We can all agree that trees are beautiful and, more importantly, crucial for the survival of humankind. They must be looked after and nourished. Not surprisingly, the Tree Preservation Orders (TPO) in the United Kingdom protect specific trees, groups of trees, or woodlands in the interests of amenity. You can learn more about the TPO on the government’s website here.

Some trees, however, may pose a threat to your property and, in the worst cases, even your life. Below, we’ll review the possible dangers of having trees near your home, what are the safe distances of trees from houses in the UK and how to prevent and minimise damages caused by trees.

Table of Contents:

Keep reading this post if you:

  • Have a tree close to your house and want to know if it’s safe;
  • Plan to have a tree planted in your garden; 
  • Have inexplicable cracks on your house walls, floors, or facade;

The dangers of having trees near your house

Trees are generally not dangerous and in most cases won’t cause a problem. It’s an exception when trees are the reason for serious property damages or injuries. However, these exceptions should not be overlooked and neglected.

The most common damages that trees can cause are the following:

  • Structural damages to buildings
  • The reason behind these damages is subsidence. Put in simpler terms, this is the process of gradual sinking of the ground’s surface due to shrinkable clay soils. This usually happens after a long dry weather period during the summer months, especially July and August. It could easily cause cracks to appear on your property’s walls, floors or ceiling. Older and higher buildings are more vulnerable due to their relatively shallow foundations. The immediate proximity of the particular trouble making tree to the property is also a higher risk. Respectively, trees near houses pose a higher threat of damage.

  • Damage to drains
  • Trees could cause issues with drains, particularly in the case of old and neglected ones. Tree roots may enter the drain and block it. In such cases, it’s best to replace the drain rather than cut the root of the trees, risking to damage it irreversibly.

  • Physical damage to properties
  • Maybe the least harmful damage is for branches to get to your roof or gutters. Most of these damages are easily repairable once identified.

Safe distances of trees from houses in the UK

So what are the safe distances of trees from houses and what are the least dangerous trees to plant or have near your home? There are some recommended safe distances of trees from buildings. You can review these and use them as guidelines, but it’s always best to check with an expert.

Species Normal Mature Height (M) Safe Distance (M)
Apple / Pear 12 10
Ash 23 21
Beech 20 15
Birch 14 10
Cypress 25 20
Cherry 17 11
Damson 12 11
Elm 25 30
Hawthorn 10 12
Holly 14 6
Horse Chestnut 20 23
Laburnum 12 9
Laurel 8 6
Magnolia 9 5
Maple 21 20
Oak 24 30
Pine 29 8
Plane 30 22
Plum 12 11
Poplar 28 35
Sycamore 24 17
Spruce 18 7
Walnut 18 14
White Beam / Rowan 12 11
Willow 24 40
Yew 12 5
Related: How Much Does It Cost to Plant a Tree?

How can damage be prevented or minimised?

As we previously mentioned, you should always carefully consider what trees you’re planting near your house. This will save you a lot of headaches afterwards from having to deal with the potential damages and insurance companies. In most cases, if planned correctly, there is no limit to the number, type, or size of trees to plant. It’s important to remember that most trees, no matter their size and proximity to houses and buildings, won’t cause a problem. It’s an exception to the rule that this will happen.

That, of course, doesn’t mean that you won’t need to take the necessary precautions, get advice from a professional tree surgeon, and plan the planting process carefully. On the contrary, this is of utmost importance in order to prevent or minimise damage, injuries, and any issues altogether. If you own a tree near a building or a street, we recommend that you hire a professional to estimate its safety every few years and issue an official report in case it’s needed. 

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Trees are likely to become problematic in case of long dry weather periods. While subsidence is the main cause, there is also the issue with falling branches, so this is another thing you should consider.

Sometimes, local authorities and insurers can be extremely cautious, leaving us with only a few, if any, options for planting around our homes and in our cities. Trees, however, as we all know, are irreplaceable and immensely improve our living conditions. According to a report valuing London’s urban forest, “For a functioning urban forest there needs to be trees of all shapes and sizes and in the right proportions to ensure that benefits can continue to be delivered for future Londoners”.

This is essential, especially in the times we live in, when pollution is a pressing issue for any urbanised society. After all, trees produce the oxygen we breathe and absorb CO2 emissions, which are detrimental to our health and climate.

When in doubt, call the professionals

If you have any doubts about how safe a tree is, you should definitely call an expert and arrange a survey on site. The Fantastic tree surgeons can assist you with a variety of tree maintenance procedures in London and the UK, including branch pruning, crown shaping, and full tree removal in line with all safety regulations. Leave the tasks to the professionals and enjoy your chore-free life!

Takeaways:

There are a few important things to remember when it comes to trees near houses in the UK:

  • Most of the trees planted near houses or buildings won’t cause any issues;
  • The most vulnerable trees are the older, higher ones;
  • The main issues trees could cause are structural or physical damages by subsidence, drain blockages or in some of the worst cases injuries caused by falling branches;
  • If you own a tree near a house or building or have one close to your property, we recommend that you have it surveyed or checked by a professional once every few years to ensure its safety.

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Image source: shutterstock.com/Guas

Posted in Garden Advice, Plants in the UK

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