Common Tree Root Problems & Possible Solutions

December 10, 2019

Trees are an essential part of our environment. They provide oxygen, shade, shelter, wind protection, privacy and food sources. They also add an element of beauty to the landscape around us. While trees overall are important to us and the environment, they do sometimes cause concerns. Certain types of trees, for example, produce exceptionally large roots that can cause damage to pipes, homes, sidewalks and foundations. Once a tree is planted and established, there aren’t always tons of options but let’s talk about some common tree root problems and what can be done about them. 

Tree roots and your foundation

Most people love to have trees around their homes to provide privacy, shelter, shade and of course curb appeal. But you need to pay close attention to not only the types of trees you choose to plant but also where you plant them. If you choose trees that will grow quite tall, like most evergreens, some maples or birch, this also means that they will have a pretty hardy root system. Planting these types of trees too close to your house or business can cause serious damage to the foundation in the future. Tree roots themselves do not aim for penetrating into a foundation, but rather they extract the water from the soil, causing it to recede away from the foundation. This creates a big enough gap between the foundation and the soil that the foundation can begin shifting and cracking.

 If you’re planting trees that will grow more than 70 feet tall, plant them at least 20 feet away from your house or business. Avoid planting trees with aggressive root systems like; willow, poplar, cottonwood, aspens, silver and Norway maples. If you want to have more trees and closer to your house, plant some of these favourite “front yard trees”. 

If large trees were already on the land you purchased, be on the lookout for any possible signs of foundation damage. There’s a chance you made need to have a tree cut down and it’s roots fully removed. 

Tree roots and pipelines 

The biggest reason that we encounter tree root problems is that trees like water. They are always searching for water. A tree does not intentionally spread its roots towards a water pipe that’s running through your yard, but it does, however, intentionally move towards a water source. When pipes have small cracks or leaks that are releasing water into the soil, tree roots may make their way to that water source and will often make their way right inside the pipes causing serious blockages. Before you plant any trees, be sure to call your local utility companies so they can come and flag the areas to avoid. Plant your trees a good distance from these marked areas to avoid future pipe damage.

If you are experiencing problems with the drains in your home or business and there were trees already established close to the building, you might have some invasive roots. Call a plumber and have them inspect your pipes for any leaks or damage. Again, if the cause is tree roots, you may have to remove the culprit to prevent further damage. Be sure to hire a professional arborist to remove any deep tree roots to ensure it’s done safely and properly. 

Tree roots and the ground

It’s a common misconception that tree roots grown down deep into the ground, like carrots. They actually grow out wide and not too far under the soil. When you plant trees that have large and aggressive root systems, they can cause more tree root problems, but ones that are less invasive than we’ve mentioned above. You’ll notice that many tree roots protrude above the ground just enough that they pose a serious tripping hazard and make mowing the lawn extra tricky. 

Removing the entire tree is always an option, but maybe not the best one if the tree is not causing any serious issues. Don’t try to prune back the roots as this will cause stress and damage to the tree causing it to be unstable. Eventually, pruning the roots may kill the tree. Planting flowers or grass to try and cover the roots isn’t a great solution either. The tree will usually block their much-needed sunlight and take most of the water from the ground resulting in dead flowers or grass. 

The best course of action to cover above-ground roots is to use a good organic mulch. The mulch allows the tree roots to still get the water and nutrients they need and it cleans up the look of your landscaping. 

Avoid planting large-root trees too close to public sidewalks as well. They can grow underneath the blocks of concrete causing them to crack and lift. This can result in big and costly repairs to the city and you may be forced to cut down the tree and have the roots fully removed.

We understand that trees have been planted all over in less than desirable places, but if you are the one planting the trees then follow these tips to avoid tree root problems down the road. Save yourself time, money, stress and save trees from being cut down by planting them in the best location possible. 

If you’ve recently moved into a new house or business and are noticing some of the above issues and you think the trees on your lot might be the cause, get in touch with our team of professional arborists here at Pevach Corp. We will come to your property and do a free estimate. Once we can confirm there’s an issue we will work with you to decide the best solution.