Trees and Basement Foundations – How Do They Affect It?

Trees and basement foundations – Learn how and what sorts of trees can cause damage to basement foundations

Trees provide us oxygen and shade and are pleasant to look at. But much of the tree lies underground beneath the soil. This part of the tree causes problems for your foundation as well as sidewalks and pavements. We have put together a guide to help you understand how and what type of trees pose a threat to your foundation.

How Do Roots Affect A House’s Foundations?

  • According to the Wyoming Department of Public Works, the top 12 inches of soil contain up to 90% of tree roots. This puts your foundation in the target zone of grasping roots. Let’s learn how exactly trees affect your home’s foundation.

Trees Can Uplift Your Foundation

  • The damage to the foundation begins when the trees cause a house to uplift slightly. This exerts pressure on the foundation, thereby causing it to buckle and crack. Just like the trunk, healthy tree roots grow annually. When a tree root comes across an impenetrable object such as the foundation, it tends to grow around it.

However, some stubborn roots try to go under the foundation through some pre-existing cracks. The roots take up more space as they continue to grow. This lifts the building by tiny fractions. But this phenomenon is less common than other root issues.

Cause Soil Shrinkage Near The Foundation

  • The most common way in which trees inflict damage on your foundation is by shrinking the soil. Roots look for a path that is most advantageous for their growth. In doing so, the roots reach into the clay soil and alter the height of the soil when they come through. Clay soils become saturated with moisture in the presence of excess water.

As the moisture dries, the clay soil shrivels up and shrinks. In the same way, the roots grow into the clay soil and absorb all the water they can get. As a result, the clay soil begins to shrink. Eventually, the foundation starts to settle and crack.

Common Tree Species That Damage Your Foundation

  • Some trees pose a more significant threat to a house’s foundation than others. The trees that grow fast above the ground often grow just as fast underground. Here are some trees that you want to look out for.

Oak Tree

  • Even though they are not as common in landscapes, oak trees tend to cause the most damage to foundations. There are about 90 oak tree species in the United States. A deep taproot holds the enormous oak tree in place and shoots directly beneath the trunk.

As the tree grows, several lateral roots begin snaking out in all directions. These lateral roots can reach as far as three times the tree’s height. These roots endanger the integrity of your home when they reach below the foundation.

Ash Tree

  • trees and basement foundationsAsh trees are sometimes confused with other problem-causing trees such as poplars, hickory, and boxelder. Ash tree roots are shallow. Both large and small lateral roots originate in all directions. According to the USDA Forest Service, the large roots can be equally found in surface soil and subsoil. When these roots grow and reach near your foundation, they cause problems.

Be selective about the type of trees you wish to grow in your home. Choose a variety that takes time to grow and is a shorter and ornamental type. Other problematic tree species will be discussed in part two of this article.

Norway And Silver Maple Tree

  • Not all maple trees are bad for your foundation. Two of the maple species are commonly the cause of concern.

Norway Maple Tree

  • The roots of Norway maple tree are so shallow that they compete with lawn grass for nutrients and water. These are fast-growing types of maple trees. The roots of the Norway maple tree are highly damaging and can lift the foundation.

Silver Maple Tree

  • Silver maple tree on the other hand has a massive and fast-growing root system. If you are planning to plant a silver maple tree in your home, it is advisable to plant it at least 10 feet away from your foundation.

Poplar Tree

  • Another most damaging tree is the poplar tree. Poplar trees are commonly confused with aspen trees or birch trees. Poplar tree roots are usually a combination of shallow and deep roots. These trees do not grow well in compacted soils. Poplar tree roots search for small pockets of loose soil to grow and spread. This is what makes older foundations especially susceptible to poplar tree roots.

Beware if you have cracks or imperfections in your foundation. Poplar tree roots will find an opening to move in. Once the roots begin to grow, the cracks widen. If the problem is not detected and addressed on time the structure may crumble down.

Black Locust Trees

  • Robinia pseudoacacia or the black locust is a fast-growing tree. It is native to the Eastern U.S. Once the tree has established its root system, it is very hard to control its growth. Just like aspen trees, black locust trees reproduce by creating clones.

New shoots form from dying roots or old stumps. This process is known as suckering. Black locust trees have a wide, fibrous root system. The fast-growing root system is problematic for the foundations because the roots weaken the whole structure.

Prevent Trees From Damaging Your Foundation

  • The distance between the trees and your foundation is the most important thing to consider when planting trees. Here are some tips that can help you minimize or prevent damage to your infrastructure.

Root Barrier

  • Constructing a root barrier can help control the spread of the roots. Dig down to the base of the foundation. Remove any roots that are advancing towards your home. Once the ditch is ready, place a specially formed material that helps to control the spread of the tree root system.

Water Your Trees

  • It is important to ensure that your trees are getting sufficient water. If trees don’t get the water they need, they will encroach on unwanted places in search of water. When trees are water deficient, the roots go under the foundation to find the water they need. Trees should be sufficiently watered, otherwise, they will take it from the soil around your foundation.

Frequent Foundation Inspections

  • If you have trees in your garden or near your house, have your foundations inspected once in a while. Regardless of the type of tree you have, if you see any telltale signs of foundational damage, do not hesitate to contact qualified professionals for thorough inspections.

Preserve the integrity of your home by effectively fixing the foundation issues. For all sorts of foundational problems, give us a call at 877-727-2259. Our experts from Crack-X will assess the damage and provide necessary foundation repairs. Crack-X is a structural repair company located in Maine and New Hampshire.

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