Why Some Tree Species Damage a Home’s Foundation

Damage by Certain Tree Species

Understanding the Causes of Foundation Damage by Certain Tree Species

Oak, poplar, and ash trees are some of the most common causes of foundation damage. These trees have fast-growing roots that spread quickly to enhance water and nutrient absorption, and they are known to damage sidewalks, pipes, and foundations. Homeowners should be selective when planting trees on their property. This will help protect against potential damage to the foundation of their home.

Foundation root damage

The presence of trees on a property is desirable to many homeowners as they block sunlight, offer a place to sit, mitigate frost damage to driveways and sidewalks, and enhance a home’s appearance. However, the roots of certain tree species can cause foundation damage if they are too close to a house.

This is because they are constantly seeking moisture and, in order to do this, they will often grow laterally toward a house. This means they will brush up against it and, if the soil is dry, they will extract moisture from the concrete and grout of the foundation.

When this happens, the foundation will crack and shift. This can lead to a wide range of problems including cracked basement walls, uneven floors and water penetration into the home.

The best way to avoid this type of damage is to be selective about which trees you plant around your home. A good rule of thumb is to choose trees that are slow-growing and have deep root systems. Cypress trees are a great example of this. They have a deep taproot accompanied by lateral roots that don’t extend very far. Additionally, fruit trees from the genus Prunus are typically safe when planted near houses. However, if you are going to plant a new tree in your yard, make sure it is not an aggressively-rooting bottomland species such as willow or elm.


Some tree species have shallow roots that reach out and grab onto solid or impermeable surfaces. This is a problem because it can cause damage to paved and/or concrete surfaces. It can also lift or slant the foundation of a home, which can be very dangerous and costly to repair. Subsidence usually develops slowly, but it can lead to serious structural issues if not dealt with quickly and properly.

The most common trees that damage a house foundation are oaks, poplars, and ash trees. They have aggressive and shallow root systems that grow closer to the ground, which causes them to penetrate and seek out pipes, water lines, and the foundation of a home. These roots can also swell clay soil, which can also cause problems.

Willow trees such as weeping, corkscrew, and Austree willows are another common culprit of foundation damage. These trees have moisture-loving roots that seek out leaking sewer, septic, and irrigation lines. They can also lift sidewalks, damage foundations, and crack other paved surfaces. Other problematic trees include American elms, black locust, and boxelder. Brewer weeping spruce and Norway spruce are evergreen trees that can also cause foundational damage. They have shallow roots that can lift sidewalks, damage pavement, and shrink the soil under a building causing foundation settlement. These are just some of the most common tree species that damage a house foundation, but there are many others that can be problematic as well.

Oak trees

Oak trees may be beautiful additions to a garden, but they can also cause damage to foundations. Their root systems are wide and can stretch more than three times the height of the tree. These roots will continue to spread as they seek out nutrients and water. This can create cracks in the foundation and disrupt underground plumbing pipes.

Oak tree roots are very dense, and they can easily deplete soil of moisture. These trees are the most common culprits of foundation damage, but other types of trees can also cause problems.

In general, it is best to plant trees with deep taproots and far-reaching lateral roots away from foundations. This will help to prevent the development of invasive roots that can damage the home’s foundation and surrounding landscaping. If you are unsure which type of tree to choose, consult with a professional tree service for advice.

Trees with shallow roots that are not as far-reaching should be avoided as well. Boxelder trees, for example, are not a good choice for yards or streets because they are short-lived and have brittle wood that can be damaged by heavy winds. They are also prone to sprouting around sidewalks and foundations, which can lift and crack them. Brewer’s weeping spruce and Norway spruce are two other evergreen species that can cause foundation damage. Their shallow roots cling to surface soils, and they can cause the soil underneath to shift, causing foundation damage.

Poplar trees

Poplar trees have a combination of shallow and deep roots that can be destructive when planted adjacent to buildings or infrastructure units. They can crumble house foundations and disrupt sewer lines when their roots grow in these areas. Poplars are fast-growing trees and can easily expose or widen cracks in a foundation when the roots spread out to find their way to water and nutrients. They are also invasive in many areas, and their roots can cause structural damage to pavement, sidewalks, and driveways.

Silver Maples are another tree that should not be planted near a home’s foundation because of their fast-growing roots. They are not ideal for residential landscaping because they tend to grow up to 25 feet tall, which can interfere with underground utilities and can lead to damage to the foundation of a home. These trees also make it difficult to grow other plants because they take up a lot of space in the soil.

Evergreen trees can also be a problem for some homeowners, especially if they’re not planted far enough away from a home. Brewer’s weeping spruce and Norway spruce are two examples of evergreen trees that can cause foundation damage because of their shallow roots. These trees prefer humus-rich soils, so they cling to the surface of the ground and do not sink down into the B horizon like other evergreens.

Ash trees

While ash trees may not be as common in the landscape as oaks and poplars, they still cause significant damage to foundations. Their shallow roots spread out and take up a lot of water and nutrients from the soil around them, which can damage concrete and lead to cracking. This can also lead to shifting of the soil beneath the foundation, which can damage the structure of a home.

The emerald ash borer (EAB) is one of the most destructive insects in North American forests and has significantly reduced the acreage of ash. The insect has been able to spread quickly due to human-assisted transport, as well as natural dispersal. EAB can be found throughout the country and has caused significant damage to urban and wild forests.

Luckily, there are some trees that don’t have far-reaching roots and can be planted close to homes. Cypress trees, for example, have a deep taproot that is accompanied by lateral roots, which do not break the surface or damage foundations. Additionally, some fruit trees have a similar root system and are safe to plant near houses. However, you should always consult an arborist to be sure the tree is safe for your home. They can help you choose a suitable species that will grow into a mature tree while still remaining within the required space. They can also help you with proper pruning techniques that will keep your trees healthy and beautiful while minimizing the risk of structural damage to your home.

Japanese maple

Japanese Maple

Everyone loves to see a majestic tree in their yard. They provide shade, beauty, and oxygen, especially since they usually grow well all over Australia and Brisbane is no exception. Here are some photos from Brindabella Country Gardens (north of Brisbane in Queensland) to illustrate. The good news is that there are steps you can take to avoid foundation damage caused by trees.

While many people are aware that oak and elm trees can damage foundations, it is also important to be aware of which other types of tree roots are problematic for your house’s foundation. Some of the most dangerous species include maples like silver and Norway, black locusts, tuliptree, aspen, cottonwood, and sycamore.

These species have shallow roots that grow quickly and are prone to shift the soil underneath a building. This can lead to a settling or cracking of the foundation and can damage underground pipes and sewage lines.

Acer palmatum, better known as the Japanese maple, is a short tree with a layered look. It’s a deciduous tree native to Southeast Asia and Japan. It produces a beautiful deep red and orange summer color that brightens into the fall.

If you have these types of trees on your property, you should explore professional tree removal services to prevent their roots from damaging your foundation. You can also plant a root barrier to deflect the roots from your home. This will help keep the roots from damaging your foundation and causing other issues on your property.