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How Do Trees Affect Foundations?

How Do Trees Affect Foundations
How Do Trees Affect Foundations

Trees are amazing, and we love them! They provide shade, oxygen, and look great! Deforestation is a major issue that is certainly affecting our planet in a big way. While we love trees and will fight for their right to live (and keep us alive) on this planet, there are some downsides to trees around your foundation:

Roots Affect Your Foundation

While trees are an amazing, practical, and useful addition to your yard, in your yard is where they should stay. There is a “no-go” zone for trees around your foundation. As a rule of thumb, no tree should be closer than 15 ft to your home’s foundation. That is a minimum. We prefer them to be at least 20 ft away.

Roots travel underground as far as the branches go up above the ground. This means that that sprawling Oak out front that has branches hanging over the whole house is not only a danger of branches falling, but of roots penetrating the foundation. Imagine the vines wrapped around the brick of your home. Now imagine the same thing underground, but with big thick tree roots. These roots can grow into cracks, widening your foundation and causing structural issues. They can also push the wall, causing shifting and structural instability.

How Do You Know If Tree Roots Are Damaging Your Foundation?

Here are some signs tree roots may be damaging your foundation.

  • Doors and windows no longer shut all the way – If your doors and windows seem to be sticking, you might have foundation damage.
  • Floors are uneven or cracked from one wall to another – If your floors are warped, cracked, uneven, or sunken, you could have foundation damage.
  • Walls are bowing – Bowing walls are a major indication you have foundation damage.
  • Walls, floors, and ceilings are separating – Even the slightest separation could indicate you have foundation damage.
  • Wallpaper is tearing – Look behind any torn wallpaper for hidden wall cracks.
  • Diagonal drywall cracks are forming near corners of doors and windows, running to the ceiling.
  • Stair-step cracks are forming – Pay attention to any stair-step cracks on your concrete block walls or exterior brick fascia.
  • Your porch or chimney is separating from your home – Sometimes, this has to do with the foundation directly under your porch or chimney. We recommend calling in a professional to make sure.

Roots Seek Water

We know that roots seek water. A big reason why many of the sewers clog from tree roots is the search for water. During winter, roots look for water in pipes, and thus clog the pipes they fill. Under your home, the roots can do the same thing to your Drain Tile System, causing basement flooding and Hydrostatic Pressure issues.

If that big Oak we talked about earlier is too close to the foundation, all those roots will start digging towards your home as they search for water. And when they find it, they grow grow grow. There is no “clearing” tree roots out of your Drain Tile. There is only replacing your Drain Tile, cutting down the tree, and warning the customer that the roots will continue to grow and this may need to be done…..again.

Trees Attract Lighting

Let’s touch on an obvious one. There are two parts to this one; Branches falling and lightning striking. We’ll start with the branches. When lightning strikes a tree, branches can split and fall, hitting your home. This is bad enough. With that large Oak tree, however, things can get a level worse. That large, heavy, momentous trunk of a branch has been known to crack foundations when it hits the home. So, on top of the repairs you need to make to the roof, water mitigation, plumbing, and electrical, you now also need to repair your foundation.

The less obvious affect Lightning has on your home’s foundation is the force of the blast. A tree close to the home becomes a “lightning-rod” during a storm. Lightning, when it strikes the ground or tree, has a LOT of force and heat. The immediate area where a lightning strike hits the ground is hit with 50,000 degrees of Fahrenheit, which can create an explosive force. This force can then hit your foundation, causing shifting and cracking. Especially large strikes can be more damaging.

Preventing Roots from Damaging Your Foundation

The best medicine is always prevention. We ALWAYS recommend first not planting trees close to the home (within 20 ft) and second to remove any trees that are too close to the foundation. Roots are damaging to your home’s foundation and can cause structural failure. If you get ahead of it, you can prevent this from happening to your home!

Thanks for reading, and as always:

“Not Everything’s Better When Wet”


Austin Werner

Austin Werner is the Owner of The Real Seal LLC, a basement waterproofing and foundation repair company. Austin believes that having a highly trained and happy team is the key to success. This is reflected through hundreds of 5 star customer reviews his company has received online.

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