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Foundation Damage Caused by Tree Roots

house with tree in front yard

Cracked walls and windows are often the first symptoms of foundation problems that a homeowner notices. While foundation damage can happen for a variety of reasons, trees can get blamed for some foundation problems. Large trees that are very close to your home can sometimes contribute to foundation damage as a result of extracting water from the soil around the building. A lack of water around your foundation, whether it’s the result of tree roots or overall dry conditions, can cause foundation subsidence and cracks that remain even if the soil is rewetted and the foundation returns to its original position.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that your trees are the cause of all of your foundation problems. You don’t want to cut down a tree if you don’t need to just because it’s near your home—after all, foundation damage from soil shrinkage can happen even without tree roots anywhere near your home. Here are things to consider before you get trees near your home removed.

Consider Your Foundation Depth

Different homes will have different floor plans and foundations, which can determine how your home reacts to different sources of foundation damage, including tree roots. Older buildings tend to have shallower foundations, which dry out faster and give tree roots more access to the foundation. In the Midwest United States, full basements are more common. Basements are deeper, which means that it takes a while for the deeper subsoils to dry up even in dry spells.

Test the Soil

A soil test can provide helpful information about your foundation as well. Soil surveys give information about native soils like shrink-swell capacity that’s useful for figuring out where to build or why a building is experiencing foundation damage. For trees to really cause damage to a foundation, the subsoil underneath the foundation needs to have a moderate to high shrink-swell capacity and unusual drying from a severe drought. Careful interpretation of survey results can tell you whether to seek foundation repair near you.

Are Roots Actually Near Your Foundation?

Confirm the presence of tree roots before you decide to have any trees cut down. Root-related foundation damage is caused by roots that are growing and extracting soil near the base of the foundation. Aggressively rooting bottomland species like willow or elm are more likely to cause problems than slower-growing species like soak and sugar maple. Trees that have higher water requirements could also present problems, especially for shallower foundations.

Tree roots tend to grow horizontally and relatively close to the soil surface, although sometimes loose backfill soil can make them start growing down. Tree roots can be located within a few feet of your foundation by digging down a foot or two, although sometimes excavation to the base of the foundation might be necessary to diagnose the problem or make repairs. If you find a root you think is causing problems, you can cut it off: between that and the installation of a root barrier, this could take care of future root problems.

Bring in the Experts

Seek the advice of at least one certified arborist before you decide to remove a tree. Arborists are trained to inspect your home and tree to determine if it needs to be cut down. They look at factors like tree health, the distance between the roots and your home, the type of foundation of your home, the soil type, the slope of the ground, and the type of driveway you have. Most arborists are reluctant to cut down trees unless it’s absolutely necessary, and they should be able to discuss your options.

If you think you have to remove a tree, it’s not something that you should DIY. Tree removal is dangerous work and should be done with a certified professional that has the training, tools, experience, and insurance for the job. If the tree is healthy and keeping it is a priority, a structural engineer can be brought in to assess the foundation damage risks. If damage has already occurred, foundation repair experts near you can determine the best solution for your home.

Acculevel Foundation Repair

Your landscaping could be damaging your foundation, but if you spot the damage early and take steps to minimize it, you can save yourself money in the long run. The foundation experts at Acculevel can inspect your home for signs of foundation damage caused by tree roots and perform the necessary repairs to stabilize your home. For a free home inspection and estimate, contact Acculevel.

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