The trees that are most likely to cause damage to house foundations are oak, ash and poplar. These species have the fastest, strongest and most invasive root systems of all trees grown in residential areas. Oak trees are particularly harmful for the foundations of houses. Tree roots can damage building foundations, as well as sidewalks and pavements. Other common trees that can damage building foundations include Norwegian maples, silver maples, walnut trees, poplars, sycamores and other deciduous trees.
These species have a high potential to cause damage underground due to their long, lateral roots. Therefore, it is best to avoid planting maples, ash trees and poplars in close proximity to your house. Trees can affect the moisture content of the soil under and around foundations. A large shade tree can perspire up to 200 gallons of water per day. Trees “sweat” or release water into the air in the form of vapor.
Water for perspiration must come from the soil through the roots. This is why trees are known to “draw water from under a base”, but only when water from the surrounding soil is inadequate or unavailable. Trees can exacerbate the problem of soil moisture loss, but they are usually not the primary cause. While trees block sunlight, offer a space to sit in the shade, or even mitigate some of the freezing winter wind, trees with shallow root systems are a hazard to foundations. When there is physical contact between a tree and a foundation, the damage, if any, can vary greatly depending on the tree species, site conditions, proximity to the base, the type of foundation, the part of the tree that contacts the base, and the size of the tree. While these are not all trees that will damage the foundation, they are the ones most likely to be responsible for any issues. Oaks aren't as common in landscapes as other trees, but despite this they tend to cause the most damage to homes.
These trees tend to be susceptible to wind damage and can be blown up more easily than trees that have deep main roots and powerful side roots. If you're thinking about planting trees around your house but don't want to risk problems in the future, or you've bought a new house that's already surrounded by trees and you want to make sure that its roots don't adversely affect the soil or cause foundation walls to break - be sure to check what types of trees are around your house. Unless you want to spend money cutting them down and planting new trees, you may be stuck with those already in your landscape. Since many trees and foundations have existed together for many years, any changes that occur do so over time and may be minor compared to removing a tree. If a tree has become too difficult to treat there is always an option of completely removing it and its entire root system. When it comes to protecting your foundations by landscaping - oak, poplar and ash trees are undoubtedly the most common causes of foundation problems. However there are many other types of trees that can cause problems too.
While the list of potentially harmful trees is long, those mentioned above are most likely culprits - so if they are planted on your property special care must be taken to keep their roots far enough away from your house.