great way to protect your foundation without removing a tree. However, it’s important to note that if the tree is less than 10 feet from your home, cutting roots to install these barriers could weaken or kill the tree. In these cases, removal is the best option.
Will Tree Removal Damage Your Foundation?
In rare cases, tree removal can cause foundation damage by allowing the soil to erode or contributing to standing water in your yard. In most cases, removing a tree causes more benefits than harm. Killing a tree with invasive roots not only halts foundation damage, but it can also even reverse foundation settling and leaning. If you do not wish to remove a troublesome tree, consider installing root barriers to protect your foundation from invasive roots. This way, you can keep your shade tree and protect your home.