Are my trees too close to the house? This is a question we hear quite often. There is a concept within the green industry of the right plant, right place. Knowing where your tree lies on your property falls into this concept. Whether you’re planting trees, removing trees, trimming them, or even stump grinding the left-over stump, this concept covers it all. One of the biggest factors that determines if a tree is too close to your house is the roots. 


Typically speaking, most often, roots grow to be two or more times the size of their canopies. So, for example, an Oak tree of a 50’ canopy (canopies are typically greater than or equal to the height of the tree) will have roots generally more than 100 feet long. This is very generalized, as there isn’t a way of knowing the actual root size without advanced technology, like Ground Penetrating Radar. 

Further, there are tree species with much more aggressive roots that really shouldn’t be planted near any structures here in Michigan. Their root systems grow much faster, and bigger than the average tree, putting them at a higher level of potential damage. Some of the species in Grand Rapids, Michigan with aggressive roots are Norway Maples, Silver Maples, Willows, American Elms, and Cottonwoods. These typically should be planted more than 20 feet away from a home or other structures. In urban settings, trees are typically removed before they grow enough to cause damage. 

Some species that are good next to homes or structures include Japanese Maple, Crabapple, or Conifers. This is because they are typically smaller than other species. Their roots also don’t grow as large in diameter, as long in length, or cause as much damage. It’s not to say that they won’t cause damage, because there isn’t a way to guarantee that a tree won’t cause damage, it’s just that they won’t cause as much damage being of a smaller species.

Removing Trees That Are Too Close to the House

When considering tree removal on a tree close to a structure, there are several things to consider on top of the root system.  

  1. Pay attention to the growing patterns of the species. What growth stage is it at? What is the canopy size? How tall is it? Red Oak trees can reach heights of 70 feet, canopy widths of 70 feet, and potential root lengths of 140+ feet when at maturity. This means that damage can occur to foundation, driveways, patios, etc., when too close to those structures. Again, this is at maturity and in urban settings, might not grow as far due to other biotic and abiotic factors. 
  2. Where is it growing? What are the soil conditions? Right tree, right place. Some grow better in certain areas than others. Native plants in Michigan grow better in Michigan than those native to Florida. Further, rural area trees might not grow well in urban settings where there is more compaction and competition for growth. Also, soil conditions can affect how structurally sound, or rather not, a tree is at the site. 
  3. What are common problems? Are there any signs of problems? What about other plants? For example, Oak Wilt can affect the growth of Red Oaks. If the Oak is close to a structure, remove the tree, not only to prevent damage to the house, but to prevent the spread of Oak Wilt.  
  4. Any pest, disease, or mechanical damage to the tree in the past? For example, if you had a new patio installed and there is a Maple tree on the corner of your patio, the root system is being affected. The tree can decline because of the compaction. If it’s close to the house, that can affect the safety of the house in respect to the tree. The tree removal may be needed for protection. 
  5. Proximity to the house/structure. A Maple or an Oak planted within 20 feet of the house has the potential to cause foundation damage. This is because of their root growth and maturity level. Here you can find an easy-to-use diagram to help you determine where your trees should be in relation to your house!
  6. Aesthetics. How does this affect your landscape? Does it allow for more space? Are you looking to plant smaller trees in its place? Is it going to help control the amount of moisture the area gets? For example, trees can create higher levels of moisture under them. This can lead to the deck rotting or being slippery if under a tree. Mulberry trees produce fruit/berries that drop and can remain in your yard/patio/deck, which isn’t always aesthetically pleasing. Sometimes homeowners prefer Japanese Maples or Crabapples in their yard rather than a large Oak or Maple because they are prettier, or they flower. 

Are My Trees Too Close to the House?

If you are unsure and want to know, it is always best to contact an arborist or a tree industry professional! Feel free to contact us for a free quote, and we will see if your trees are causing any risk!