Locating And Preventing Invasive Tree Root Problems

Does your tree appear healthy, but the roots are causing havoc in your landscape or to your home? Learn about the common problems that occur when tree roots invade, and find out what you can do to solve the issue.

Spotting Trouble

Not all tree root trouble is easily visible, since it occurs underground. It's up to you to monitor for the signs of some of these common issues so you can catch them before it's too late.

  • Cracked sidewalks or driveways. This kind of damage usually begins with a heave. The sidewalk's slabs begin to lift as the roots grow larger or come to the soil surface beneath. If you wait too long to address the problem, the pavement cracks.

  • Plumbing and pipes. Roots in sewer and plumbing pipes are a common complaint. Pipes naturally develop a few cracks as they age, usually along the joints. Tree roots, seeking out moisture, find their way in and grow quickly. This results in clogged, backed up pipes. Earlier signs of a problem are slow drains.

  • Building foundations. The good news is that roots aren't generally capable of damaging a foundation on their own. The bad news is that they can work their way in and widen already existing cracks in the foundation. Inspect your foundation annually, and have any cracks repaired if there are trees planted nearby.

  • Ground heaving. The final issue with roots is more about aesthetics. Tree roots can cause the ground to heave, making it lumpy and bumpy. This can ruin your level lawn and make it difficult to mow.

Solving the Root Issue

Fortunately, there are several options when it comes to solving root problems. These first two solutions must be implemented at planting. First, plant trees 10 to 15 feet away from sidewalks, drives, and buildings when possible. Second, install a root barrier between the tree and any area where you don't want the roots to travel toward.

If you already have root problems, your options are more limited. For drains, you can have them mechanically or chemically routed and cleared at regular intervals. Making sure you water the trees deeply every seven to 10 days can help keep roots from rising to the soil surface.

If the roots continue to lift the ground or cause damage, your only solution may be to remove the tree. If you select this option, opt for professional tree removal. A pro arborist will make sure the tree comes down safely and that the roots are dead. You can then remove the stump. It's even possible to plant a new tree near the site – one with properly contained roots.