Najah Lowe, Home Buyer in Los Angeles County, CA

I am interested in a home that has a tree roots that have cracked the sidewalk and driveway of the home and I am concerned about foundation problems.

Asked by Najah Lowe, Los Angeles County, CA Sun May 15, 2011

Other than that issue, the home is in great shape and we like it. What can we do?

Help the community by answering this question:


Dear Najah:

I recommend that you hire a registered arborist to examine the tree and to educate you about its species and heritage. Some trees have shallow roots, which could mean big trouble for the home's foundation; others drop their roots straight and deep, meaning there is little risk they will migrate into the foundation. Once you know what kind of tree you are dealing with, you can make the decision as to whether you want the seller to pay for its removal.

This advice assumes that you have done your physical inspection and that inspection did not show any foundation damage. If the inspection did indicate foundation damage, you will also need to have a foundation specialist inspect the property.

Please let me know if you need an arborist referral.

Good Luck!

Meredith McKenzie
Associate Broker
Keller Williams Realty
1660 Hillhurst Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027

2 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 15, 2011
Its always prudent to contact an expert. I always tell buyers, an inspector is like a family doctor vs a specialist. If you have specific questions, most inspectors will even tell you, you may want to have an electrician, plumber etc come out to farther assess the home during your due diligence period. In this instance, an arborist is the expert.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 8, 2011
Mostly, your concerns should be addressed by an arborist - not a home inspector. If the home is built on a raised foundation, however, the home inspector may be able to see historic damage to the foundation.

What I learned from a client/horiculture student last week: Eucalyptus trees have a massive and very deep (although narrow) root system. Giant redwoods have only a 3-foot deep root system. Interesting.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Jun 2, 2011
Hi Nejah,
I feel you, believe me. In my neighborhood we have many such Ficus Trees which have become huge. They have an invasive root system which has turned some areas into hazards by the lifting of the sidewalks and streets.
In one area (Sepulveda Blvd.) the city has undertaken to remove the trees and replace all the sidewalks, but it's a slow process.
I would get a good Arborist out to the property to get their adivce. Not all trees have these types of root systems. They might be able to cut the root and remove it so that it doesn't cause further damage. The dirveway can be repaved as well. Once you have the advice of a specialist,you will know what direction to take.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed May 18, 2011
Chances are the roots are deep enough to do damage to sewer lines before doing damage to the foundation--but I concur with one agent, it does depend on how close the tree is to the home. There are plenty of properties with mature trees that coexist, peacefully. Often owners will go so far as to cut them down before there are any issues, which affects the beauty of the property and the street.

Foundation problems will be easy to ascertain all by themselves, regardless of the tree. When you walk inside the home, things like cracked walls around doors, sloping floors, and cracks around the exterior perimeter of the home between the foundation and the flooring are good indicators of issues. If the home is over 60 years old, the likelihood of wear and tear foundation issues goes up, anyway. If there are any of these sorts of red flags, when the work is done by a licensed contractor, they can excavate any roots (if there are any) as they are fixing and bolting the foundation.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon May 16, 2011
Hi Najah,
Hire both a foundation inspector and have someone check the sewer line. If there is any damage to the property casued by the tree roots, it's most likely something to do with the sewer line over the foundation. At least that's been my experience.

Good luck and congratulations on your home purchase!
Lynn LeGlaire
Keller Williams Realty
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon May 16, 2011
Hi Najah:

Once your offer is accepted, hire a home inspector to complete an inspection, You may need additional inspectors like a plumber, tree removal person, general contractor, etc., that will look at every detail pertaining to the tree, sidewalk, foundation, and anything else underneath that you can not see. They will be able to give you details as to the repairs. Then you can use the results to negotiate with the seller for repairs.

Good luck.

Kat Becker
Prudential California Realty
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon May 16, 2011
When purchasing a property you have a specified time "usually 17 days" to perform all inspections. I highly recommend getting a good home inspection, you may also want someone to inspect the foundation, possibly an engineer to assess the property, also your Realtor should be able to assist you with this.

Congratulations on buying and much success to you!
Have a great day,
Heather Paul, Realtor
Coldwell Banker
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Oct 28, 2011
Hi Najah,

As the others have said....get a good home inspection. Not a visual one...but a real thorough one and see what develops from there.

Good luck,

0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jun 9, 2011
Get a home inspection done first. If the inspector notices any critical issues - they can recommend the pertinent expert for the issue noted for further investigation into the matter.

Hope this helps and good luck.

David Akram
Realtor, DRE# 01891274
Notary Public, Certified Loan Signing Agent.
Cell: 661-505-8550
Century 21 All Moves

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Member of NAR, SRAR, CAR and NNA. Bilingual in English, Urdu and Hindi.
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0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jun 9, 2011
Hello Najah,
This may not be an answer you find very attractive, but if there are questions about the foundation, then you should keep looking.

I can relate if you have really fallen in love with a home and you want some questions answered. The problem I have with an inspection is it is not infallible. An inspector can come look at "guestimate" what kind of costs you might be looking at to correct a foundation issue. An engineer would be better, but who wants to front a cost like that?

With all the inventory that is available, I think you might want to look at some other homes.

PML of Longmont, CO
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 8, 2011
Before doing anything, you should check with your local Township Zoning and/or Housing Office. Each Township has specific regulations concerning these type of repairs. When selling a property, some Townships require that this type of sidewalk repair is 'required' as part of the township inspection to procure a Certificate of Occupancy for the new buyer. A normal home inspection by a qualified home inspector could give some answers as to the integrity of the foundation, but an Engineer would be a better bet. Hope this helps.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 7, 2011

Property inspection is highly recommended on such situation. Our company works with reliable, licensed and insured property inspectors, if you do need a referral please feel free to call our office and ask for one.

310-348-7878 or visit
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 7, 2011
Get a home inspection done to eliminate or reconfirm any concerns you might have about the fore mentioned property.

Hope this helps.

Thank you.

David Akram
Realtor, DRE# 01891274
Notary Public, CNSA
Cell: 661-505-8550
Century 21 All Moves
Web Reference:
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed May 18, 2011
Good advice from Dorene, get a pro in to see the property and advise you so that you can proceed with "eyes wide open".

Good luck to you,
Jeanne Feenick
Unwavering Commitment to Service
Web Reference:
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed May 18, 2011
Indeed this is of concern. You can call the City by dialing 311 and tell them about the cracks in the sidewalk as this is public property. As for your private property, of course an arborist may be a good contact, but if you're specifically concerned about the foundation, connect with a licensed foundation expert. I'd be happy to recommend several who will do estimates. Lastly, a sewerline inspection may also be advised as tree roots love sources of water and often cause a tremendous amount of damage to these lines that go unnoticed until the problem has escallated. Feel free to connect with us for more direction.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon May 16, 2011
It depends on where the tree is located and how far the foundation is from the tree.
If it is the tree between the sidewalk and curb then you should be able to contact the city and they will cut the roots and possibly take measures to make sure it doesn't happen again.
If it's between the sidewalk and your house then it is the owners responsibility.

Another thing to consider is what type of foundation is the property on? Slab or raised.
On a slab foundation there could be more issues like plumbing leaks that come up, on a raised foundation it will more than likely be limited to isolated areas of the foundation walls.
One thing I can assure you is there is no perfect home. Every home has or will have an issue.
If it's not the tree roots then its the termites, or earthquakes.
Also, if it is a slab foundation and there are cracks in the garage, that is an indication the foundation will have cracks too. Has anyone explained that all cement cracks? that is why there are expansion gaps (or slices) in the cement, so there may be other reasons for cracking.

Ask your home inspector what he feels caused the problem, how urgent is it and what can be done to repair it. Then, weigh all your options that made you choose this house in the first place.
If you find the good outweighs the bad, move forward, if not, move on.
There are always more homes, but no 2 are alike.
Good luck
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon May 16, 2011
Najah, I agree with my colleagues. Once in contract obtain a licensed, insured home inspector and have the sewer lines inspected as well. If there are major issues, you will have your inspection contingency to protect you. If you then choose move forward with the purchase, contact a qualified arborist to discuss possible root-pruning of the trees. Depending on the species and health of the trees, the roots may be able to be professionally cut back, the sidewalk and driveway fixed and the trees will be able to continue to provide greenery, shade and curb appeal which we are sorely lacking in parts of L.A. Best of luck to you!

Risa Liebster, Realtor®
Ramsey-Shilling Associates
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon May 16, 2011
Definitely hire an inspector to see what is going on with the foundation. You also should be aware that tree roots can damage the sewer line for a home (if it has a sewer connection). Make sure to get that checked as well.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon May 16, 2011
Hi Najah,

If you're concerned enough about the roots to write in, then you must address it by having an inspection, after you place an offer.

Call a qualified home inspector, and let him or her know upfront all your concerns, not just the tree roots, so that they pay extra care to those areas. See what his/her recommendations are. If you are comfortable with his/her suggestions follow them.

If you still have concerns, go to a nursery and ask them to recommend a specialist who can diagnose the problem and a solution. Also inquire, how much it will cost to remedy.

If you like the house but have reservations, think carefully before moving forward. There may be another house out there without a tree issue just right for you:)

Feel free to contact me with any further questions

Reny Monk

0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon May 16, 2011
Dear Home Buyer,

You should be concerned. Tree roots could make some damages. Galvanized sewage lines often get blocked with roots. You should hire an insured home inspector to report property conditions and any material defects.

(323) 285-8864
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 15, 2011
My guess is that the foundation of the home should be fine. It's pretty rare for roots to cause structural problems. But, the easiest way to find out is to see what your general inspector says once you are under contract. If he finds anything that is cause for concern, he will advise you to contact a foundation specialist to come out and take a look. If you like the home, I would move forward with the transaction subject to inspection, of course. Feel free to contact me if you would like a recommendation for a general inspector and / or foundation specialist.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 15, 2011
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