Can Tree Roots Damage Foundation?

Can tree roots damage foundation? Well, it depends on a few factors.

The trees planted in your yard have a greater bearing on the habitability of your house. They can contribute to the value of your property being higher or cause damage to the foundation.

Tree roots are very powerful. Even tiny, newly formed tree roots have great strength.

For instance, tree roots can cause the soil near your foundation to shift, increasing the risk of foundation damage. Tree roots constantly extend because they are driven to seek out new sources of water and nutrients.

Tree roots that encroach too closely on your foundation may not physically enter your house.

However, these roots may unintentionally harm the foundation. The soil around your home will erode and move as a tree’s roots spread out.

Consequently, the spaces the earth leaves behind can cause your foundation to settle. The likelihood of foundation cracks and other sorts of damage increases as a result of that settling [1].

Can Tree Roots Damage Foundation?

Normally, roots spread out horizontally, just a few inches below the soil’s surface. Roots begin to descend as they come into contact with foundations, pipes, sidewalks, curbs, and other solid surfaces.

Tree roots will encroach on nearby spaces in search of water and nutrition. Additionally, they have the potential to shift debris in their way, which would put a lot of strain on the foundation of your house.

Which Tree Roots Damage Foundations?


It is not advisable to plant trees too close to your home if they have invasive root systems that spread out rather than down. Such trees include the following.

  1. Hybrid Poplars 

Pollen from another species of tree is used to nourish hybrid trees [2]. These hybrid poplar trees have received fertilization and alterations to promote rapid growth. They don’t make good landscaping trees because their primary use is as a rapid source of pulpwood, energy, and lumber. They typically stay on the homeowner’s property for 15 years and have shallow, invasive roots.

  1. Willows

Willow trees, such as the Weeping, Corkscrew, and Austree willows, have active, moisture-loving roots. The roots hunt out leaks in irrigation, septic, and sewer systems [3].

Willows’ extremely shallow roots can also cause foundation damage, raise sidewalks, and break other paved surfaces. And once the roots protrude to the surface, it becomes more difficult to mow your lawn as a result.

  1. American elms

American elm roots, which love wetness, frequently encroach on sewer and drain pipelines [4].

There’s a danger that if American elm roots go under your foundation, they’ll suck too much moisture from the earth and leave pockets in the dried areas. Due to the possibility of your foundation sinking into the voids, this may cause settlement problems.

  1. Silver maples

Shallow silver maple roots might protrude above the surface of the ground [5]. Keep these trees away from your driveway, sidewalk, and foundation. It is extremely challenging to grow any plants, including grass, underneath and surrounding the tree due to the larger root system of silver maples.

White ash, pine, oak, palm, peach, mango, bush, holy, cottonwood, and aspen are other trees you should not plant close to your house.

On the other hand, not every tree has a root system that is aggressive or invasive [6].

Some of the most popular landscape trees with fewer invasive roots are eastern redbuds, banana, papaya, crabapples, star magnolias, and serviceberry trees. Therefore, you should always consult an arborist to learn what trees are safe to plant close to your home.

Signs of Tree Roots Foundation Damage


  1. Damage to the Foundation near a Tree

Your foundation floor and walls will be covered in cracks, especially on the side that gets the most sunlight. You will most probably notice that your house leans towards a tree. This results from the tree sucking moisture from the earth, which creates room for the foundation to shift or collapse.

  1. Concrete Surface with Buckling

The roots will find their way to allow sections of the pavement to stick up and buckle when concrete pavers or sidewalks crack, which could result in a tripping hazard.

  1. Plumbing Problems

You will detect fluctuations in water pressure or clogged drains that are resistant to the use of a plunger, drain cleaner, or other methods of cleaning. Pipes can sustain damage from tree roots that encroach upon and block them [7].

The pipes may crack or break as a result of the roots, which could result in leaks and possible flooding. This might happen when roots are looking for water and nutrients and discover them in the pipes.

Underground utility lines and sewage systems can also be harmed by tree roots. If you discover you’re your housing plumbing isn’t working as it should, tree roots are probably to blame.

Other tell signs might also include the following;

  • Windows and doors that are stuck or won’t fully close
  • Voids between the ceiling or floor and the walls
  • Sloping or uneven floors
  • Sagging or bowed walls
  • Moisture or water intrusion in the basement or crawl space
  • The basement has a musty odor.
  • Exterior brick or stonework cracks
  • A separation between the house and the garage
  • Frame gaps around windows and doors

How to Get Rid of Tree Roots Under House

There are a few things you can do to stop tree roots from destroying your foundation if you want to maintain the advantages of trees without sacrificing the foundation of your home.

  1. Erect Root Barriers

Root barriers should be put in place before planting trees so that roots can be diverted deeper into the earth and away from foundations, paving, and plumbing [8]. To redirect roots, root barriers made of corrugated fiberglass or plastic sheets are erected in trenches 3 to 5 feet deep.

  1. Root Pruning

This entails chopping tree roots that are close to the foundation, which can stop them from spreading and resulting in damage.

Cut off and remove any roots that are harming your foundation. To find out whether trimming the tree’s roots may harm your tree, get in touch with an arborist. Combine this technique with root barriers to avoid having to repeat the process.

  1. Chemical treatment

It is possible to use tree root inhibitors to prevent the tree’s roots from developing larger in the soil surrounding the tree.

  1. Remove the problematic trees

The Paul Bunyan approach (getting rid of trees) is only appropriate for massive, powerful trees that will repeatedly and seriously destroy foundations. Cut down the troublesome trees. It’s preferable to hire a tree service to remove the problematic trees.

While trees are aesthetically beautiful and enhance the scenery around your home, they periodically need to be removed.  Tree removal is a final resort and a drastic action. In 90% of cases, trees don’t need to be taken down.

How to Prevent Tree Damage to Foundation


  1. Place Trees Safe Distances Apart

As a general guideline, avoid planting trees less than 10 feet from the foundation of any building. If you really must plant invasive trees, keep them at least 25 to 50 feet away from your foundation.

  1. Select the Best Trees for Planting

You should choose slowly growing trees without invasive root systems to place near your house. Silver maples, willows, and elms should not be planted unless you have a sizable yard.

Choose manageable-sized trees like olive trees, English holly, or Australian willow that will provide shade without weakening your foundation.

  1. Maintain a Balanced Moisture Content

There is less possibility that nearby trees will cause issues if you properly water them. While it’s crucial for water to drain away from your foundation, it’s just as crucial to keep the soil moist to continually fend off soil shrinkage. Using a drip hose to regularly water trees within 20 to 30 feet of your home can provide moisture gradually and guarantee even hydration.

  1. Install a root barrier system

As previously indicated, install a root barrier system before planting trees to stop tree roots from moving toward the house’s foundation.

Related: Can Tree Roots Penetrate PVC Pipe

Who Is Liable For Tree Root Damage?

In most cases, if trees or their roots intrude onto your property and cause harm, you are responsible. Most state laws permit you to take action within the confines of your property, even if the tree stump is on your neighbor’s property but its roots are creeping under your foundation.

Unfortunately, you can be held accountable and required to pay the owner if you kill the tree by chopping its invasive roots. Check your local city codes before doing this to be safe.

Read Also: Best Root Killer For Sewer Line


It’s important that you understand the potential effects that trees may have on the foundation, even if they add beauty to your home. Roots tend to grow downward or upward to avoid hitting a solid subsurface item (such as pipelines or foundation footings). However, roots take advantage of fissures by expanding and penetrating already-existing concrete fractures.

Tree root damage is extremely improbable if your foundation is well-maintained through proper drainage and has no cracks. Tree root damage, however, might pose a major hazard to your home if you have particularly strong trees and a weak foundation.

According to experts, regular trees should be planted at least 10 feet from your foundation. Trees with active root systems should be planted at least 25 to 50 feet away.

Future foundation repairs can be minimized by selecting a suitable tree and ensuring that it receives the necessary upkeep. It is essential to consult a professional if you believe your home’s foundation may have structural problems as a result of tree root damage.