Ask Angie: Can tree roots cause foundation damage?

A tree service professional can assess the condition of your trees and make sure they won’t cause damage to your home.

A tree service professional can assess the condition of your trees and make sure they won’t cause damage to your home.

Dear Angie: I have a large tree in front of my home that has recently been trimmed by a local tree company. Now, I notice that the roots are causing my driveway and walkway to crack and buckle. The roots also seem to be heading toward the foundation. Should the tree company have noticed this and advised me? Should I now have the tree cut down and the stump grinded? – Rubie H., Atlanta.

Dear Rubie: Ideally, the tree company would have noticed the tree roots surfacing and advised you of the potential problem. Certified Arborists are trained to inspect trees from the top to the bottom and inform you of any issues or potential problems, including the potential for the tree to cause issues with the foundation if it’s too close to the house.

I recommend you seek out the advice of at least three Certified Arborists. They can do a thorough onsite inspection of the tree to determine if it needs to be cut down. Most Arborists don’t like to remove a tree unless absolutely necessary and there are a number of factors that would determine if they should. The health of the tree; the distance from the roots to the foundation of the house and the driveway; the type of foundation; the slope of the ground; the soil type; and the type of driveway – concrete or asphalt – all play a role in whether or not the tree should need to be removed.

If keeping the tree is a priority and it’s in good health, you might consider bringing in a structural engineer to determine if the tree poses a risk to the integrity of your home’s structure. If there are no structural risks and you don’t mind the appearance of your driveway being cracked by the roots and it poses no physical risks by using it, you could keep the tree.

If you do decide to remove the tree, be sure the professional you hire follows proper tree removal guidelines established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Removing a tree is highly dangerous work and should be done only by a professional who has the proper training, experience and tools and carries valid liability and worker’s compensation insurance. Ask for proof of certification from the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and never pay for the job in advance.

Tree removal costs can vary greatly, depending on the size and location of the tree. Removal does not always include stump removal, so be sure to ask if that is included in the cost and if it’s necessary. To ensure the tree roots won’t continue to grow, it might be. Again, a reputable Arborist should be able to discuss with you all of your options.

Angie’s List collects about 65,000 consumer reviews each month covering more than 550 home and health services. Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angie’s List to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at askangie@angieslist.com


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Are tree roots wreaking havoc on your lawn?

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One way to cover unsightly surface roots below your tree is to add a garden bed underneath the tree by adding mulch, top soil or river rock. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Patricia P. of Columbus, Ohio)
One way to cover unsightly surface roots below your tree is to add a garden bed underneath the tree by adding mulch, top soil or river rock. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Patricia P. of Columbus, Ohio)

When not properly planted or pruned, your tree's roots can damage your grass, mower, sidewalk, driveway and foundation and leave you with costly repairs.

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