Will pine tree roots damage a foundation?

Written by jeanne young
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Will pine tree roots damage a foundation?
Pine trees are often used as foundation plantings. (Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Many homeowners use pine trees as an ornamental feature in landscaping around their home. A member of the genus Pinus, there are more than 100 species of pine trees known worldwide and they are easy to grow in the UK. Some people hesitate to use pine trees because they worry that the roots of a pine planted near a house might cause damage to the foundation.

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Background Information

Pines planted in yards offer a variety of colours ranging from blue to dark green. In addition, they come in different sizes, shapes and needle structures, and even the texture of needles in different species varies from fine to coarse. However, when planting pine trees near a house, remember to take into consideration the mature size of the tree, its height and width in order to avoid planting the tree too close to the foundation to allow for healthy growth.

Foundation Fears

Although people often worry that the roots of a pine tree might cause the foundation of a house to crack, that is generally an unfounded concern because pine tree roots tend to grow down rather than spread out. In addition, North Dakota State University horticulturist Ron Smith says that the root system of an evergreen will not grow into a foundation unless the foundation already has cracks and leaks, because the roots tend to grow where there is a balance of water and air. In fact, among the trees he recommends for use in landscaping near a home are pines such as Black Hills spruce, Scotch pine and the Swiss stone pine.

Selecting Pines

Choosing the right pine tree for a foundation planting involves more than just considering the shape of the tree or the colour of the needles. Give consideration also to the mature height and spread of the evergreen and to how long the pine tree takes to reach that height. Make sure there is enough room for the tree branches to spread, but also make sure the roots have enough room to grow without being confined to a small area by the foundation walls of the house or by a sidewalk, which would cause the roots to stop growing and lead to the eventual death of the tree.

Water Needs

Because pine tree roots -- like the roots of all plants -- always need a balance of water and air to grow, it is never a good idea to plant them too close to a foundation. That is because the first few feet of soil near a foundation are usually kept fairly dry by the overhang on the roof. Many homeowners work with the situation of dry soil there and do not plant anything within a few feet of the house. They can establish a natural root-free zone near the foundation by not watering or fertilising that area, according to Michigan State University Extension.

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