You’ve got trees! Maybe you have quite a few trees near your home or one or two that are *leaf-ing* you with some questions about their effect on your foundation. You’re wondering things like:
- Is that tree too close to my house?
- Are those roots growing towards my home going to be a problem?
- Should I be worried about my foundation?
- What signs should I look for if my trees are affecting my foundation?
Trees are beautiful, needed, and add value to your property. You don’t want to lose them but you also don’t want them to cause costly foundation problems for your home.
At Anchor Foundation Repair we have been inspecting and repairing Brazos Valley foundations since 1985. Most properties we work with have trees on them and we see how trees interact with and affect foundations on a daily basis.
While we are not tree experts, we can look holistically at your yard, home, and plans for your property. We can look at the overall system and help you think through decisions about the future of your trees and your foundation.
Let’s get to the root of your concerns about trees on your property and help you figure out which direction to grow . . . I mean, GO towards.
Are the Trees in My Yard Affecting My Home’s Foundation?
In short, yes, trees affect your foundation, but maybe not in the way that you think. The best way to illustrate this is to take some words from the boss man:
“I have a few trees in my own yard that were planted too close to the foundation. They’ve been there a long while. The house is accustomed to them being there and though I wouldn’t plant them there today, I think it’s best that they stay,” says Tripp.Craig Tripp – Anchor Foundation Repair Owner, CEO, El Presidente, Foundation Repair Extraordinaire, etc.
What I find extra powerful about the statement above is the word “accustomed,” almost as if the house is a living thing. But in reality, it’s part of a living system. A living system that includes your yard, your trees, your house, your landscaping, your soil, your drainage, your sidewalks, and everything else around your home.
This living system is always working to find a balance, and outside conditions (like the weather) are always trying to throw this system out of balance and it reacts. So the home and the trees and everything else is in a constant state of adjustment, to where even things that aren’t alive (like houses and sidewalks) will respond and move in a living way.
Changes or behavior in one part of the living system around your home cause changes in the other parts. This creates a situation where your trees affect your home and your home affects your trees.
Tree Structure Affects Your Home’s Foundation
Trees have an amazing structure that is a bit like a mirror image. The outline of the canopy above the ground mimics the root system below the ground. So how ever far out the branches stretch from the trunk above, is about how far the root system grows out below the ground.
When you have a tree whose canopy is hanging over your home, you can reasonably assume that means tree roots are growing underneath your home. It’s not a guaranteed problem as the home and the trees find a way to grow “accustomed” to one another and live in harmony.
But if those roots get very large, they could begin to push or move your foundation from below. These forces of nature can be very strong, even enough to push on a heavy house.
Your Home’s Foundation Affects Tree Structure
Not only does tree structure affect your home’s foundation, but the reverse is true as well. The home and foundation can affect the structure of the tree.
The roots reaching under your home will not be getting as much water on that side and this can affect the stability and even growth pattern of the tree around its center of gravity.
Roots grow towards water sources, so if they are not getting water under your house then the roots won’t grow quite as much in that direction. The roots don’t grow as much below and the limbs don’t grow as much above.
The roots and limbs depend on one another and relate to one another for continued growth. This situation can create lopsided growing trees or trees that are less secure under the ground on the house side due to a smaller root and limb structure on one side.
A Tree’s Access to Water Affects Your Home’s Foundation
We know that tree roots get moisture from the ground, this should not be “groundbreaking” news. But think about those tree roots like a sponge. They are sucking up water every single day to stay alive.
So imagine if we are in a drought and there is not much water to be found in the ground because there hasn’t been enough rain. Our expansive clay soil is also like a sponge, expanding in rainy seasons and shrinking in dry seasons. So the clay soil gets dry and shrinks from lack of rain.
That tree is still going to be taking water from the ground and our clay soil gets even drier because the tree is taking all it can. So if the tree is sucking all the moisture out of the ground, the soil shrinks even further the more severe the drought becomes.
When clay soil shrinks, it causes settlement in a home’s foundation. So the soil shrinks from the drought, and the soil shrinks more because the tree is taking any moisture that remains and the home settlement can get worse and cause foundation problems.
Trees in effect multiply the effects of drought on expansive clay soils and settlement in your home. Kind of a bummer but it’s not going to make people give up their trees. So you have to figure out ways to handle this issue through prevention and monitoring of trees near your foundation.
Signs to Look for to Know if a Tree is Affecting Your Foundation
Honestly, the signs of foundation settlement and foundation problems will look the same whether it’s from a tree or some other reason. So the telltale signs of foundation problems apply to tree issues as well.
Look for diagonal cracks in walls near door or window frames. Doors that don’t close or latch properly can also be a sign of foundation issues. Stairstep patterned cracks in your exterior brick are also something to look for that signals foundation movement.
The only sign that is not on the standard list is when a giant tree is growing right next to your house. If the tree is both visually and physically pushing on your home and causing problems, possibly with a bathroom or kitchen nearby, then this would be a clear sign that a tree is directly affecting your foundation.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have seen it all when it comes to foundation settlement and foundation issues in our 35 years in business. Sometimes you can tell that a home’s foundation problems are caused by trees, but most of the time it all looks the same and we know what to do to repair it.
For a deeper look into the true signs of foundation problems, check out our article, “Do I Have a Foundation Problem? Top 5 Signs Repairs are Needed.”