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Planting Trees and Shrubs Near Your Old Foundation

Mar 17, 2022 8:00:00 AM Christina Wilson

There are few things as charming as landscaping with an older brick wall as a backdrop. Trees and shrubs add significant curb appeal to your property. Still, they can present some unique challenges near older brick homes. If you are considering planting trees and shrubs near your old foundation, here are a few things to consider

How Close is Too Close?

When planting trees, before you consider color schemes, soil conditions, and watering needs, prioritize the tree's size when fully grown. By planning now for how far away the trees should be once mature, you can save yourself the long-term disappointment of constant pruning or structural damage. 

If the tree roots will press against your foundation or any other hardscaping features, such as retaining walls or pavers, or if the branches are going to brush against your brick, the tree is considered too close to the building. 

The minimum distance a tree should ever be planted to a building is 15 to 20 feet, but that doesn't tell the entire story. Things to consider when planting near an old foundation include:

  • Older foundations may already have tiny imperfections that tree roots would exacerbate.
  • Sewer lines may be made of clay, which easily cracks. If tree roots find their way into those cracks, you could end up with plumbing problems.
  • Tree and shrub roots extend much further than most people think. Try to find a mature species of the tree you want and look at the size of the canopy. The roots can extend 3 to 5 times farther than the canopy in all directions.
  • Canopy sizes vary, and even if you plant the tree far enough away from your old foundation, the canopy might still rub against the brick. Pick a variety with a compact canopy if you are planting close to a brick wall.
  • Different species of trees have different levels of aggressiveness. For example, willows, aspen, and poplar should be nowhere near your home, patio, retaining wall, pool, or driveway. They can buckle concrete and tear up paver stones.
  • Roses are overlooked when it comes to foundations and brickwork. While the idea of roses rambling up the brick is appealing, some heritage roses and specialty hybrids grow canes several feet long. As a result, they can be many inches around and have thorns that can gouge bricks and mortar, leaving the brickwork unsightly and open to water damage.

What To Do if The Trees and Shrubs are Already There

If you purchase or inherit a home with trees too close to the building or other hardscaping, an expert in tree pruning and removal can advise you of the tree species, assess for damages, and safely prune or remove it. Trying to remove a tree too close to the building yourself can cause catastrophic damages to your old foundation.


Once the tree or shrub is taken care of, the experts at Renaissance Development can evaluate your older brick exterior for signs of damage and take corrective steps. As experts in heritage brick repair and restoration, any damages can be remediated by their expert craftspeople. Contact the office for a free consultation.

Categories: Curb appeal, Exterior brick, Hardscaping

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