Most people love having trees on their property and even close to their home. Many are stately, majestic, and add great curb appeal in addition to providing some much desired shade.
Like most things, though, trees come with many pros as well as cons. As a home inspector, I’m obviously more concerned about potential cons than pros, so I’d like to review some of the most common problems associated with trees so you can manage the trees on your own property as effectively as possible.
Large trees have large root systems, which demand a great deal of water and take up quite a bit of space underground. Large roots can suck up moisture from soil, creating an imbalance that can lead to shrinkage at your home’s foundation. Often times when trees next to homes are cut down, voids are created where their roots used to exist, and this can lead to some deflection at the foundation and subsequent cracks in mortar joints. It’s hard to believe, but your home’s foundation and the surrounding foliage actually work hand-in-hand to some degree. When roots make contact with a foundation wall they typically move along the wall rather than through it, but occasionally they can become invasive in more extreme and rare circumstances. Of course, this is very noticeable, and intrusive limbs will alert you to contact a professional immediately. These issues are often not overly concerning in most cases, unless root intrusion has actually occurred.
We often encounter tree limbs overhanging roofs or very close to the roof surface. As a general rule, we like to see limbs not directly overhanging the roof surface and kept at least 10 feet away. It goes without saying, but this guideline exists to help prevent possible damage from limbs that may fall. Beyond the obvious, though, leaves and twigs from close limbs often fall off and cover the roof surface or clog gutters which can lead to inadequate drainage or even potential leaking over time as debris gets wedged beneath shingle tabs providing an entry point for water. Close limbs also provide an easy pathway to your home for pests, such as wood-destroying insects, making keeping limbs away all the more important.
Since many trees occur naturally, it’s not uncommon for intrusive limbs on your property to be part of a tree that exists on a neighbor’s property. This obviously complicates matters, but coming to a mutual understanding isn’t always an impossible task. If you find yourself in a difficult situation, it’s always advisable to research your local regulations and consult a relevant person with authority in your jurisdiction.
So, here’s the quick run-down for properly maintaining trees close to your home… 1) Keep limbs trimmed back so that none are directly overhanging the roof or within 10 feet of the roof surface, 2) Water around large trees often to prevent their roots from absorbing enough water in the soil to create an imbalance, 3) Continually monitor your foundation walls that are adjacent to large trees to ensure no root intrusion is occurring, 4) Keep your gutters cleaned, or install gutter guards to help prevent accumulation of vegetation debris, 5) IF any trees are posing a clear threat, consider having them removed altogether. It may be hard to see that beautiful, old tree go, but keeping it isn’t likely worth the risk it poses.
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