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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - February 10, 2009

From: Portland, OR
Region: Northwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Trees
Title: Walnut tree root coming through basement floor in Portland, OR
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a walnut tree root coming through my basement floor. I need advice as to what will it do to tree when I remove the root, like another root though a different part of my home. It is a large tree that has been here for thirty years, and the root came up within the last 3-5 years (didn't notice till huge split in floor). The tree had a hard pruning probably about the same time. I really want to keep the tree but am afraid of killing it when we cut the root.

ANSWER:

We're really sorry, but we think you're going to have to choose between the tree and the house. Cutting off that root coming through your basement floor will not only probably not kill the tree, but will inspire it to put out fresh roots. And you're telling us this is the second time the roots have invaded your house? This is undermining your foundation, inviting the incursion of termites and rodents, permitting the development of mildew and can only lead to structural damage. You didn't say which was older, the tree or the house, but the tree was planted too close to the house or the house built too close to the tree; either way, one is going to have to go. Tree roots can extend three times the height of the tree, and are relentless in their search for water and nutrients. You should get a licensed, certified arborist to supervise the removal of the tree and then have a structural engineer examine your house to see how much damage has been done and what is needed to correct it.

 

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