Foundation Repair and Tree Roots

Side walk section moved by tree roots and heavy clay soilIt doesn’t take a genius to see that tree roots can do bad things to sidewalks. Like turn a section of one into a skateboard ramp.

These are photos of oak tree vs. sidewalks in my neighborhood.

In some cases, the tree roots are winning. In other stretches of the sidewalks you can see slumping as the soil underneath erodes or settles.

The question is can tree roots do damage like this to the concrete slab foundation of your house? There seems to be a debate.
Side walk damage from tree roots
The websites of many foundation repair companies list trees being too close to foundations as a possible source of damage.

They often recommend a “root shield” solution where you (or they) install root barriers or root caps all around the slab to keep tree roots from getting under the house foundation.

Can tree roots really lift a foundation with the weight of the house and all the stuff in it? Just wondering.

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    • Rochelle Hill
    • June 8, 2008

    A tree branch has come through the basement floor underneath the porch. HOw can I destroy this tree from doing further damage. Can I drill a hole in the middle and put salt in it? Will this kill it. I need your help! Right now it looks like a miniture tree trunk, oval in shape about the size of a canaloupe and it has sap running out of it. in the same area a horizontal crack is running about in the middle of the wall. Could this branch be causing this?

  1. It would be better to cut the branch at some point outside of the basement to stop it from coming in any further. As it dies you can speed up the decay by drilling holes and filling them with an organic fertilizer. If the budget allows I would have a tree company come over and take a look. Whether or not the branch is causing the crack, it needs to go.

    • reece
    • November 30, 2008

    Hi there, I read this post titled “Do tree roots cause foundation damage?” about a week ago, might have been last Sunday, and thought it was a good point. I’ve been trying for the last few days to find your site again but ended up finding it in Google using the keywords “floor restoration.”. Anyway, I’ve forgotten what I wanted to post last week but I will be returning regularly. Bookmarked the page.

    • Maria G. Bownes
    • June 2, 2009

    Hello, one of my two huge trees in fron of my house has some roots above ground and are going direct to my “split level” home. Will this root damage my first floor (half basement) walls? and If they do, would it be possible that my home owners insurance coverage the repair? Somebody told me that the insurance paid for some of the costs to fix the tree.
    Thank you very much

  2. As long as your basement wall is dry and in good shape I think it would be unlikely for a root to damage it. Tree roots are looking for water. I also think tree roots going up against a basement wall is very different issue than growing under a slab foundation. Opinions may vary, and remember I’m no expert, just a home owner like you.

    The insurance question is one for your agent. He/she gets a commission for your policy and this sounds like a time to make him do a little work for it. Get him on the phone and ask for an answer about covering damage from trees.

    Thanks and good luck!

  3. Condo guidelines for uprooting pf patio foundation leading to inside of house resulting from an oak tree 20 feet away. I am send DVD of the damage to each insurance company toput them on guard for a possible problem.

    • Rosemarie Rhodes
    • February 15, 2010

    My neighbor has a Blue Point Juniper that is at least 2 storys tall growing approximately 4 feet away from my property line. I am getting cracks in my concrete foundation. Could it possibly be the Juniper Tree? And is there a law for growing trees too close to your neigbors property line. I would appreciate any information you can give me. Thank you

  4. It’s possible, but there could be other reasons for a cracking foundation. If you live in an area with heavy clay soils, be sure to keep even moisture around the slab with soaker hoses. Regarding laws about neighbor’s trees being to close to your property line, you would need to check the codes where you live. A tree just being there is one thing. Causing actual harm to your property is another. You might consider having a local structural engineer with foundation experience check out the situation for you.

    • Jockie1
    • November 27, 2010


    I have a very old Male Spanish lime tree that has caused my hse to move and the preious owners had already raised the interior floor by 2 inches and the front porch is colapsing. I have to approach the tree commission in my city (FL) and they will want me to save the tree at the expense of my hse. I want to remodle but live in a historic property and the tree need to come down. Do you know what my rights are and is there any case law to assist me with my argument with the tree comission.

    Thank you

  5. Hi Glenn,
    I’m just a home owner, not a lawyer, so I don’t know off hand any case law that might help you. You might contact a real estate agent in your area or maybe a home inspector for advice. Then try a local lawyer. I think these types of historic property zoning rules vary by city, so your best bet is someone local to advise you.
    Thanks for stopping by the blog!

    • Steven Humphrey
    • January 18, 2011

    Digger hope you can help
    I have a Water Oak in my front yard its a great tree lots of shade. I have roots on top of the yard heading for the slab.
    I use soaker hose around my slab ( live close to Houston TX ) My question is could if I water the roots deeper or in a defferant direction will the roots grow away from my slab.
    thanks for your time
    Steve H

  6. Steve,
    I don’t think you can train tree roots to grow in a specific direction. Watering deep won’t help because the feeder roots are pretty close to the surface of your yard.
    Also keep in mind that tree roots grow out from the trunk the same distance as the branches or “drip line.” If the branches of your Water Oak haven’t made it to the house you should be OK. (One of my trees is only 10 feet from the slab.)
    Otherwise you might consider root barriers.
    Best Regards,

    • Vivek Thapar
    • January 3, 2014

    Thanks for shearing information about Basement Foundation Repair Kansas City

  7. Thanks for stopping by the site,

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