Submitted by Roland Bates, President, National Property Inspections/Global Property Inspections
Trees are not necessarily part of a home inspection. However, to a homeowner, trees provide beauty, shade and privacy from that neighbor kid who creeps everybody out. Cleaning leaves from gutters adds a little excitement and danger to our lives. And, raking leaves from the lawn provides a great cardio workout — unless one doesn’t like their neighbor, then one simply lets the leaves blow into the neighbor’s yard. Some of us have no shame.
To a professional home inspector, however, trees necessitate some consideration. Oftentimes tree branches overhang a roof, where they can abrade the shingles and possibly damage the siding. Tree branches can interfere with overhead power lines, cable connections and the like. In this case, a little snow, ice, gravity and a broken tree branch, and the homeowner could lose power, heat and the ability to watch reality TV all at once.
No problems here. How else can raccoons get on the roof?
A tree’s root system more or less mirrors its branches. If there are tree branches overhanging a roof, it’s very possible its roots could damage the foundation. In many cases, we have found tree roots growing in crawl spaces and/or through foundation walls. When this happens, it can be both tricky and expensive to repair.
Tree roots can also wreak havoc on driveways and sidewalks. Some species of maple trees are particularly prone to their roots working their way above grade. If there are driveways or sidewalks nearby, it can cause considerable cracking and lifting, as well as a tripping hazard. No one wants the delivery man dropping the box of china they just bought from Amazon.com.
If there are tree roots above grade, it is not an easy fix. Sometimes building a bridge or walkway over the exposed roots is the best solution. Otherwise, always check with an arborist before cutting or removing any exposed tree roots.
And perhaps the most dreaded of all: Tree roots can obstruct sewer lines, and no one but no one wants that. No one who’s experienced a sewer backup says, “I’m sure glad I never paid for a scan of my sewer lines. I saved a bundle.” Well, somebody might, but not me.
In reality, most homeowners plant trees too close to the house. Trees are generally planted when they are small, and little consideration is given to what grief they might cause at maturity. It’s like having kids and forgetting they become teenagers. A good rule of thumb for planting trees is the one-half rule: Whatever height the tree reaches at maturity, plant it one half that distance from the house. For example, if a tree is expected to reach 50 feet at maturity, plant it at least 25 feet from the house.
Tagged: landscaping, Roland Bates, tree problems, tree roots, trees