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Tree Pushing on Foundation & Overgrowth

We bought the house this past November (2011) from the original owner. She and her husband built the house in '54 and he died in the early 70's and there hasn't been anything done to the house since. The yard is overgrown in places and extremely wild. We'd like to clean up the yard and make it semi-maintenance-free. Plus the wild overgrowth, we have a beautiful 60 year old oak tree in the front yard that provides shade in the summer, but the roots are pushing on the foundation of the house. The wall in the basement has started to bow in and we're not really sure what do to about it. We don't want to lose the shade of the tree so we don't want to cut it down,but obviously we need to do something SOON. We'd like to plant grass in the front of the house, but not sure if we should do sod or seed and what kind? Since it's a high shade area and the tree drops a TON of acorns on the lot. We'd love to hear suggestions of any kind!
I'd post pics but my post count isn't high enough.... sorry.


A. Spruce
Re: Tree Pushing on Foundation & Overgrowth

Any tree that is pushing on the foundation/structure of the house needs to go. You can't just trim roots, they will only grow back, and depending on the size and quantity of root you cut, you will damage or kill the tree anyway.

Take the tree down and plant other trees to replace it, but keep the trees at least the distance of their mature canopy away from the house. The root ball of all trees is equal to approximately their canopy diameter, so as long as the canopy does not reach over the house, you should be ok. There are exceptions to that, such as with a mulberry tree, which should be avoided at all costs! A mulberry is a very invasive and destructive beast.

Re: Tree Pushing on Foundation & Overgrowth

What Spruce said.

You must have a ton of squirrels!

When you say the wall is bending or bowing in, I assume you mean that it has cracked in at least one area because of the force of the roots; depending on your location, another possibility is that the "bowing in" is caused by frost heave----it'll cost big bucks to have a tree cut down & the roots dug up---make sure you have the right diagnosis before the tree surgeon operates; could you describe the wall & any cracks; are they vertical or horizontal cracks???

Another common fatality of large tree roots is the sewer system---which usually runs from the front of the house out to the street connection; this is mostly true if you have city sewers, not a septic system---and houses built in that era usually used vitrified clay 4" or 5" sewer pipe which was only 3' long and had a lot of vulnerable mortared joints----very vulnerable to leader (small) roots that clog up the system.

Spruce notes certain trees that should not be planted near a house, or the sewer system---I would add privet hedges and willow trees.

Re: Tree Pushing on Foundation & Overgrowth

I think you're right when you say that you need to do something soon.

See if you can cut the tree down. In California, Oak trees are not easy to cut because most cities ban cutting them. however if the tree is destroying your foundation...I'd say cut it. You can't eat the cake and have it too.

Once the tree is gone, the area will have more sun and you'll have success with seeded grass.

Re: Tree Pushing on Foundation & Overgrowth

Thanks guys. I wish I could post pics. I'll see if I can get my thread count higher so I can. Here are a few more facts:

We're located in Northwest Indiana, about 45 minutes outside Chicago. The wall that's being pushed in, has horizontal cracks in the mortar and you can see the wall bowing in, slightly. There are a few small vertical cracks in the bricks too. (Again, wish I could post pics)

YES we have a TON of squirrels because of all the acorns from the dozen or so oak trees. The tree in particular is nearly 100 feet tall and the canopy does in fact cover the front of the house.

The septic is behind the house so it's not that.

In our old house ('56 ranch on a slab) we had a problem with the tree roots getting into the clay pipes. About every two years we had to have the main drain to the street cleaned out. Nothin' like flushing the toilet and having it back up into your laundry room.

Thanks again guys for your suggestions. I love ****** forums... everyone is always willing to help and offer the best advice!!

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