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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 - September 22, 2009

From: Fredericksburg, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Live Oaks and Foundations
Answered by: Damon Waitt and Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a young live oak (18 inch trunk at it's base) growing within four feet of my house. What kind of damage can it cause my foundation? Need your help!

ANSWER:

While it is certainly true that tree roots can grow up to three times the spread of a tree, the problem in foundations, especially in our very dry climate, is soil subsidence. The tree root does its part on this by looking for water and sucking it up, but the very dry soil is probably going to drop and shrink anyway, and that is much more likely to cause the foundation damage then the tree roots. That  said, that's pretty darn close to the house for a tree that can attain a large size such as Quercus fusiformis (plateau oak), and not just because of the roots. There is really no way to tell a live oak to grow in another direction, and the branches against your roof can definitely cause problems. Insects, not to mention squirrels and raccoons, consider tree branches against a house as an open invitation to come in, have a bite to eat, and spend the winter. Certainly a trained arborist could prune the branches away from the house, but when you prune a plant, where does the new growth appear? Right, it appears in the area you pruned. We can't really recommend one way or the other on removing the tree (we assume you choose the house over the tree?) but you should certainly get the opinion of the aforementioned tree specialist.


Quercus fusiformis

 

 

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