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How to Pick the Right Trees to Avoid Damage to Your Foundation

Shrubs, flowers, and trees on your property can beautify the space and increase curb appeal. Before choosing what trees to plant near the house, consider the best options for your type of property and climate. 

An established tree can provide shade and help with cooling costs during the hotter months of the year. Trees and shrubs clean the air by absorbing pollutants and greenhouse gasses. 

But is there such a thing as the wrong plant or tree? 

Tree roots can damage foundations, pipes, and sidewalks, costing homeowners thousands of dollars. If you suspect tree roots might have damaged your home’s foundation, hire a specialist to investigate the issue. They can help you nail down the cause, determine how extensive it is, and how much it would cost to remediate it.

The potential for damage from tree roots is something to consider when deciding what trees to plant near the house. Read on to learn about foundation planting basics and plant selection best practices.

How tree roots can damage your foundation

Tree roots travel horizontally. When they reach a hard surface like a foundation, they can get around it by traveling down. They also cause the soil to move, which makes foundations shift. The potential damage to the property depends on its age and the substrate’s quality.

Some trees pose more of a risk to the home than others. Oak trees account for a small portion of tree species at only 2 percent but were the cause of 11 percent of home property damages. Trees that grow fast above ground grow equally as fast below ground, so you should not plant them near sidewalks, pipes, or homes.

Signs of foundation damage by tree roots

If you have existing trees on your property and have concerns the root system is causing damage, there are a few signs you can look for to confirm. Inspect the inside and outside of visible foundation wherever you have trees nearby. 

Tree root systems can also cause sinkholes or raise concrete driveways. Inspect the surrounding area for hollow spots and raised or cracked concrete pads. When in doubt, hire a professional to survey your foundation, driveway, and surrounding area for signs of damage caused by tree roots. The average cost of a home inspection is around $300. The cost of repairing a foundation can be thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars.

Best trees to plant near the house

Check your planting zone when choosing the best trees to plant near the house. Different states can have several planting zones depending on the climate. Planting zones can help you decide what plants and trees are best suited for growing in your region.

Eastern redbud

The Eastern redbud is a delicate, deciduous tree with beautiful small pink blooms in the spring. These trees don’t require much maintenance but can add aesthetics to your property. Eastern redbud’s native range spans from New Jersey to northern Florida, west to Missouri, Texas, and northern Mexico. These trees grow on upland sites in many types of soil.

Plant redbud trees at least 25 feet from the foundation of your home. It will help to reduce potential damage to your home’s foundation and keep the branches away from your home.

  • Average mature size: 15-30 feet, 15-25 feet wide
  • Planting zones 4-8
  • Growth rate: 1-2 feet per year

Small or medium-sized fruit trees

Depending on your property size, consider adding small or medium-sized fruit trees. They can be apple, olive, or a combination of several types of fruit trees. Not only will you have a greener yard, but you will also have delicious snacks.

Choose fruit trees with shallow roots that won’t interfere with your home’s foundation. One of the most common mistakes is planting fruit trees too close together. Doing so could cause root competition and prevent the roots from getting enough sun. Fruit trees need to be around 10-30 feet apart.

  • Average mature size: 8-10 feet
  • Planting zones: depends on the tree
  • Growth rate: Full size in 1-2 years

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon is easy to grow and can tolerate various conditions, including cold climates. These deciduous plants can also grow in poor soil, heat, humidity, drought, and air pollution. Their flowers can be white, red, pink, blue, or bicolor.

Plant a tall shrub like a Rose of Sharon at least 4 to 5 feet from the house foundation.

  • Average mature size: 8-12 feet tall, 6-10 feet wide
  • Planting zones: 5-9
  • Growth rate: 1-2 feet per year

Crepe Myrtle 

The Crepe Myrtle is an excellent addition to your yard. It is easy to maintain and resistant to hot and cold weather, but it’s more common in the South. The tree has gorgeous summer flowers and bright fall colors, making them top year-round performers.

Plant large type Crepe Myrtles at least 6 feet away from your home.

  • Average mature size: 15-25 feet tall, 6-15 feet wide
  • Planting zones: 6-9
  • Growth rate: 2 feet per year

American Holly

American Holly is an evergreen that is perfect if you want more privacy. They have beautiful, glossy leaves and red berries that can add more curb appeal to your property. The dense foliage provides cover for small birds, and the berries provide food for various critters.

American Holly doesn’t cause any harm to your home if planted about 5 feet or more from your home’s foundation.

  • Average mature size: 25-60 feet tall
  • Planting zones: 5-9
  • Growth rate: 1-2 feet per year


A crabapple tree’s shape will provide plenty of shade for your backyard. It is also popular because its bright flowers can help spruce up your property. These trees offer beauty in the spring, but they require more care in the fall once the fruit drops. 

Crabapple roots will not break building foundations unless it’s already cracked or leaking. Try to plant crabapple trees about 8 to 10 feet away from buildings.

  • Average mature size: 15-20 feet tall and wide
  • Planting zones: 4-8
  • Growth rate: 1-2 feet per year

Other foundation-friendly plants

Now that you know about the signs of damage and some of the best trees you can plant near your home, we can get to the plants. Foundation plants line walkways, entrance ways, and corners. Choosing the right plants can decrease damage to the siding and foundation and add beauty to the property.


Shrubs add dimension to your garden. Box or boxwoods are a common standard because they are evergreen, hardy, and lend themselves easily to shaping. Hydrangeas in bloom add full color to any space and need little pruning. Juniper shrubs have a pleasant scent and an evergreen color. These hardy plants require little maintenance and are drought-tolerant. Depending on the species, they can grow low along the ground or to a height of about 24″.

Ornamental plants

Ornamental plants and perennials bring flow to the garden, with life cycles that follow the e seasons. Ornamental grasses like ruby grass and blue gramma are shorter varieties growing to be 1.5- to 2- feet tall. Feather reed grass and fountain grass can grow to 5 feet. 

Herbs like lavender, thyme, sage, and rosemary can add texture and fragrance to your garden and tolerate the full sun.

Hostas and ferns are excellent for part shade and shaded areas because they do not require full sun. 

Candytuft, sedum, stonecrop, periwinkle, dwarf crested iris, creeping phlox, and bishop hats can offer ground cover and seasonal color.

Tips to prevent foundation damage from tree roots

Once you have chosen your trees, it’s time to start planting. Before you begin the process, remember that you want to protect your home’s foundation as much as possible. 

Root barrier systems can limit root growth. Systems like Biobarrier recommend installation at least 60″ deep

Remove roots that encroach on areas near your foundation. You can control root growth by creating an unfavorable growing environment. For example, you can stop fertilizing or watering where you don’t want growth. Keep the site around your foundation and under your awnings dry. Cleaning eaves can prevent water from spilling over and bringing unwanted moisture to your foundation.

If you have an existing tree threatening your foundation, add it to your list of questions and concerns for your home inspector. If it does threaten your foundation, your only course of action may be to remove the tree. Contact several professional arborists and get several quotes. Confirm the quote includes stump and root removal. If the problem tree sends suckers, you will need to remove them to ensure the tree doesn’t spring up in a new location.