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  • What to Do When Tree Roots Encroach on Your Home

    Posted on June 6, 2015 by Pete in Landscaping.

    You want your home to look so stunning that it makes the neighborhood talk. And to your knowledge, you have accomplished just that. Your yard boasts a verdant lawn, lush flowerbeds, and a group of gorgeous, mature trees. You have placed everything just so for maximum aesthetic effect.

    However, you’ve notice those trees’ roots growing ever closer to your foundation, your driveway, or your main sewer line, and you feel a little nervous. You’ve heard stories about tree roots breaking through these items and causing expensive repairs-and you don’t want to share in that experience.

    Below, we’ll outline the signs that tree roots have infiltrated your home’s structures. We’ll also tell you how to remedy the problem.

    When Tree Roots Invade Your Foundation

    Roots rarely cause significant damage to concrete foundations. Occasionally, roots may find their way through existing cracks and enlarge them. But as long as you maintain your foundation, you’re unlikely to have any trouble with tree roots.

    However, if you have particularly strong trees, you may have the rare opportunity to see Mother Nature’s inexorable (if somewhat slow) fury unleashed on your home. You’ll notice signs like the following:

    • Cracks in your foundation’s floor
    • Mostly vertical cracks in your foundation’s walls
    • Cracked or shattered windows with no other evidence of trauma
    • Uneven door and window frames
    • Buckling in the floor’s surface

    Again, roots rarely cause foundation damage. If erosion or other factors disrupt the soil under your home, you could see the same signs. You will have to investigate the roots before you take any further actions. Dig around the foundation near your trees and see if their roots extend toward it and start to grow down. If they do, then they may have caused your foundation problems.

    Prevent further damage with these tips:

    • Install root barriers before planting trees. These barriers deflect roots deeper into the ground and away from foundations, pavement, plumbing, and more.
    • Cut the offending roots. However, use caution with this tip. Some trees die when they lose even a small portion of their roots. A tree-trimming expert has the experience to complete this step without harming the tree. Install root barriers and nourish the rest of the tree in the meantime while you wait for it to heal.
    • Cut down the entire tree and remove as much of the root system as possible. Sometimes trees grow too quickly and extensively for you to control root growth. To save your home, you’ll need to call a tree removal expert to chop down these trees. Your trees play an important role in your home’s appearance, but you can’t leave them there if they could destroy your house.

    When Tree Roots Burrow Under Your Sidewalk or Driveway

    Some homeowners have trouble with their tree roots when they grow under their sidewalks, driveways, patios, and other shallow, concrete structures. And those roots can cause some dangerous problems.

    As the concrete cracks and buckles, pieces of it will stick up and create a tripping hazard. And because other people often use your sidewalk, patio, or driveway, they could become injured. Some injured persons may want to pull you into a personal injury lawsuit as a result, and you don’t want this to happen to you.

    Look for the following signs if you suspect your trees have disrupted your driveway or sidewalk:

    • Cracks running across the concrete
    • Roots (or bumps of earth) leading to those cracks
    • Buckling in the concrete’s surface-the slabs won’t sit flush with each other anymore

    To remedy the situation, use the same steps you used while safeguarding your foundation:

    • Install root barriers before the roots reach the concrete.
    • Cut the roots and dam them with root barriers to prevent further growth.
    • Cut down the tree and remove the root system so you can make a smooth, level surface again.

    Talk to your local arborist for more information. He or she can tell you whether cutting the roots or the whole tree works better for your needs.

    When Tree Roots Crack Your Plumbing

    Roots grow into your plumbing because they find a small source of water, like a hairline crack or a loose joint, and they extend hair-like roots into it to access the steady flow of water and nutrients. You may not see the structural effects when roots grow into your plumbing, but you will experience the consequences.

    Common signs include:

    • Slowly flowing drains that don’t clear with flushing treatments
    • Completely clogged drains that don’t clear with a plunger, drain cleaner, or other treatments
    • Changes in water pressure

    Most of the time, you don’t have to kill or maim your tree if it grows into your sewer system. Instead, call a tree-trimming expert to remove the portion that grew into the plumbing and call a plumber to replace the pipe. With proper sealing and repairs, your plumbing won’t seem appealing to your tree anymore.

    Watch for the signs above and call your tree-pruning expert when they appear. You won’t be able to remedy the problem without professional help, especially if damage has already occurred. Have the arborist or tree-trimming expert help you with your trees, then call your local plumbing or construction contractor for repairs.

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