Trees and Tree Roots Can Adversely Affect Foundation Performance and Cause Foundation Repair Problems

Let’’s talk about trees! We all love them because they beautify our yard, provide shade and as a result can reduce cooling bills. But when trees are planted to close to your foundation they can cause foundation problems.

Why? The root system of a tree is generally a mirror image of the leaf canopy. Therefore, when planted to close to your home, the roots grow under the foundation. The root system under your foundation pulls moisture out of the supporting soils and can create voids ultimately leading to stress on the foundation of your home. Without proper maintenance this can result in the need for foundation repair.

So what can you do? The first thing you need to think about before ever planting a tree is what the mature height of the tree will be and then make sure you plant it at least 10’’ away from the foundation. If you already have mature trees planted around your home, make sure you keep the limbs trimmed so the canopy doesn’’t extend over the roofline. More importantly, make sure the tree and your foundation get adequate watering in the spring and summer and especially during a drought.

In the Spring, it is important to remember that trees are in their prime growing season. When trees are growing they are thirsty and need a lot more water. Remember all the other plants and shrubs are also growing and need water as well.

If you are concerned that a tree could be impacting your foundation, you may need to consider installing a root barrier. You can think of a root barrier as a wall, placed so that the tree and your home can cohabit happily together. A root barrier is installed by creating a trench, deeper than the existing root system and then installing a membrane or barrier in one continuous piece into the trench and then replacing the ground covering. The root barrier essentially keeps the tree from stealing the water from the clay soils under the foundation, which helps stabilize the area which can help reduce the need for foundation repair.

Generally a root barrier is placed between the tree and the structure. You don’’t want to surround the tree. Root barrier works as a waterproof seal protecting the soil under the structure from moisture loss laterally. The structure prevents loss of moisture vertically and so the moisture content of the soil can be stabilized and will stay constant.

Tree Survival. From the drip line, the closer you get to the trunk you increase the risk of damaging or stressing the tree. If you cut the root system closer than 50% of the distance from the drip line to the trunk you are creating significant risk for the trees longevity. If this is necessary, an Arborist should be consulted.

Though we love trees, it is important to understand the impact they can have on our foundation. Proper maintenance of trees can reduce the need for future foundation repair.

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Since 1933, Olshan Foundation Solutions and Home Services has been committed to providing superior foundation repair services for our customers, along with excellence in customer service. In addition to foundation repair services, Olshan Foundation Solutions also offers exceptional plumbing services, basement waterproofing, and crawl space repair and encapsulation. Contact Olshan at 1.877.465.7426 for a free estimate, or visit us online at