As much as we appreciate the gorgeous trees adorning our property, their powerful root systems may cause damage to foundations, surrounding sidewalks, and driveways. Also, roots can easily push their way through small pavement cracks and enlarge them significantly. It can do the same to drain pipes. However, if your home’s foundation is solid and well maintained, it likely won’t be vulnerable to encroaching tree roots.
If there are any existing issues with your tree roots and your foundation, there will be distinct signs of gradual deterioration such as:
- Floor buckling
- Cracks in the floor
- Mostly vertical cracks in the surrounding walls
- Unexplained shattered or cracked windows
- Crooked window and door frames
Generally speaking, tree roots are not the culprits behind foundation damage. There could be other factors, such as soil erosion that are causing the disruption. Prior to taking action, excavate around the area of the roots to assess if they are extending toward problem areas. If this is the case, tree roots may indeed be causing the foundation issues.
Here are some tips to prevent foundation damage caused by tree roots:
- Plan for the long-term and plant trees in the proper location around your home.
- Plant larger trees on the edge of a property line.
- Incorporate slow-growing varieties when designing your landscape.
The elaborate root system is both an anchor and delivery method for nutrients and water. For every inch of trunk diameter, there will be a root extension of approximately 18 inches. Essentially, this means that a tree with a 12-inch trunk diameter could have roots extending 12 to 15 feet in all directions!
Look for the following signs if you suspect your trees have disrupted your driveway or sidewalk:
- Cracks running across the concrete
- Roots (or bumps) leading to those cracks
- Buckling in the concrete’s surface-the slabs won’t sit flush with each other anymore
Prevent further damage to your foundation and driveway with these tips:
House foundations are not the only vulnerable areas of your home. Driveways and sidewalks can also fall prey to aggressive root growth. Here are some tips to combat encroaching root systems:
- Watering less frequently for longer periods allows the water to soak deeper into the soil. In the early years of a tree’s growth, deeper watering promotes good root health. Slow, steady hydrating ensures that the water gets to the deepest source. With light watering, the roots will overextend to find nourishment.
- Prior to planting a tree, install a root barrier. Barriers deflect the roots away from the foundation or driveway and direct them deeper into the soil. Exercise caution when employing this method, as even the slightest damage to a root system could possibly kill the tree. After installing the barriers, gently nourish the tree back to health.
- Sometimes pouring concrete or “bridging” over protruding roots may prevent further damage to your sidewalk or driveway. This technique can be used when roots are too large to be cut. Additionally, a brick bridge could be built over the invasive roots. The bricks may help settle the roots back down as they expand without causing further damage.
- Cutting the damage-inflicting roots may be a solution, but as with installing root barriers, it’s important to be cautious. Some trees cannot withstand tampering with their roots. In difficult cases, it’s probably a good idea to hire a professional tree trimmer or botanist.
- Sadly, in some instances, cutting down the entire tree may be the only option for protecting your home. Some trees grow rapidly and their roots are out of control. Homeowners would be wise to consult with tree removal experts in these cases.
- Gravel can be placed below concrete slabs to create air spaces between the soil and the sidewalk. These spaces allow the roots to extend and grow without damaging the slab.
- Concrete slabs reinforced with wire mesh or rebar can also provide protection against encroaching roots.
All homeowners love their leafy green giants and want them to have a long, healthy life. With proper planning and foresight, trees, house foundations, driveways, and sidewalks may enjoy both longevity and a damage-free existence.
For these and other tree-related issues, it’s always a good idea to consult with your local arborist before trying to remedy problems on your own. Your towering beauties will thank you!