Tree roots cause foundation damage and compromise the structural integrity of a home. Certain trees have highly invasive roots. It’s not uncommon for various species of trees to develop roots that are 30 times the diameter of their tree trunks. In other cases, roots can grow to be 2X or even 3X the height of a tree. While roots generally grow in a horizontal direction, at some point the fingerlings can start growing downward. When this happens, they can not only damage a foundation, but also block plumbing pipes. They can even create conditions that lead to cracked concrete slabs.




As property owners in the Des Moines area know, the invasive roots associated with some trees can harm foundations by sucking the moisture out of the soil located beneath their homes. When this happens, it causes the soil under the foundation to contract. As a result, the house will experience foundation movement and damage. This can put foundations at great risk and even lead to cracking or bowing.

It’s important to keep in mind that trees are like people: They need water to survive. If they aren’t watered enough, their roots seek moisture wherever they can find it. In some cases, invasive roots will creep beneath foundations and deplete the soil of the moisture it needs to keep a foundation stable. A large tree that’s close to a house can add to the problem by drawing additional moisture from the soil.



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

·         Uneven door and window frames

·         Buckling in the floor’s surface



The root systems of some trees are incredibly strong. For that reason, they can exert a whole lot of pressure on a foundation.  Foundations can be pushed upward due to the sheer force of roots. While that’s not a common problem, it can and does occur. That’s why you should take precautions. It’s always best to prevent these types of concerns by being proactive.



To avoid foundation deterioration, don’t plant new trees too close to your house. When purchasing a tree, find out how large the root system will become. If you’ve already planted a tree and suspect that it may be a problem, one possibility is to have the tree roots trimmed. Another option is to install a root barrier.

Most roots are formed near the surface of the soil and rest no more than 24” below the ground. To prevent the tree from searching for water, take time to water the roots on a regular basis. Make sure you don’t keep them exceedingly wet, just maintain a constant level of moisture. An abundance of water can harm your tree, so you don’t want to overdo it.


Consider these things when planting a tree

Trees are often unfairly blamed for foundation damage. They provide many benefits, such as natural beauty, shade, and filtering pollutants. So go ahead, plant a tree!

To protect your foundation, keep these things in mind:

Plant slow-growing trees that have less aggressive roots, such as oak or sugar maple

Avoid willow, honey locust, silver maple or elm, unless you have a large yard

Tree roots can grow twice, even three times as wide as tree height

Know the full size a tree will grow to

Plant trees far enough away from the house—at least 20 feet (but it really depends on the size and species of the tree)

Cutting down a tree is the last resort

You may have some mature trees on your property, often planted by previous homeowners. Before you consider removing a tree, you should confirm tree roots are actually present at the base of the foundation. If the backfill around a foundation hasn’t been compacted properly, tree roots may grow down when they meet the looser soil. You might be able to find these roots by digging within a few feet of your foundation. They are often found a couple feet down. If you find any roots, cut them off.

In less common cases, you may need to excavate to the base of the foundation to remove the roots. A root barrier can be installed to prevent re-growth, although this can be expensive.

If you think you have to remove a tree, it’s not something that you should DIY. Tree removal is dangerous work and should be done with a certified professional that has the training, tools, experience, and insurance for the job.

When should you consult a foundation repair specialist?

If the foundation is already damaged call the experts at BAM Basements and Masons for your free estimate to fix or prevent further damage to your home. BAM Basements and Masons of Des Moines is your premier foundation specialists serving the Des Moines, Iowa area. If you’re located in Des Moines, Ankeny, Bondurant, Altoona, Pleasant hill, Ames, Adel, Waukee, Indianola, Grimes, Urbandale, Johnston, West Des Moines, or the surrounding areas, we’re the place to call. We can help you avoid costly and stressful foundation repair mistakes, by giving you a customized solution that’s going to work for you and your home long term. BAM Basements and Masons of Des Moines is a professional and locally owned and operated state registered contractor. We offer affordable honest upfront pricing, no hidden costs, offer free estimates and limited lifetime warranties. We use new methods and materials on all jobs. We would love to help!


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