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How Close to a House can a Tree Be?
Last updated: 14 January 2021
Planting trees around your home is an easy way of not only boosting the aesthetic appeal of your home, but also providing your loved ones with much-needed shade. However, if you are not careful, planting trees too close to your house can end up becoming an expensive nuisance. Here is what you should know.
As a general rule, you should always plant trees at least 10 feet away from your house. Larger trees that tend to have deeper roots should be planted even farther, with a distance of over 20 feet being a safer bet.
Another way is to use this simple formula. Take the diameter of the tree trunk and multiply it by 10 to get the safe distance to plant a tree from your home.
Example: Tree trunk has 1 foot diameter x 10 = 10 feet safe distance.
Problems with tree roots and foundations
Tree root systems can cause problems with a home’s foundation. They can cause the foundation to shift, something that will then lead to cracks and in some cases an entirely compromised foundation.
However, the damage that the roots cause is not as a result of the roots simply digging through the foundation. It is normally a result of the pressure imbalance that root systems create when they suck moisture away from a home’s foundation. This imbalance then may cause the foundation to move, and this may then compromise the integrity of the home’s foundation. Therefore, they pose an indirect danger to your home’s foundation.
While tree roots don’t generally damage a foundation by burrowing through it, they can create problems if the foundation has developed weaknesses. For example, if you have a concrete foundation that already has weakened and developed cracks, aggressive roots can get into these cracks and expand them. Therefore, they can worsen the problem.
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Are branches over a home dangerous?
Yes, branches over a home can be dangerous. This is because when these branches break off and fall on the roof, they can damage the roof and this may end up creating an injury risk to people inside. The branches can also directly fall on your loved ones, and in such a case, the resulting physical trauma can cause serious injuries. This, in addition to the fact that some trees are pest magnets, can make it dangerous for you to have branches over your home.
It is important to note that not all trees have branches that are big and heavy enough to become a danger. Therefore, you can easily reduce the risks that having overhanging branches pose by being selective about the type of trees that you choose. Periodically cutting off any overgrowing branches will also come in handy towards ensuring that your loved ones are safe.
Which trees damage house foundations?
Trees with aggressive root systems usually damage house foundations. These trees include ash trees, poplars, oaks, some types of pine and spruce trees, sycamores, sweetgums, honey locusts, elm trees, silver maples, and willows are common culprits.
If you plan on having such trees in your home, make sure that you plant them over 20 feet away from your house’s foundation. Creating a root barrier may also be necessary. You may even have to cut their roots away periodically. And if you don’t want to go through all the hassle of mitigating the damaging effects of fast-growing and highly aggressive root systems, then you should avoid planting these trees anywhere near your home.
What are some benefits of having a large tree in the yard?
While there are risks to having big trees next to a home, there are times when the benefits of having a big tree far outweigh any risks they might pose.
For starters, having a big tree in the yard provides much-needed shade to loved ones. The shading from the tree can also benefit your home as it will make you less reliant on your air conditioning system, and this can help you to save energy.
Having a big tree also provides support to the existing ecosystem around your area. This includes providing shade and homes to native species of birds and other wildlife. The tree may also serve as a source of food for such wildlife.
If you love your privacy, then a big tree can come in handy in helping to protect you from the prying eyes of your neighbors. And given that such a tree can also purify air, it is no surprise — especially when you consider all the other benefits that it comes with — that having a big tree in the yard can increase the value of your property.
Can small trees be planted close to a home?
Yes, small trees can be planted close to a home. Generally, they are usually more preferable to planting near a home because they typically do not have aggressive root systems that can damage a home’s foundation. And since they rarely have big and heavy branches, the risks of such trees posing a danger to your property or creating an injury risk around your home, are lower.
Some of the trees that are safer to plant near a house include the cornelian cherry dogwood, crabapple, japanese maple, flowering dogwood, American holly, and the American hornbeam. These trees do not have invasive root systems, and as a result, they pose little to no danger to your home’s foundation.
However, just because a tree is small does not mean that it does not have an aggressive root system. This is because some species of trees can have roots that grow longer than three times their height.
Furthermore, even if you plan on going for smaller and less invasive tree types, you may still have to plant the trees at least 10 feet away from your home mainly because they can still have a negative effect on your foundation simply because they absorb moisture. Creating a safe distance between the trees and your home is thus advisable.
Which trees have the most invasive roots?
Silver maples, American elms, willow trees and hybrid poplars have the most invasive roots. When planting these trees, maintaining a healthy distance of over 20 feet from your home is always advisable. This is because their aggressive roots can not only cause cracks in your home’s foundation, but also create an ugly sight of bulging roots next to your home.
Can tree roots break concrete?
Yes, tree roots can break concrete. They do this by creating a pressure imbalance when they aggressively absorb moisture from the area next to the concrete. This then causes concrete to settle or shift. And since this shifting or settling process isn’t uniform, it usually causes the concrete to crack and break.
If concrete already has cracks, roots can also grow into these cracks. by slowly expanding and contracting, depending on the weather, these roots can eventually widen these cracks. Given enough time, these roots may eventually end up breaking the concrete.
Can you sue your neighbor for tree roots?
Yes, you sue your neighbor for tree roots. While the law varies from state to state, it is generally agreed that the roots of a tree in a neighbor’s property is theirs and they are letting them trespass over your property. Therefore, you can sue to have them cut the roots.
You can also sue the neighbor for compensation if the roots cause substantial damage to your property. This may include compromising your home’s foundation or causing major cracks in your plumbing. You can also sue them if the roots interfere in any way with your ability to enjoy the use of your property.
It is important to note that you don’t have to go to court in order to keep the roots from damaging your property. You can simply cut them off. However, your right to cut the roots off only extends to your property line. Therefore, if you want anything further done, you may have to go to court to get them to cut the tree or take any other measures that may make the roots less invasive.
Author: Ben McInerney – Ben is a qualified arborist with 15 plus years of industry experience in Arboriculture. He ran a successful tree service before turning to writing and publishing. Ben is dedicated to providing users with the most accurate up-to-date information on everything trees.
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