Surveying PropertyDealing With Tree Roots Near Buildings
There’s a lot of concern about trees growing close to buildings. So what, if anything, needs to be done?
The advice from RICS is that a tree has to be very close to the structure for damage to occur. So the potential for damage is not often due to direct physical pressure exerted by roots.
Most damage is ‘secondary’, usually linked to types of soil like clay which are prone to shrinkage during long, dry spells in the weather. Because tree roots ‘drink’ water from the soil it can have the effect of accelerating the drying, causing the ground to shrink away from below foundations, potentially leading to subsidence. Or by seeking out moisture in underground grains they can cause hidden leaks that turn the ground marshy, which over time can also rob foundations of support.
But it’s important to note that in most cases trees located close to buildings will not directly cause damage.
The links below provide guidance on sensible tree planting distances (mainly related to trees growing on shrinkable clay subsoils). Planting distances on other soil types are likely to be less rigorous. But bear in mind that some experts argue that these distance tables are too conservative.
Further information about the possible effect of tree roots
- Tree distance tables
- Which? The law and trees (PDF download)
- Your rights on trees and overhanging branches
- Royal Horticultural Society advice on trees near buildings