Can Tree Roots Cause Foundation Problems?

You’ve recently bought a new home with an abundance of beautiful trees on your property. As much as you may love trees, you worry when they’re too close to your home. After all, won’t their roots lead to costly foundation problems?

Although it’s common to think that tree roots can damage a foundation, they’re actually not the true culprit – it’s the surrounding soil. Here’s what you should know about tree roots and their potential effects on your home’s foundation.

How Trees and Soil Interact

Like any other living organism, trees need water to survive. To receive this water, they extract it from the soil surrounding them. Depending on the soil type on your property, this action can lead to extensive soil shrinkage.

Clay soil is especially well-known for this, particularly during long periods of dry weather. That’s because it expands substantially when wet, placing extensive pressure against foundation walls and creating foundation cracks.

A contraction can cause a separation from the supporting soil around or under a foundation during dry weather. As a result, the foundation settles unevenly and leads to cracks.

Tree Roots and Foundation Settlement

Mature tree growth underneath the foundation structure can create foundation settlement. Depending on how significant this movement is, the overall stability of your home may be at risk. Support beams can shift, walls may sink or crack, and ceilings can become uneven.

Luckily, there are ways to repair foundation damage, including installing certain underpinning products such as steel or helical piers.

Other Issues That Contribute to Foundation Damage

Although trees indirectly cause foundation damage, they aren’t the only offender.

Improper Backfill: Building a house foundation requires a proper amount of backfill against the foundation walls. When done incorrectly, soil settlement can occur and allow water to filter toward the foundation. Plus, if the backfill is primarily clay-based, the likelihood of shrinkage during drought increases.

Foundation Depth: When there’s a shallow foundation, the soil located right underneath the surface dries quicker than deeper soil. This can cause tree roots to grow beneath the house and draw moisture, leading to settling and foundation cracks.

Uneven Moisture Content: Having steady soil moisture can combat soil shrinkage. This can be achieved using adequately placed shrubs and small plants to prevent erosion and mulch layers to retain moisture and slow evaporation.

The Ground Around the Perimeter: Poor grading, drainage, or landscaping often leads to foundation pooling.

Parting Words

Although trees are one of the most valuable contributors to the beauty of your Hamilton or Burlington home, their roots can create soil problems, leading to foundation issues. When that’s the case, there’s no time to waste. Foundation problems can often be severe, and the longer they’re left unattended, the more extensive (and costly) they become.

Wondering if you have a foundation issue at your home? Contact our foundation experts today to come and inspect your property and ensure your foundation is as solid as it can be.