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How to stop tree roots from damaging driveway or house foundation

Tree roots lifting concrete slab

Well cared for trees are one of the easiest ways to add curb appeal to your beautiful property. But if you don’t make the proper considerations, tree roots can be incredibly damaging to structures on your property (like your walls, sidewalk, driveway, or house foundation). In this brief article we answer the common question, “How to stop tree roots from damaging driveway or house foundation?”

Very common example of a tree lifting a sidewalk slab

Here are some ways you can prevent root damage:

Correct Planting Distance

This is the most obvious preventative measure to prevent tree roots from damaging your property, but somehow it’s a consideration many homeowners fail to keep in mind when planting trees. You want to plant trees at a safe distance from your driveway or house foundation. A general rule is to plant a tree at least as far away from a structure as its expected mature height. This rule is obviously not ideal if you’re living in a urban or suburban area, like Albuquerque or Santa Fe, because your property likely isn’t large enough.

Root Barriers

Next, installing root barriers can help guide root growth away from your driveway or house foundation. These barriers are usually made from plastic or fabric and are buried between the tree and the structure. The idea is to install root barriers at the same time you plant your trees. The root barriers then redirect roots from wandering underneath your driveway or property walls. Home Depot or Lowe’s sells root barriers for reasonable prices.

Regular Inspections

Regularly inspect your trees and their root growth. If you notice any signs of potential damage, contact a professional arborist for guidance. The tricky thing about tree root damage is that happens extremely slowly over many years (sometimes decades). A tree may live innocently next to your driveway for many years without seeming to cause problems. Pressure on your driveway concrete slab will increase slowly over time until one morning you walk out of your house and see something like this:

Pruning Roots

In some extreme cases, it may be necessary to prune the roots of the tree. This should be done carefully to avoid harming the tree and only after consultation with a professional arborist. Pruning roots is a very risky endeavor. If you cut a major root you may partially or completely kill a tree. Root pruning is only recommended in rare circumstances.

Proper Irrigation

The next consideration is irrigation. Over-watering can encourage roots to grow towards your house foundation. Maintain a balanced watering schedule to promote healthy, downward root growth.

Deep root watering

Similar to the last consideration, deep root watering is a method of irrigation that tries to encourage roots to grow deeper, rather than horizontally. If you’re watering the surface around your trees you may find that grass and other shallow plants are sucking up most of your water. Deep root watering is one of the most effective preventative strategies for protecting your sidewalk, driveway, and house foundation.

The process of deep root watering is simple:

  1. Buy a deep root watering wand (you can find them at local home-supply stores or Amazon)
  2. Second, stab the watering wand into the ground 5-8 feet away from the trunk of the tree. The wand should penetrate the ground at least 24 inches, but deeper is better.
  3. Next, plug your hose into the watering wand and turn it on a trickle. Let the water soak underground for 30 minutes.
  4. Then move the watering wand to another area of the yard and repeat the process.

Soil Maintenance

Keep the soil around your trees healthy. Compacted or poor-quality soil can lead to surface root growth, which can damage driveways and foundations.

Seek Professional Help to Prevent Root Damage

If a tree is already causing damage, or is likely to in the future, consider removing and replacing it with a more suitable species. If you’re unsure about a tree’s impact on your property, contact us! We will provide advice and services to manage tree roots and protect your property. We will guide you to stop tree roots from damaging driveway or other structures on your beautiful property!

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