How Close Can You Plant a Tree to a House: An Arborists Guide

Trees are the perfect accoutrement to your home, but they can quickly go from accoutrement to detriment in a matter of minutes if you don’t know what you’re planting or where you are planting it. Tree roots can spread drastically and cause serious damage to your home’s foundation if you are not prepared. This article is here to help clear up the does and don’ts of where to plant your tree and what trees you should plant.

How Can Trees Damage Your Foundation?

Trees at first glance present themselves as a calming & simple part of nature. However underneath is a complex sprawling network of roots that travel out in search of water and nutrients, and it is these roots that can cause problems, for example.

Cracks in the Foundation

If there are pre existing cracks in your foundation chances are if there is a tree nearby its roots will most likely get in there, and when they do they will make them worse expanding the damage to the foundation

Shifting the Soil

Trees with deep root systems can potentially crawl the soil underneath your house. This can become a serious problem. Root Systems under your house can shift and even dry out the soil underneath your house, this can lead to an offset in stability to the foundation of your house as the ground has shifted and the pressure being exerted on the house is no longer uniform, which can lead to the concrete foundation buckling and cracking.

How Close Can a Tree be to a House?

The very first thing you should be asking yourself when deciding on planting a tree is how close can a tree be planted to my house? This unfortunately isn’t a clear cut answer, but it’s not a complicated answer to resolve either. Here are some simple steps to consider when planning what tree you wish to plant in your garden.

Measure the the size of your garden

The first thing you will want to do is find out the size of your garden. You will want to get an idea of how big your garden is as well as how far from your house you want to plant your tree. You may have the most perfect spot decided but if it’s right next to the foundation (or heaven forbid a sewer line!) You may want to reconsider your options.

Do some research on the Tree you wish to plant

Ok you have measured out your garden, you’ve done the maths and you believe you have found the best place for your tree. The next step is finding out what is the Best Tree to Plant near your house. What may seem like a perfect choice at first may become a problem later.

First you should see what trees are locally available for planting, next either online or discussing with Tree Nursery, find out how big will this tree grow once matured? The Height of the tree and the size of the canopy are good indicators of how large its root system will be. The Taller the tree the larger the root system will be to stabilise it (roughly 1.5x the height of the tree).

Another factor is the Tree Canopy, it is a rule of thumb that the root system of a tree will be roughly 2-3 times greater than the radius of the canopy. For example, if you had a tree with a mature canopy of 4 metres, you would want to have at least 8m of space away from the house.

What are the Best Trees to Plant Near My House?

Before going out to get your tree, here are some tips we recommend when deciding on the tree you want.

Smaller is Better.

While having a huge tree, where you can build a fort or treat as a makeshift jungle gym is always an awesome idea. It is also often fraught with complications. Ignoring the foundation, large trees have a tendency to get into sewer lines, causing blockages, leaving you requiring an arborist & a plumber! Then there is the issue of the Canopy getting too large. There have been many instances where canopies have overgrown into neighbouring land, which lead to disputes and potential civil suits to have the tree removed! Ultimately something smaller and more manageable is always recommended. Examples of this include:

  • Water Gum Plants (Tristaniopsis Luscious)
  • Griffith Pink (Brachychiton populneus
  • Magnolia Little Gem (Magnolia Grandiflora) (Also known as a Dwarf Magnolia)

Trees like these generally grow between 2-4m in height and have a canopy size of between 2-4m as well.

Keep in mind that if there is a tree you like but you fear may be too big, there are usually dwarfed variants available (like the Little Gem). This will allow you to keep the same aesthetic without having to worry about your foundation.

Slow Growing Trees

Slow Growing Trees generally tend to have less invasive root systems. This is due to the fact that faster growing trees are spreading their roots out aggressively to soak up as much water and nutrients from the soil as possible. Here are some colourful examples of slow growing trees:

  • Crepe Myrtle (lagerstroemia Indica)
  • Eastern Redbud (Cercis Canadensis)
  • Japanese Maple (Acer Palmatum)

These are trees that can take years to fully grow, but due to their slow growth and shallow roots, risk of property damage is reduced significantly.

Should I Remove a Tree Close to My House?

This is should be considered on an individual basis, The important questions that need to be asked are:

  • Is there noticeable damage to my foundation?
  • Has damage to my foundation grown?
  • Am I Certain the tree is the cause of the damage?
  • Has the Trees Root System Gotten into my Foundation?
  • Has the Trees Root System Gotten into my Plumbing?

If you feel that the tree poses a risk to your property then we would definitely recommend getting it removed. However, if you think the tree is too close, yet there has been no sign of property damage, It is best to do some research on the tree in question to see if it has the potential of causing serious damage and take action from there.


Tree Roots can cause damage to your foundation and your plumbing if left unchecked. Because of this, when planting a tree the health of your household foundation and plumbing must always be taken into consideration. Where you plant the tree & what type of tree you plant could lead to dramatic consequences if not taken seriously. Smaller trees or trees with less invasive root systems are ideal when considering what tree you wish to plant.

If you are still unsure about what tree is best for you Plateau Trees are the experts in Tree Planting Services. If you are looking for consultation feel free to contact us at 1300 518 517


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