Trees Near Your Structure – Home Inspection Tips

This summer take a look around your home. If you are in a new subdivision the likelihood of having problems with trees is usually minimal as the trees are relatively small and we only need to deal with leaves in the eavestroughing. In more established areas trees can have a significant impact on the roof, soils, foundation and electrical feed to the home. Registered home inspectors look for potential problems in these area and report on what we find. As beautiful as they are, trees can directly or indirectly damage the building or structures nearby. We recommend trimming, removal or planting of trees is done by professionals fully trained in this procedure.

As registered home inspectors it is one of the first items to check out because of the potential impact to the building, structure and electrical. If there are trees close to the home or with branches overhanging the roof trimming will be required. The braches can drop off creating damage, induce mould on the shingles, leaves can block the eavestrouging and downspouts, deplete the soil of water and this can negatively impact the foundation. Trees with extensive root systems too close to septic systems can block or damage the tile bed. Trees can grow up into the overhead wires. Most home owners do not realize that they need to maintain the electrical feed from the main pole to their home.

Trees can also have a positive impact on the property by providing shade, cool the building and enhance the property value. Conifers can provide winter wind breaks and shade and deciduous trees provide shade in summer and let the light in during the winter months. Trees also provide some noise reduction depending on the location. Some tree types like willow and poplar are no longer allowed in certain communities due to the invasive nature of the root system. Maples trees provide excellent shade but do have extensive root system, which is why we caution against such trees and suggest they be a good distance from the building. As a rule of thumb the root system is usually two times the size of the crown, (top). Some trees the root system covers a much greater radius. So we must look at the size of the mature tree, not the nursery size. If you do want to plant trees on your property check with your local municipality as they may have restrictions as to type of tree allowed.

As the tree mature, the root system becomes more extensive and seeks water for the tree. Damage can be caused by invasive root systems. A good example of this is the greater Ottawa area where, there is among other soil types, clay. Part of the structure of clay is water. When the root system removes the moisture from the clay soil, the clay dries out and weakens. Very commonly in older neighbour hoods we find tree root in the weeping tiles at the base of the foundation walls. If your home is built in a clay area then there is a good chance the weaken soil will lose strength and a foundation in the proximity may become damaged. It is very common to find large trees planted within close proximity to a building and this is always a concern. Trees can be thinned out. The less foliage the less water the tree will require for existence. Not all trees are planted and some seem to spring up right beside the foundation wall. Those close to the foundation wall need to be removed. In addition the tree branches can create problems with the overhead electrical feed to the building. Only a qualified person in tree trimming should be removing these branches, (i.e. qualified arborist). Generally speaking only flowers and small shrubs should be planted close to a building foundation.

Building leaks can be attributed to tree activity. A leak could be found by the registered inspector with the use of thermographic equipment. Infrared thermographic equipment is sensitive to temperature differences so a water leak should be a different temperature than the foundation and surrounding materials and could be identified by a Thermal/Infrared Thermographer, Level II.


Above the tree branches are in the overhead wires. Only a person trained in tree removal should attempt to remedy this situation.


The above photo shows tree growing beside the building structure, creating problems with the structure.


Trees, dropping branches and over shadowing the roof. With minimal sunlight moss will grow and pre-maturely deteriorate the shingles.

Large Tree

Above we have a very large maple tree overshadowing the house, probably negatively impacting the foundation and filling the eavestroughing with leaves and twigs.

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