How to Pick the Right Trees to Avoid Damage to Your Foundation

Trees are some of nature’s most glorious specimens. They create small ecosystems, provide shade and bring serious character to any yard. Wooded lots are indeed a draw for many homebuyers, but they come with their own set of maintenance duties. In addition to raking, trimming and pruning, homeowners must keep an eye on the root growth as it encroaches towards the house.

We don’t often consider the ways in which tree roots and foundations coexist, but when they run into each other, the results can be seriously stress-inducing. While there are steps you can take to prevent existing roots from invading your space, the best option is to be mindful of the planting of new trees. If you’re considering adding a tree to your yard, go for a species with non-invasive roots.

Best Trees for Your Yard

The best type of tree for your yard will vary greatly based on your location. The goal, however, is to find species that thrive in your zone and have non-invasive roots. The crabapple is a good option for much of North America. The flowering tree tops out at about 20 feet, ensuring that root growth won’t be a problem once it reaches maturity. Crabapple trees are hardy and can tolerate a variety of climates, from Minnesota to Georgia.

Another good option is the Japanese maple. Ideal for the curbside, near your patio or in the front yard, this gorgeous tree has exploded in popularity in recent years. Its red leaves come alive in the fall, and its roots are considered non-invasive. It’s a good choice for anyone hoping to liven up their property without damaging their foundation.

For a seriously low-maintenance pick, consider the American holly tree. It’s an evergreen that requires almost no regular care after it has taken root in the yard. Decorate American holly trees with strings of birdseed during the winter months for a truly festive look. You’ll want to be mindful of the colder months, though – the American holly prefers the more mild clime of zone 5-9.

Types of Trees to Avoid

While it would be nice to be able to select trees based on aesthetics alone, there are lots of factors that should go into your decision. Root growth, maintenance, and size should all be considered before you put a tree in the ground. There are some trees to outright avoid for your property. The white ash tree, for instance, grows incredibly fast, with lateral roots quickly invading anything in its path.

Poplar trees should also be avoided. These tall trees are gorgeous, but they’re known to have especially aggressive roots. Left to grow at its own pace, poplars will cause serious damage to your sewer system and foundation. American elms are similarly disruptive, with shallow roots that burrow under sidewalks, lawns and driveways. Weeping willows, silver maples and oak trees should also be left at the nursery in favor of trees with less invasive roots.

Tips for Planting 

When you’re ready to get your new tree in the ground, make some calculations before selecting a spot. Do some research on how large you can expect your specific species of tree to grow. A huge oak tree will need a lot more space than a Japanese maple, for instance. For small breeds, leave about eight to ten feet of space between your home’s foundation and the tree. Keep that length in mind when factoring in any patios, sidewalks or paved surfaces.

For trees with invasive roots, you’ll need a lot more space. Should you have your heart set on a weeping willow or oak tree for the yard, make sure to plant it at least 50 feet from your home’s foundation. These kinds of trees are so disruptive that some municipalities have created regulations about their planting. Check with your city before you make plans to plant a tree with invasive roots.

Protecting Your Foundation

Did you know the length of a tree’s roots can be double the height of the tree itself? It takes this kind of perspective to truly appreciate the potential for damage. If you’ve moved into a home with a tree with invasive roots in the yard, there are some steps you can take to protect your foundation. Removal is one option, but it’s expensive and should be considered last on your list of solutions.

Instead of removing the tree altogether, consider employing root barricades in your yard. While not foolproof, root barricades can help prevent tree growth in undesirable areas. They’re great at keeping moisture in the ground, too, which is a must for high-demand root systems in trees like oaks, Arizona ash and Chinese tallow.

Educating Homeowners

Whether you’re a home inspector, a homeowner, or you’re simply dreaming of one day planting a tree in your backyard of your first home, ICA’s resources can help you educate yourself. Online classes make it easy to train for a new career in home inspection or just learn more about the systems of your house. Take a look at our offerings now!

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