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. It makes sense, if you think about how strong tree roots are — they have to be capable of supporting a large tree which means they can span over a wide area. If you notice tree roots starting to cause problems in your yard, it’s best to call in an arborist who can offer professional advice on how to handle the situation. Addressing the issue immediately can hopefully benefit 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:
Being difficult to mow over and walk over without tripping
Affecting the health and growth of nearby grass and ground cover
Causing broken pipes and drains
Lifting the house’s foundation
Cracking pavement, sidewalks, walkways and driveways
Affecting sewer lines
Splitting open house walls
Decreasing a home’s value
The most common trees to cause these types of problems are 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, providing a tree with nutrients, which is why tree roots can be encouraged to grow toward 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 in search of water. Sometimes, it’s the erosion of surface soil that makes these roots more visible.
Avoiding tree root issues starts with being mindful of where 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 early signs of emerging tree roots, you can work to 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 making sure that a tree is planted a considerable distance away from them is a good idea. 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 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.
If you’ve already run into problems with tree roots on your property, there are several steps of action you can take but in some cases, the entire tree may have to be removed, and you will need a professional to take care of it. Having professional insight into the best course of action is the right choice for your tree, your property, and the safety of those around your home.