Sometimes when old houses and old trees come together, issues like that of the 300-year-old oak tree and the house foundation arise. Tree roots themselves are not the cause of cracks in house foundations. Foundation cracks occur due to changes in the surrounding soil which cause settling and shifting. Poor backfill or poorly managed stormwater cause settling and cracking – not tree roots. Tree roots are simply opportunistic and will take advantage of pre-existing cracks in the foundation in search of water, oxygen and nutrients.

The good news:  

This competition for space can be managed and trees next to houses do not have to be cut down in order to preserve or repair house foundations!

Arborists have solutions for trees and people:

  • Arborists are able to move soil with compressed air in order to access the root system of the tree. Then they can make precision pruning cuts to separate roots from the foundation and redirect root growth.
  • Arborists can install tree root barriers in front of foundation walls to ensure developing roots will not occupy existing cracks in the foundation.
  • Arborists can establish optimal soil conditions away from the foundation, giving roots the growing space they need, and encouraging roots in the right direction.

There are cases when trees in our city need to be removed. Lets just make careful choices in considering all options before breaking out the chainsaw. Trees help people. Sometimes people need to help trees.


Tait Sala, Arborist
Cohen & Master Tree and Shrub Services Ltd.