6 posts / 0 new
Last post

My husband and I purchased our first home three weeks ago and have high hopes of finishing the basement. However, the previous owner planted small trees on the two front corners of the house about 3 ft from the foundation. They are approximately 6 ft in height and I am not sure the types. They are very attractive but I am afraid they are too close and might damage my foundation. What do you think I should do with these trees?

A. Spruce
Re: Trees

The root ball on most trees is about the same diameter as their canopy. If you can determine what the trees are, then you'll be able to gauge what the roots are going to do. There are some trees, such as a mulberry that can extend large roots beyond their canopy that can split foundations and cause all kinds of other problems.

I personally don't think that a dwarf/small tree should be any closer than 10' to a structure, larger trees should be at least 15' to 20' away. This allows mature trees to grow without impinging on the house and root systems should not be of concern. Another common problem is planting trees over sewer, water, or power lines. It's never a good idea to plant a tree where it can interfere with municipal systems or overhead power lines.

Re: Trees

First thing is to find out what kind of tree it is. A good picture of the tree and leaves should allow any good nurseryman to tell you.
Second, 3 feet from the building is probaly too close for even most dwarf trees. The canopy will eventually be into the house.
I'm guessing the previous owner put them there for curb appeal when selling the house.
A small tree like that should be fairly easy to move in the early spring.

Timothy Miller
Re: Trees

Howdy consider a consoltation with an arborist to determine if you cna benifit from relocating the trees further from the home.. Or after you have a locator check to ensure no burried utilities grab a shovel and relocate them further away from the house or do nothing an when they become a problem address them for more $$$$

Re: Trees

We took out a cottonwood last February that sent out a root estimated at least 60 feet, that went under the foundation 8 feet down, lifted up a floor slab in the basement and exited out the other side of the house in two points. This 16" tree was about 30 feet from the house. I think your first priority is finding out what kind of tree they are, secondly how close to sewer and water sources they might be.
That said, the arborists we consulted about an herbicidal root barrier found a product used in urban environments to protect structures such as sidewalks, curbs, underground water and sewer piping. It is something like landscaping fabric, 24" to 36" wide, with a growth inhibiting hormone incorporated in it. You could trench down along your footings, being careful not to undercut them and hang a length along the wall of the excavation low enough to intersect the zone where roots might invade. Any root that grows in that direction will encounter the hormone and simply stop growing.

Timothy Miller
Re: Trees

Thanks for the fabric root barrier information i will use it.

TV Listings

Find TV listings for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.