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Fall Is the Time to Plant a Tree

Looking to put down some roots this year? In most regions, fall is the time to plant a tree. Why should you consider planting a tree? Well, besides being beautiful and providing shade, trees positively alter the environment in which we live by moderating climate, improving air quality, conserving water, and harboring wildlife.

All in all, trees are a great addition to your home, and getting them in the ground now gives them a chance to root and begin to grow before the ground freezes. But before you start digging holes, here are some things from a home inspector perspective to consider when planting trees around your home:  

  • Selecting a tree. Every tree is different and has different needs in order to thrive. You'll want to research a tree that will do well in your area and, perhaps most importantly, you'll want to know and plan for the tree's unique requirement for space. We can't just plant them anywhere, and we need to account for their adult size when deciding what tree is right for our property.
  • Too close to home. Tree roots can cause varying degrees of structural damage to your home depending on the proximity to the dwelling and the type of tree. Ficus trees, for example, have very aggressive root systems and even a small tree planted close to a structure will cause foundation and plumbing damage due to root intrusion. Trees like Oaks and Maples have massive root systems but actually may cause less damage because the roots generally will go around obstructions rather than through them.
  • Aggressive Roots and Your Plumbing. Unfortunately, aggressive root systems can bore through older, brittle plumbing components like cast iron and clay that are under the structure. Large roots can also crush plumbing components. Repairs for this type of damage can be costly. 
  • Walkways or driveways. Root systems that heave walkways and driveways not only cause concrete and asphalt damage, but also create a “trip hazard” due to uneven surfaces.
  • Moisture & Termites: Trees are organic “cellulose-based” organisms. Termites eat cellulose for sustenance. Whenever you plant anything close to the structure it is important to consider the possibility that you may be planting a food source for termites. Because termites are migratory, if they attack a tree near the structure it is likely that they will continue on and look for another food source which may, unfortunately, be your house. 
  • Trees & Gutters. Keep in mind that trees with limbs that overhang roofs can be a source of contributing water damage to your home. So again think about placement of the tree and account for it's adult size. It may be a while before your tree gets large enough to create any problems, but debris from overhanging trees that accumulates on roofing material will cause pre-mature deterioration.  In addition, if an overhanging tree limbs break and contact the roof or other parts of the structure, severe damage can occur.