Neigh­bour’s trees at the root of wor­ries

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - ARI MARANTZ

QUES­TION: I have a ques­tion re­gard­ing a neigh­bour’s trees that are ad­ja­cent to my prop­erty line, and I’d ap­pre­ci­ate get­ting your im­pres­sion of whether I have any­thing to be concerned about. I’m pri­mar­ily concerned about the po­ten­tial for dam­age to my home’s foun­da­tion.

The neigh­bour’s trees in ques­tion have their trunks only a me­tre from the prop­erty line, and my home is less than two me­tres from the prop­erty line, so the trees are within three me­tres of my foun­da­tion. I’m not sure of the type of trees, but based on some ba­sic leaf­match­ing at­tempts I’m guess­ing one is ash, and more than five me­tres tall. The other nar­row trees look like some type of birch and are about three me­tres tall. All are the same dis­tance from my foun­da­tion. The ash seems to be grow­ing fairly rapidly.

My home is a bi-level, so my foun­da­tion ex­tends only about 1 ½ me­tres be­low ground level. One thing in my favour is that there is a dis­tinct down­ward slope of sev­eral inches from my foun­da­tion to the prop­erty line. If the trees are look­ing for wa­ter, there should be lit­tle to at­tract them to my foun­da­tion, I’d think.

So should I be concerned? I have read con­flict­ing ad­vice on­line re­gard­ing the po­ten­tial for dam­age. CMHC’s web­site seems some­what less op­ti­mistic, par­tic­u­larly for shal­low foun­da­tions like mine.

We’ve had is­sues with the large ash tree be­fore. A year or two ago, this tree’s branches were bang­ing against our kitchen win­dow when­ever there were storms or wind. Af­ter I com­plained to the neigh­bour, he had the branches trimmed, al­though they’re just about back to where they were be­fore, so I ex­pect more prob­lems this sum­mer. These branches are now well over the prop­erty line. How­ever, my pri­mary con­cern now is re­gard­ing the im­pact of the tree roots on my founda- tion.

Ac­tu­ally, I’m puz­zled as to why the neigh­bour would have planted these trees there any­way. He planted the ash within two feet of his newly built garage. If I were him, I think I’d be concerned about the tree roots de­stroy­ing the garage’s con­crete pad. Of course, if the tree dam­ages his garage, that’s his busi­ness, but I don’t want my home dam­aged. Thanks for any ad­vice you can give. Wayne Dyck AN­SWER: While I don’t claim to be a qual­i­fied ex­pert on the im­pact of trees on homes, my own ex­pe­ri­ence com­bined with in­for­ma­tion I’ve learned from sev­eral sem­i­nars and dis­cus­sions with my fel­low colum­nist Mike Allen give me con­fi­dence that I can pro­vide some ad­vice. The first ad­vice I can give you is don’t panic — these trees may take years be­fore they be­come a ma­jor prob­lem.

From the pic­tures you at­tached to your query, I would not de­scribe any of these trees as large, at least not yet. While the ash is the largest, it still ap­pears to have a fairly small trunk and is not ex­ces­sive in size.

Other than the over­hang­ing branches against your home, I would not ex­pect this tree to cause much in the way of prob­lems. Ash trees are not one of the most prob­lem­atic types known to cause foun­da­tion is­sues with their roots. They also do not grow that large in di­am­e­ter com­pared to many other va­ri­eties.

As with any tree or plants lo­cated so close to a home, reg­u­lar prun­ing and main­te­nance is crit­i­cal to pre­vent dam­age to the build­ing from mois­ture or over­hang­ing limbs. If branches from your neigh­bour’s tree are over­hang­ing your home or yard, with the po­ten­tial to cause dam­age, it’s within your rights to de­mand they be cut to pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing. It ap­pears that your neigh­bour has been will­ing to trim his tree at your request, and con­tin­u­a­tion of this cor­dial re­la­tion­ship should pre­vent fu­ture prob­lems from this tree.

As for the other trees, these may give you some cause for con­cern. Based on your limited-view pic­tures, I would ex­pect that these trees might be more a po­plar va­ri­ety than birch. These are quite pop­u­lar for new homes due to their rapid early growth. They fill out quite early, pro­vid­ing a ma­ture-look­ing tree af­ter only a few years.

Un­for­tu­nately, too many of these trees, planted so close to­gether, may cause fu­ture is­sues with both of your homes. These trees have roots that will stop at noth­ing in a search for mois­ture, and have been known to work their way into weep­ing tile, sewer lines and even small cracks in foun­da­tion walls. Based on the size of the trees in your pic­tures, I doubt that this will be a prob­lem for many years, but now is a good time to talk to your neigh­bour about fu­ture con­cerns.

For­tu­nately, it ap­pears that you’re rais­ing this is­sue at the right time, be­fore the trees be­come so big that re­me­di­a­tion will be­come dif­fi­cult. Small trees that are as close to­gether as the ones in your sit­u­a­tion can be in­di­vid­u­ally re­moved, one or two a year as needed, with­out sig­nif­i­cant changes to the soil in that area. You can cre­ate dif­fer­ent prob­lems if you try to re­move all the veg­e­ta­tion at once, but I doubt your neigh­bour would agree to that any­way.

Start a di­a­logue with him, point­ing out your con­cern, and you may find that he’s not aware of the po­ten­tial for prob­lems or the need to trim the un­ruly veg­e­ta­tion. An­other sug­ges­tion would be to con­sult an ex­pe­ri­enced, li­censed ar­borist, like Mike Allen, to do a site visit and of­fer ad­vice on proper care or re­moval of the trees to pre­vent fu­ture prob­lems.

Reg­u­lar tree-trim­ming along prop­erty lines is an es­sen­tial neigh­bourly job.

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