Having a yard or garden with a variety of trees has many advantages. Trees provide shade, improve curb appeal, act as windbreakers, attract birds and play other important roles near homes. However, trees, especially mature trees, can also threaten houses, and nearby structures like sheds, people, cars, and other things.
A tree near a house may or may not cause problems depending on the species and how it is positioned. You should avoid planting trees with invasive roots close to a house. Also, know when and how to trim and prune such trees to avoid roof damage and other problems.
Trees with invasive root systems have been known to tear house foundations, cause cracks in nearby walls, and cause unwanted damage to nearby structures. Tall trees with large limbs also threaten nearby houses continuously, especially in areas with rough weather seasons.
However, not all trees pose these threats, and there are ways around this problem, like regular trimming and pruning. Seek advice from a trained tree expert or your landscaper before you do anything to a tree that seems like a threat to your house.
Why Is It Unwise to Plant Trees Too Close to A House?
There are many reasons why you should be mindful of the positioning of yard or garden trees in your house, garage, or other permanent structures. Most mature trees pose some danger if they grow too close to a house.
Here are some of the reasons why it is unwise to plant trees too close to a house:
Possible Foundation damage
Not all trees growing near a house cause damage to foundations or walls next to them. Most root systems tend to grow towards moisture and will, therefore, hardly cause problems to your house since there isn’t much moisture below the foundation or near walls. This forces them to grow away from the foundation in most cases.
You should be wary about trees with invasive root systems known to cause damage to nearby foundations, walls, drainage pipes, and pretty much any solid object on their way. Trees with potentially problematic root systems include willows, hybrid poplars, silver maples, white mulberry, and elm trees.
Damage caused by shifting soil moisture levels
Trees use their roots to absorb and sometimes shift moisture levels around the root system. If the tree is standing a few inches from a wall or foundation, shifts in moisture levels can sometimes weaken concrete, wood, or other materials in contact with wet or compacted soil.
You may notice that the soil around the base of most trees is usually different in terms of texture, moisture levels, and formation. Ideally, it is not great to interfere with a tree’s root system, so it’s best to ensure enough space between your walls and the tree‘s base.
Leaf, Flower, and fruit build-up
Tall trees that shed their leaves and flowers yearly or regularly will cause unwanted debris to build up on your roof and clog the gutters. This might force you to get someone to clean up your roof and de-clog the gutters more regularly than you should.
It’s not entirely bad to have an overhanging tree near your house. Such trees provide shade and cool your house, reducing your AC bills. However, you should at least ensure that the branches over the roof are trimmed or pruned at the right time. This will reduce the debris you must clear out after every fall or shedding season.
Risk of damage from damaged branches
One thing you need to worry about when you have a tall overhanging tree near your house is damage from dry, or healthy branches that lean over your roof over time. Such trees are especially dangerous in places where there is frequent rough weather as they become dangerous projectiles. Some branches also rub against walls and roofs in the wind causing damage.
Regular trimming or pruning can prevent damage from branches or limbs over your roof. Sometimes you may have no other option but to have the branches cut off or the entire tree removed or transplanted. Have a professional assess your tree before you take any drastic action.
Blocking direct sunlight and light
Having trees near your house is not entirely bad as they serve many purposes. For instance, cooling from shade trees near houses usually cuts electrical AC costs for homeowners. However, a tree that is near your house can also block direct sunlight or natural light where it is needed.
How Close to The House Can A Tree Be?
On average, trees that grow tall and hang above your house should be at least 6 meters away. Short trees and shrubs can be 3 meters away from the house unless they have invasive roots that tear up concrete.
Experts recommend maintaining a distance from a house that caters to the crown spread and length of its root system. Some trees have roots that can spread to a distance that is double their crown spread while others have deep roots. Plan when you are positioning your garden trees or your new house in case there are mature trees nearby.
Can Trees Affect House foundations?
Some trees can affect the foundation of your house but most pose no danger at all. Trees with invasive or above-ground roots that travel wide and penetrate compacted soil have been known to cause cracking on house foundations especially where there is an existing problem such as a concrete setting or broken and leaking sewer lines.
In most cases, however, trees can only affect the foundation if conditions are inviting. For instance, loose backfill soil, cracks on concrete and leaking pipes usually invite invasive roots that can worsen damage or compromise the foundation. Have a certified arborist look at the roots if you have concerns about foundation damage before you do anything.
Tip: Not sure where to find a certified arborist? Our free tree service location tool makes it easier to find reliable tree experts such as arborists and tree surgeons in your location. To use it, just scroll to the top of this page and enter your zip code in the search box.
Can Removing A Tree Cause Foundation Problems?
Sometimes removing a tree that was too close to a house foundation can weaken the surrounding soil and cause problems immediately or in the future. If the tree was sitting a few inches from a foundation, removal of the stump must be done carefully to avoid interfering with the soil around the foundation.
In some instances, leftover roots after tree removal can also decay, rot and create large air pockets around the foundation which might cause it to shift. This can be especially bad if the roots had compromised the foundation when the tree was standing.
What trees should not be planted close to a house?
The worst trees to plant near houses are those with above-ground or invasive roots, large fruits that can destroy roofs or windows, and those that shed leaves all year round.
Some of the most common trees that should not be planted close to a house include:
|Tree-not to be planted near a house||Risk/reason|
|Poplars||Aggressive roots- can damage foundations, underground drainage and sewer lines.|
|Silver maples||Invasive above-ground roots that can destroy pavement and foundations|
|Willow Trees||Invasive roots can destroy water pipes, sewer lines, and foundations|
|Tall fruit trees- some avocado, pawpaw, mango, and Apple varieties||Large fruits can destroy roofs in rough weather|
|Cottonwood||Weak roots can be unstable in rough weather|
|Bradford pear||Weak branches that can break in rough weather and nasty smelling flowers|
|Mulberries||Attracts insects and pests that can get into your house.|
|Eucalyptus||Fast-growing- can be several meters tall and generally unsafe near houses especially in bad weather.|
What trees should be planted close to a house?
While the recommended safe distance should be observed when positioning a tree or house relative to each other, some trees are generally safe and can be planted near houses. Most of these trees are short, do not shed their leaves, and don’t have invasive root structures. Some of them include:
Shade trees such as Trident Maple, Chinese Pistache, and Amur Maple. These shade trees have non-invasive roots and are safe to plant near houses.
Ornamental trees such as Crape Myrtle, Corus Mas, Star Magnolia, Red Jewel, etc. These ornamental trees do not have invasive roots and are usually quite short even at a mature age. They can be planted a few feet from a house
Shrubs such as Viburnums, Gardenia, Boxwoods, and Camellias are also safe because they don’t have invasive roots, they are short, and don’t shed leaves that often.
Fruit trees such as Pawpaw, Dwarf Palm Tree, Dwarf Cherries, Citrus Trees, and Dwarf pears- These fruit trees are safe to plant near houses because they don’t have invasive roots and are generally quite short. However, some pawpaw varieties can grow quite tall and have large fruits that can destroy roofs when they fall.
Maximum Height for Trees Near Houses
There is no standard height limit for trees near houses. However, for safety purposes, it is generally recommended to have trees that are at the same height or shorter than your house. Trees further away can be tall but need to be monitored and regularly trimmed especially before cyclone season.
Should I cut down a tree close to my house?
There is no reason to cut down a tree near your house unless it is posing some danger to you or the house. Before you cut it down, it’s best to have a professional arborist have a look at it and advise you accordingly.
Only cut down a tree near your house if:
- It has invasive roots that are destroying your foundation
- The tree has above-ground aggressive roots
- The tree is leaning or rotting
- The tree is shedding leaves and clogging your gutters all year round
- The tree has large destructive fruits- pruning branches on the roof side could be a solution too.
- The tree has rotten or compromised roots or stem
- The tree is dead
- The tree is a nuisance- e.g. blocks direct sunlight, and has foul-smelling fruits, or flowers such as the Callery Pear.
How do I get rid of a tree near my house?
Talk to a professional before removing trees near your house. Trees near houses can cause damage if felled incorrectly. You also need to have a trained expert remove the stump so that you can avoid damaging underground pipes and your foundation in the process.
Some of the messiest trees you should not have anywhere near your house include magnolia, red oak, Sweetgum trees, Pecan, and Callery pear. Most of these trees either shed their leaves frequently, have foul-smelling flowers, or tend to attract pests.
You can buy a house with a big tree and use it as a shade tree if it poses no danger to the house or you. Trees also improve rub appeal and have many other benefits. You can also purchase the house and trim or remove the tree if it is posing danger or is a nuisance to you or your neighbor.
Be mindful of your neighbours when planting trees in your yard especially if you share a boundary or hedge. Some Australian cities and towns have laws that specifically prohibit planting large trees on the boundary or near your neighbour’s house. Also, remember that you will be liable for any future damage to your neighbour’s house where the tree is involved.