Tree roots can be a major headache for homeowners, and sometimes by the time the roots are visible, it can be too late to fix the situation. Think about how strong tree roots are in the first place. They must be capable of supporting a large tree, so they are incredibly strong and can span over a wide area. If you notice that there are tree roots causing problems in your yard, it’s best to call in an arborist who can offer professional advice on how to handle the situation. After all, you don’t want to do something that will compromise the health and safety of the tree.

What Types of Problems Do Tree Roots Cause?

Tree roots are more than an eyesore. They can cause a myriad of problems, including:

  • Difficult to mow and walk over

  • Affects the health and growth of nearby grass and ground covers

  • Leads to broken pipes and drains

  • Lifts the house’s foundation

  • Cracks pavement

  • Cracks sidewalks, walkways and driveways

  • Affects sewer lines

  • Splits open house walls

  • Decreases home’s value

The most common trees to cause these types of problems include willow trees, bamboo, cedars, maples, English oak, poplars, fig trees and gum trees.

How Do Tree Roots Create Problems?

Tree roots are large and sturdy, and they provide the tree with nutrients, which is why tree roots are encouraged by leaks in sewers, cracks in pipes and moisture from soil. The roots begin reaching out to access water for the tree. Also, if it’s a fast-growing tree like a poplar or silver maple, the roots will be faster to come to the surface. Sometimes, it’s the erosion of surface soil that makes these roots more visible.

In order to avoid tree root problems from developing, it starts with being mindful of where the trees are planted. This is much easier to do if the home is already built, but it’s common for trees to be placed on sites where building has not yet been started. So, when planting trees, it’s important to think about both current and existing structures in the area. By being aware of where the tree is being planted and identifying the early signs of emerging tree roots, you can avoid long-term damage.

Know the Rules When it Comes to Planting Trees

Knowing where to plant trees requires knowledge on how large the tree’s roots will grow, which is why it can be helpful to call in a consulting arborist who can provide you with this information.

In addition to space, also consider where the tree is being planted. Identify where the drain and water lines are, and make sure the tree is planted a considerable distance away from them. You may also want to consult with your municipality and determine if there are trees that are not recommended in your area. While you may want shade over your home, you don’t want cracked pipes and sewer lines, so be on the safe side and choose smaller trees when in doubt.

There’s Already Damage from Tree Roots. What Now?

If you’ve already run into problems with the tree roots, there are several steps of action you can take. In some cases, the entire tree may have to be removed, and you will need a professional to take care of it. Discuss what you want done with the tree prior to the removal, as the workers may be able to salvage the tree so that you can use it for firewood.

If the tree roots are breaking up sidewalks or driveways, they might be pruned. But pruning the roots is not a long-term solution since this can harm or even kill the tree. Some homeowners have been successful in applying a shallow, 1-inch layer of high-quality soil, but it’s not long before the tree roots start popping back out, especially after mowing. A more permanent solution that can be successful is applying a two to three inch layer of wood chip mulch or planting a ground cover or that won’t need mowing.