Trees are a wonderful thing to have around a home! There are so many benefits to having trees, that often, people do not think about the potential consequences or difficulties that could come from having these trees on a property. While trees do block sunlight, offer a space to sit in the shade, or even mitigate some of the frigid winter wind, trees with shallow root systems are a hazard to foundations. This is often something that is not the main focus or even something that homeowners are aware of, so Allied has put together this guide on which trees wreak havoc on your foundation, and how to prevent foundational damage done by trees. 


Oaks make up a very small percentage of the tree population in the United States, but it accounts for over ten percent of foundational damage. Regardless of whether the oak is deciduous or evergreen, the tree has a shallow, fast-growing root system. These kinds of root systems spread out and take up incredible amounts of water and nutrients from the soil around them, and are likely to break into cracks in foundations or pipes in order to get more nutrients and water. Of all the types of oak, the water oaks, live oaks, chestnut oaks, and red oaks are the most likely to cause foundation issues and should be avoided as much as possible in close proximity to your home’s foundation. 


Poplars also have shallow, fast-growing root systems! These trees tend to cause quite a bit of sewer pipe damage, due to the roots breaking into cracks in the pipes. There are some types of poplar that tend to be a little more aggressive than other types. One especially aggressive poplar is the white poplar. These trees can be up to 100 feet, with wide crowns and dark foliage. The cottonwood poplar is another aggressively rooted tree that has water-seeking roots that are especially dangerous around foundations. Other poplars that have those fast-growing shallow roots are Lombardy poplars, eastern poplars, Carolina poplars, and even the balm of Gilead poplars. 


Ash trees are just as guilty of foundation damage. Ornamental ash trees are very common, but they are also very common in causing damage, especially the white ash tree. These are also very tall, such as the white poplar, and have widely spread roots. The Carolina ash trees, native to North America, thrive in swampy areas and grow to around 30 feet tall. Green ashes can have a root spread of up to 30 feet, making them especially likely to take out a foundation if they are close to a home. Their water-seeking roots spread out to find moist and saturated soils, leaving them with the opportunity to seek the foundation for resources.


While oaks, poplars, and ash trees are undoubtedly the most common causes of foundation issues, there are many other types of trees that can cause issues. Some are deciduous trees, such as the black locust, boxelder, Norway maple, silver maple, sweetgum, sycamore, and tuliptree. The evergreen species that commonly cause foundational issues are the Brewer weeping spruce, the Crimean pine, loblolly pine, the Norway spruce, and the Swiss stone pine. While these are certainly not all of the trees that will cause damage to foundations, these are the trees that are most likely to be the culprit, and if they are going to be planted on the property, special care should be taken to keep the roots far enough away from the home that the foundation will not be at risk.

What To Do

The good news is that there are steps to take that can prevent roots from taking a hold of your foundation and completely wrecking it, or, if the roots have already done damage, repair the damage and then keep it from happening again. A step to take before planting a tree, or before the roots of a tree get too in the way, is to put a root barrier in place. Root barriers are made to deflect roots, forcing them deeper into the ground and away from things like your foundation, your pipes, or even your sidewalk. Another solution is to cut off offending roots, but this can do irreparable damage to your tree that could lead to it dying. Generally, it is better to hire a tree-trimming expert and allow them to take care of this step to ensure that the tree is not accidentally killed. If the tree has, as a whole, become too much to deal with, there is always the option of entirely removing the tree and all of the root system. A tree removal expert will be required for this step, but it is the safest option.

While some trees are a wonderful addition to a property, there are many that are more trouble than they are worth. By avoiding the above trees, it is possible to have all of the wonderful benefits of a tree, with its shade and wind-blocking abilities without the negatives of a tree doing damage to the foundation of the house. The good news, however, is that even if a tree does damage to the foundation, it is possible to repair the damage! For information on foundation repair, allow Allied to help you with everything from knowing the signs of foundational issues to free estimates on repairs. 

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