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  • Writer's pictureINSPECTION PROS

The Root of the Problem: Interference with Foundations and Infrastructure

One of the most pressing issues associated with big trees is the damage caused by expansive root systems.

Tree roots grow both in search of nutrients and to stabilize the tree. In their quest for water and essential minerals, roots can extend far beyond the canopy's drip line, potentially interfering with buildings' foundations, pavements, and underground utilities.

The Root of the Problem: Interference with Foundations and Infrastructure
This can cause cracking, lifting, or subsidence of pavements and building foundations.

Foundations and Pavements

The interference with foundations and pavements primarily occurs when tree roots grow underneath them, leading to uneven ground pressure. This can cause cracking, lifting, or subsidence of pavements and building foundations. Such damage not only compromises the structural integrity of affected buildings but also poses safety risks to inhabitants and pedestrians.

Underground Utilities

Similarly, tree roots can encroach upon underground utilities, including water pipes, sewer lines, and cables. The roots may wrap around or infiltrate these structures, leading to blockages, breaks, and leaks. Repairing such damage is often costly and requires excavation, leading to further disruption and potential harm to the tree.

The Stormy Side: Damage During Severe Weather

Big trees are particularly susceptible to causing damage during storms, hurricanes, and other severe weather events. The primary concern here is the potential for branches or entire trees to fall on buildings, vehicles, and power lines, posing significant risks to property and human safety.

Branches and Trunks

During high winds and storms, the weight of a tree's canopy can lead to the failure of branches or even the trunk itself. Large falling branches can damage roofs, windows, and vehicles, while a falling tree can cause extensive damage to structures and, tragically, result in injuries or fatalities.

 Overhanging branches can prevent sunlight from reaching the roof and walls, slowing the evaporation of moisture and potentially leading to mold and mildew growth.
Trees close to your home can lead to excessive moisture retention in and around your property.

Root Stability and Soil Saturation

The stability of a tree during storms is also influenced by its root system and the surrounding soil conditions. Saturated soils, resulting from heavy rains, can significantly reduce the soil's ability to hold roots, increasing the likelihood of trees being uprooted. Trees with shallow root systems are particularly vulnerable in such conditions.

Species Considerations: The Case of the Silver Maple

The Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) serves as a prime example of a tree species with an aggressive root system that requires careful consideration regarding placement. Known for its rapid growth and expansive roots, the Silver Maple can quickly become a liability near homes and infrastructure. Its roots are notorious for causing damage to pavements and infiltrating sewer lines, while its brittle wood is prone to breaking during storms.

Mitigating Risks Through Careful Planning and Maintenance

Addressing the potential for property damage from big trees involves a multifaceted approach, emphasizing careful planning, selection, and ongoing maintenance.

Selection and Placement

The selection of tree species and their placement relative to structures and utilities is paramount. Choosing species with less aggressive root systems and those known to withstand severe weather can mitigate risks significantly. Additionally, trees should be planted at a safe distance from buildings, pavements, and underground utilities to minimize the potential for root interference and physical damage.

Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance, including pruning and health assessments, can help prevent damage during storms. Properly pruned trees are less likely to have large, failing branches, and early detection of diseases or structural weaknesses can inform the need for intervention or removal.

Collaboration with Experts

Homeowners and urban planners should collaborate with arborists and urban foresters when selecting, planting, and managing big trees. These experts can provide valuable insights into species behavior, ideal placement, and care practices to minimize risks and enhance the benefits that trees offer to urban environments.


While big trees can pose significant risks to property through their root systems and during severe weather, these concerns can be effectively managed through informed selection, careful placement, and regular maintenance. The benefits of large trees in urban and suburban landscapes are undeniable, offering environmental, aesthetic, and social advantages. By addressing the challenges they present, communities can continue to enjoy these benefits while minimizing the potential for property damage. Collaborative efforts involving homeowners, urban planners, and tree care professionals are essential in achieving a harmonious balance between nature's giants and the built environment.

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