Top 5 Warning Signs That Tree Roots May Be Hurting Your Lawn

D.P. Taylor
Written by D.P. Taylor
Updated April 18, 2022
Trees in a backyard
Photo: Jon Lovette / Stone / Getty Images


  • Poor drainage inside your home may signify tree roots damaging your plumbing.

  • Tree roots can cause standing water in your yard.

  • They can also get into your sewer lines, causing a foul odor.

  • Roots can create cracks in both your home and driveway.

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Trees can really add value to a homeowner's property, but what's happening underneath the surface could be causing significant damage to the surrounding area, particularly your lawn. If you suspect tree roots may be causing damage but aren't sure, this guide can help you diagnose the root cause of the issue. Here are some of the top warning signs that roots may be uprooting your yard and home—and what to do to fix the problem.

1. Poor Drainage

As tree roots grow, they can get close to your home's plumbing. If a pipe is leaking, the tree root may seek out that water source and cause further damage to the pipes. You may notice your drains aren't draining as quickly, a sign that something is wrong with your plumbing.

This is a particularly insidious problem for homeowners because the issue is tough to diagnose. A homeowner will typically assume it's a clog and try to dump chemicals down the drain to dislodge it, all with no effect.

Next step: Different salts exist on the market to flush into your drains and kill the roots in the pipe without killing the tree. Copper sulfate is one option, as it serves as a natural herbicide. However, it's not safe for septic systems. Rock salt is another option, and it's safe for septic systems. Just be careful not to use too much, or you may kill the tree rather than those individual roots. To really keep roots from re-entering your pipes, contact a plumber near you for a permanent fix.

2. Standing Water and Different-Colored Grass

As pipe damage gets worse, the amount of water rushing out of it can increase, and you may notice a worrying impact on your lawn. You may see areas of standing water or grass that are greener in one spot due to much higher irrigation levels. You may even hear running water or notice a spike in your utility bill.

Next step: Again, the salts listed above are the best option for killing tree roots and stopping the leak. But to deal with standing water itself, you need to create a drainage system to create an escape path for the water. A quick fix could be to fill the area with topsoil to soak it up, but this may not be enough to solve the problem. Instead, a landscaper near you may be able to help offer a long-term solution to this problem, including hiring a local tree removal pro.

3. Strange Smells

View of a white bathroom
Photo: Perry Mastrovito / Image Source / Getty Images

If you start noticing a foul odor, it's possible that tree roots have invaded your sewer line. You may also notice that your toilet is flushing differently. In a worst-case scenario, raw sewage may start to collect in your yard—or even flow out of drains and sinks inside the home. As a result, this can become a health emergency needing immediate action. 

Next step: Hiring a local emergency plumber or septic system pro is your next step here. Don't try to take this on yourself.

4. Cracks in the Concrete or Asphalt

When tree roots invade the surrounding area, you may notice cracks both in your home and the concrete or asphalt around it. Tree roots can get into cracks and cause numerous problems, like damage to your floors and walls. 

Roots can also push up under your driveway or walkway, causing the concrete or asphalt to crack and forcing you to make expensive repairs. It’ll also make footpaths treacherous to walk on.

Next step: A landscaper can both fix the problem and recommend some adjustments to keep it from recurring if it’s causing cosmetic issues, so contact one to come out to your home and conduct a consultation.

5. Foundation Problems

Yes, tree roots can damage your home's foundation. While most roots aren't robust enough to affect a concrete foundation, some are large enough to cause some soil shifting that can cause cracks to develop in the foundation. Roots also shrink and expand depending on the weather, and they can weaken the foundation on their own if they're large enough. This will result in tremendous problems for you as a homeowner that'll be difficult to fix, so it's essential to address it early.

Next step: Foundation problems represent a serious threat to your home, so if you suspect the roots are causing an issue, it's vital to get a pro on the case now. Contact a foundation repair pro near you to come to your home and examine the situation.

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