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Tree Roots Breaking Concrete? Here’s What to Do

tree root lifting sidewalk

Did you know a tree’s root system is typically twice the size of its canopy? This means if a tree’s branches reach over your house or driveway, its roots are extending even further beneath. These roots are on a relentless quest for water and nutrients, which can weaken the soil over time and compromise the support of your concrete slab or driveway.

The result? Cracks in the concrete and potential damage to your home’s foundation. But don’t worry, we have concrete leveling solutions to fix them.

Impact of Tree Roots on Concrete

Tree roots pose a significant challenge for homeowners, especially when they intersect with concrete structures like walkways, driveways, and foundations. As these roots grow in search of water and nutrients, they can exert tremendous pressure, causing lifting, shifting, and cracking. This not only results in unsightly, uneven surfaces but also potential tripping hazards and, in extreme cases, can even affect the home’s stability.

Monitor tree growth near concrete structures, manage roots effectively, and seek professional help if you spot any damage.

Solutions for Preventing Root Damage

To prevent tree roots from damaging concrete structures, consider the following strategies:

  • Tree Placement: Plant trees at a distance equal to or greater than the span of their mature canopy from any concrete structure. This prevents roots from damaging structures as they grow. Consult a local arborist for specific advice based on your trees and location.
  • Watering: Regular watering stops roots from extending towards concrete structures. However, avoid overwatering to prevent root rot. The right balance depends on your tree types and local climate.
  • Root Barriers: Install barriers made of plastic or fabric around the tree or the structure. These deter root growth towards the concrete.
  • Root Management: Consider professional root pruning. Be careful not to harm the tree.

These methods can minimize root-induced concrete damage, reducing repair costs and preserving your landscape.

Other Common Causes of Concrete Issues

1. Soil Washout

Soil washout, a major contributor to concrete issues, occurs when heavy rain or poor drainage erodes the soil under a concrete slab. It creates voids or empty spaces, causing the concrete to crack or fail. This can lead to unstable foundations, driveways, sidewalks, and patios, which may sink, crack or collapse, posing safety risks. To prevent soil washout, proper landscaping techniques, suitable erosion-resistant materials, and drainage systems should be implemented. Professional help is essential for accurate diagnosis, effective solutions, and ensuring the longevity of your concrete structures.

dry soil

2. Soil Types and Settlement

Tree roots interact with the soil differently. Clay soil may become dry and brittle, and sandy soil can shift or crumble as roots take moisture. In places like Florida, where sandy soils and clay soils are both are common, tree roots can cause significant issues. This happens when moisture is removed from the soil, causing it to shrink, creating voids where the concrete crumbles and sinks. Understanding the type of soil beneath your home is crucial for anticipating potential concrete issues.

loose soil

3. Poorly Compacted Soil

Poorly compacted soil, another leading cause of concrete issues, lacks the firmness to support the weight of the concrete. Over time, it can shift or settle unevenly, causing cracks or sinking in the concrete slab above. This can lead to uneven floors, wall cracks, and other structural issues. The effects of poorly compacted soil can be severe and varied, needing professional attention. Soil stabilization and concrete leveling techniques can manage these issues and prevent further damage.

Solutions for Leveling Damaged Concrete

1. Concrete Replacement

While replacing damaged concrete may appear the simplest solution, it carries substantial risks. One such risk is resettling—when old concrete and tree roots are removed, the soil underneath can loosen. New concrete poured over this disturbed soil may seem to fix the problem initially, but the soil can later compact under the weight, causing the new slab to sink and potentially leading to recurrent issues. Concrete replacement can also be invasive, disrupting tree root systems and stressing the landscape. It can lead to tree health issues and even death in severe cases. Moreover, heavy machinery used can compact the soil, negatively impacting its structure and hindering root access to water and nutrients. Therefore, considering these risks, less invasive alternatives like polyurethane injections may provide a more effective long-term solution.

illustration of polyurethane foam concrete lifting on damaged concrete

2. Polyurethane Foam Concrete Lifting

Polyurethane foam injections offer an innovative solution for repairing concrete damaged by tree roots. This technique involves injecting foam beneath the concrete slabs to fill voids, lift them to their original position, and seal cracks. It’s a cost-effective, efficient, and less invasive alternative to full concrete replacement. The foam hardens in minutes, enabling swift repairs. This method is versatile, suitable for various structures including:

  • Sidewalks: Polyurethane injections can rectify uneven surfaces caused by root growth or soil erosion, eliminating tripping hazards.
  • Driveways: Maintain a smooth surface for vehicles by countering unevenness due to roots or soil issues.
  • Patios: Keep your entertainment spaces in top condition by repairing damage from root growth or soil erosion.
  • Retaining Walls: Despite their sturdy build, they can be affected by shifting soils or root growth. Polyurethane injections (and wall anchors) help ensure stability.

Concrete Replacement vs Concrete Leveling: Weighing Cost and Risks

When faced with concrete damage, homeowners must decide between concrete replacement and alternatives like concrete leveling.

Concrete replacement is labor-intensive, costly, and can disrupt nearby landscaping and tree roots. The resettling period after replacement can also introduce further issues.

Conversely, concrete leveling, primarily through polyurethane injections, is a less invasive, more cost-effective solution. It’s quicker, and the injected foam is durable and resistant to root invasion, providing a lasting solution.

However, concrete leveling might not be suitable for severe damage or complex underlying issues, where concrete replacement could be the better choice despite its higher cost and potential risks.

Consult with professionals to understand the extent of the damage and the most effective repair method. Making the right choice now can save future complications and expenses.

Tree Roots Breaking Up Concrete? Contact Foundation Experts in Your Area

Tackling serious concrete damage? You don’t have to go solo. Enlist expert help for accurate damage diagnosis, tailored repair strategies, and a plan designed just for you. It’s a proactive approach that saves you time, effort, and future repair costs.

Root damage to concrete can feel like an endless struggle, often requiring deep digging to access tree root systems. But Alpha Foundations offers a game-changing solution: PolyRenewal™ injection. This innovative method, a significant upgrade over traditional mud jacking, effectively addresses cracked and damaged concrete.

Unlike mudjacking and concrete replacement, which essentially fight soil with more soil, PolyRenewal™ injection offers a different approach. This durable, waterproof material lifts damaged concrete, immune to root damage. You can finally stop worrying about tree roots sinking your concrete.

If concrete damage concerns you, reach out to Alpha Foundations. Serving Florida and South Georgia since 2002, our expert team can assess your property for any concrete issues and provide a free service quote detailing repair options and solutions. Don’t let tree roots damage your property. Contact Alpha Foundations today.

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    Tree Root Concrete Damage FAQs

    Routine inspections and annual maintenance help keep concrete floors level and prevent cracking. Proper drainage and water management solutions also help. Contact us to learn more and schedule a free inspection.

    Damage to exterior concrete steps, including cracks and sinking, can occur from various soil-related issues like soil settling and erosion, water saturation, freeze-thaw cycles, and the growth of tree roots. Alpha Foundations will identify the cause of damage to your concrete steps and recommend the most suitable repair solution during a complimentary inspection.

    Sinking concrete is generally easy to spot. You will start to notice the following: 

    • Slabs that are uneven and don’t match up 
    • Puddles form and remain after rain 
    • People trip over the uneven surface 
    • It’s more difficult to drive over your driveway or garage floor 

    Michael Wilcher

    Michael Wilcher

    Michael Wilcher is the Content Lead at Groundworks, helping us to answer all of our customers biggest questions about foundation repair, basement waterproofing, crawl space encapsulation, and concrete lifting. In his free time, Michael enjoys collecting vinyl records, watching Formula 1 Racing, and reading philosophy. He holds an MPhil from the University of Cambridge.

    *Disclaimer: “Concrete leveling” means the process by which cracked, uneven concrete is stabilized, and in many cases lifted, by means of PolyRenewal™ polyurethane foam. Alpha Foundations does not guarantee that PolyRenewal™ can make your concrete perfectly level.

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