Can Tree Roots Damage Your Foundation?

Is that big, beautiful tree in your backyard destroying your foundation, and are you worried that, ultimately, you’ll have to cut down your summer shade?

Tree roots can cause significant damage to your foundation, primarily by exacerbating current foundation deterioration. If you want to know how tree roots can further weaken a cracked foundation and how to mitigate tree root damage, this article is for you.  

Dalinghaus Construction Inc. has been in the foundation repair game since 2015 and holds over 100 years of collective experience dealing with foundation tree root damage.

This article covers the signs and symptoms of tree root foundation damage and how to prevent further damage, and how to address foundation root damage cracks. By the end of this article, you’ll know some of the most aggressive tree root types and how to utilize root barriers.

How Tree Roots Damage Your Foundation

Tree roots, on their own, pose minimal threat to your foundation. Generally, when roots hit a solid underground object (such as pipes or foundation footings), the roots tend to grow downward or upward to circumvent the obstruction. However, roots capitalize on cracks, sinking deep into existing concrete fractures and enlarging them.

If your foundation is well-maintained through appropriate drainage and has no cracks, you’re very unlikely to deal with tree root damage. But, if you’re dealing with especially strong trees and an already compromised foundation, tree root damage can pose a serious threat to your home.  

Tree Root Foundation Damage Signs and Symptoms

All foundation damage is accompanied by signs and symptoms regardless of the origin. And, unfortunately, they look quite similar. Here are the signs and symptoms of tree root foundation damage:

  •   Cracks and uneven upheavals in your slab/foundation floor 
  •   Vertical cracks fracturing across your foundation footing and/or stem walls
  •   Cracked/fractured windowpanes
  •   Uneven/askew window and door frames

Tree root damage, foundation settlement, and erosion can all result in similar signs and symptoms. Thus, in order to narrow it down, dig around the affected area of your foundation to see if you hit any tree roots. If you do, there’s a good chance they added to your foundation damage.

Top offending trees with aggressive roots include:

  •   Silver maple trees
  •   Willow trees
  •   Sycamore trees
  •   Hybrid poplar trees

 How to Prevent Further Tree Root Damage

Here are a few ways to help prevent further tree root damage:

  •   Implement root barriers – root barriers impede roots and deflect them deeper into the earth, away from plumbing, pavement, foundations, etc. Root barriers are available at Home Depot, Amazon, and elsewhere. Root barriers are comprised of corrugated fiberglass or plastic sheets and installed into trenches 3 to 5 feet deep, diverting roots.
  •   Eliminate the responsible roots – cut off the roots that are affecting your foundation. Reach out to an arborist to determine if cutting back the tree’s roots will prove detrimental to your tree. Use this method in conjunction with root barriers to ensure you won’t have to repeat the process.
  •   Cut down the offending trees – the Paul Bunyan option is reserved for large, strong trees that will cause serious, repeated foundation damage. It’s best to call a tree removal specialist to saw down your offending trees. While trees are aesthetically pleasing and add to your home’s landscape, they occasionally need to be done away with.  

Note – cutting down trees is a last resort and an extreme measure. 9 times out of 10, trees will not need to be cut down.     

How to Address Root Damage Cracks

In this article, you learned how tree roots utilize cracks to further deteriorate your foundation, 4 common signs and symptoms of foundation tree root damage, top offending trees, and 3 ways to prevent further tree root damage.

Dalinghaus Construction Inc. has serviced thousands of foundations in Southern California and Arizona. Tree root damage can exacerbate foundation slab cracks, which are best repaired by carbon fiber staple/wrap repair.

To learn about how carbon fiber wrap repair can address your stem wall and footing cracks caused by tree roots, read our article Structural Carbon Fiber – Foundation Repair for Cracked Footings (7 Steps).  

If you live in Southern California or Arizona and would like to book a free foundation inspection to assess any possible tree root damage, click on the button below


Brian Dalinghaus

Brian is one of the Co-Founders of Dalinghaus Construction. He has been in the foundation repair industry since 2005. During his career, he has been associated with helping over 4,000 homes and structures throughout California and Arizona.

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