Thanks to you and your crew, they were very polite and knowledgeable. ” - Rebecca F

What is destroying your pipes or sidewalk? Could be your tree’s roots.

Is your sidewalk or driveway cracking? Perhaps you’ve started having some plumbing problems that you can’t explain. If you have a large established tree in your landscape that is situated close to your home or hardscape, aggressive tree roots could be the source of your problems.

Established trees have as much, if not more, going on beneath the soil as they do above. A tree’s root system can extend two to three times beyond the width of its canopy. While the smaller, fine feeder roots reside in the top 18” of the soil, and are generally not the source of problems, some species send out more aggressive deep feeder roots looking for water. These aggressive roots can crack pipes and cause damage to your home’s foundation. A tree’s larger structural support roots can easily crack nearby a driveway, sidewalk or a foundation if it’s too close to your home.

Be sure to plant new trees at least 10’-20’ from foundation lines, main water lines and sewer lines. The same goes for driveways and sidewalks. Keeping trees properly watered can also help to minimize overly aggressive water-seeking roots. Choosing the right size of tree for your given space is also key to a successful planting.

The type of tree you choose will also be important to keeping your home safe from aggressive roots. Whether you are planting in a residential or commercial setting, the right tree in the right place can make the difference between a long-lived, healthy and robust tree, or a tree that is susceptible to pests and disease.


This tree was not the right plant for this narrow easement. Right plant, right place solves a lot of future landscape problems!

Trees commonly associated with invasive roots are moisture-loving trees; they have large root systems that are constantly in search of water. When their roots are not properly watered, they grow shallow, trying to find moisture where they can get it. The shallow roots are the cause of uprooted sidewalks and can make lawn maintenance difficult.

Ash Tree (Fraxus americana) Ash trees are very well suited to many soil types, but their aggressive roots often overcome pipes, sidewalks and landscapes.

Willow Tree (Salix sp.) These water-guzzling trees uproot sidewalks and invade sewer lines and drain pipes.

American Elm (Ulmus americana) Elms can often take over sewer lines and drain pipes in search of water.

Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) This fast growing, but weak maple, has a very shallow root systems that often becomes exposed above the soil line. They will often invade foundations, driveways and sidewalks so take care if you are planting this tree.

Invasive roots can be costly over the years. Best to choose your trees wisely to avoid damage to your property. For help with tree selection, here are our Five Favorite Shade Trees. Tag us on Twitter and Facebook with #deeproots to ask questions.

Entry Info

Categories: Trees, Conservation
Tags: Conservation, Preservation, Trees, Urban Trees
Posted: February 16, 2015