Can tree roots penetrate foundations?

Hi all,

I’m working on an article that will detail the ways that trees can damage houses, and it seems that foundations can be damaged by a tree’s roots. I’ve seen different descriptions of how this happens, however. Almost everything I read on Google says that roots cannot penetrate foundations and that roots merely sap water away from around foundations, causing them to sink (still bad). Some of these websites are kind of unreliable, though. On the other hand, a few inspectors have told me that roots can and do penetrate foundations, and this is mainly how they cause damage (not by sapping water).


Uplift can be an issue as shown in Gerry’s post.

If they find a crack, they can penetrate. Also they can put excessive pressure against the foundation.

Is a bear Catholic?

Only if it craps in the woods

I remember seeing a TV show about a guy in California with a home with all kinds of problems structurally due to the growth of some particularly invasive root system from a tree. They quite literally could not kill it. So yeah.

Thanks Mike, you took the post right out of my mouth :mrgreen:

That is without doubt the largest displacement by a tree I have ever seen.

BTW Rob, if you want high res of the images let me know



A large tree root system would have no problem wreaking havoc on a foundation wall…

I seem to remember seeing that show also, probably on HGTV. Liquid Amber Tree…

“John Bubber” can probably supply many photographs of cracks caused by tree roots. I’ve seen some posted by him under another nickname on another forum. They sure can crack a foundation wall, and they don’t need a head start crack to do so.

I know exactly what your talking about and seen the same root invasion on a home in Sacramento. The couple in that show may have dumped or demolished the house if I remember right. As for the home in Sacramento I referred them to an arborist and structural engineer.

There are many trees here in San Diego that can, and do, wreak havoc on foundations, concrete or otherwise. The main culprit is *Liquidamber *(not liquid amber)styraciflua, common name “sweetgum.” The reason why it is the major culprit here is because in the fall its leaves turn beautiful shads of purple, yellow, red, etc. So everyone wants them in their yards without understand that the sweetgum should never be planted anywhere other than the river lowlands.

The other two problematic species here are the ficus and eucalyptus trees.

Liquid Amber for sure…Ficus and Eucalyptus come in at a close 2nd

Only if he drinks a beer while playing Bingo.

Hello, Russel. :wink:

We had an old brick two flat in Chicago and root damage repairs were about $10,000 - back in the late 70’s. Old maple or oak, I forget. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear they can grow through bank vault doors. :mrgreen:

I also saw that house on HGTV and the liquid amber tree. The amazing thing is the tree was 85 feet away and had been taken down a couple years earlier. It was the root system and all the suckers that kept coming up. Last I heard they had to jack the house up, scrape the whole yard down something like 3 feet, pour a new foundation and reset the house. And then there was the pool repairs also. $650k in repairs.

Roots…yet another reason for exterior waterproofing,uh huh…got milk?

Does any interior water-diverting system remove roots off the outside of
a basement wall? ](*,)
Here`s a root that caused cracks which then allowed water to enter basement.Why is OK w/some to leave roots,expansive soil
against the outside of a wall and install an inside system? #-o
Leave the ‘cause’ of a crack/bowed wall against the wall,really?

Remove the root,the cause and then waterproof the cracks,not damproofing.And backfill w/most-all gravel

Other cracks right around the corner
Here is one pic of the INSIDE CORNER, you dont see the cracks that are on the outside of the blocks,only crack ya see at corner on inside is a STEP crack. Just because you may NOT see cracks on the inside of block wall.......crawls.....does not at all mean there arent crack(s) on the outside…or cracked/deteriorated parging which is all it takes for water to enter. And quite a few block basement walls and most crawls were not even parged on the outside,sheesh.There will be open JOINTS between the blocks on the outside. These facts amd quite a few others the Haege`s of the world do not get and apparently NEVER will! ](,)](,)](*,)

Roots under driveways can cause cracks-in-parging

No parging on outside of block wall ](*,)

I just made some research calls and it seems like this is true. They need a crack. So that’s what I’m going with, unless someone can prove otherwise!

To say that a tree root can’t damage a foundation wall unless it has an existing crack is inaccurate. There are very few materials that can shield against root damage. One being thick, solid steel…

Not saying you’re wrong, but can you show me some evidence? Such as verification from a very reliable source?