The Trouble with Trees

Let’s start off by saying we are not suggesting trees near a property are always going to cause a problem or that they’re a bad thing. We love trees and know what an asset they are to gardens and residential areas but there are certain risks especially to older buildings. Fortunately, there are experts in these areas who you can call upon if you have any concerns but here is some basic information it’s a good idea to be aware of.


Some people seem to get the impression that trees cause subsidence because the roots push their way up into foundations like they do through pavements but this is not the case. Tree roots are strong but they aren’t that strong. Instead, in clay soil, the trees draw the moisture out of the soil which causes the clay in it to shrink. This causes the soil supporting buildings to sink and cause subsidence.

Different types of tree have different water requirements and greater or lesser spread with their roots which mean some pose more of a risk to properties than others. Lots of the tall tree varieties like poplars, cypresses, some conifers and oaks have high water requirements while smaller trees like fruit trees, magnolias and lilacs have lower water requirements. However, this doesn’t mean that some trees are completely safe and others are guaranteed to cause a problem. If you have any concerns about trees close to your property, speak to a tree specialist who will be able to advise you on what, if anything, you need to do.


It isn’t all about subsidence though. As tree roots are drawn to water, they often creep towards and into leaky pipes. Once they’re in, they can cause blockages which cause further leakages and attract more roots and you can see how it becomes a problem. Well-sealed pipes don’t have this issue but older pipes are prone to this sort of thing so it is worth talking to a drain company or plumber if you have older pipework and worry it might be leaking.

Damage from Falling

Stormy weather causes damage each year by toppling trees and bringing down branches which fall onto roofs, guttering, extensions and conservatories. Unlike the issue with subsidence and blocked drains which is hard to predict until it happens, it is easy to see overhanging branches and trees becoming overgrown or starting to die. Obviously, it’s difficult to predict which ones will be blown over but keeping them properly trimmed by professional tree surgeons can minimise the chances of falling branches.

Pathways, Patios and Driveways

Even some tree varieties with low water requirements may have root structures that grow very close to the surface of the soil (cherry trees are an example of this) and these, as well as other types of tree roots, can cause lumps, cracking and holes in paths, driveways and patios. Having trees too close to these surfaces or laying them too close to trees isn’t always good for the tree either.

Control and Prevention Methods

Fortunately, most modern houses are built with deep enough foundations for tree roots not to cause an issue but with older houses, it may be necessary to try to limit the growth of nearby tree roots by trimming the trees appropriately. This is all entirely down to tree experts to decide which course of action is best but regular professional pruning of mature trees is the best way to minimise the likelihood that they will cause issues with falling branches and possibly with their roots.

While Marc is not an expert on trees, he can very quickly identify signs of subsidence in your property and diagnose what is causing it. For any questions about the trees near your property, speak to your local arborist but for any issues with your property, get in touch with Marc on 01273 281624 or email

Contact Us

Tate Surveying Services,
Freedom Works, Unit 7 Hove Business Centre, Fonthill Road, Hove, BN3 6HA

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.