Well, readers, it looks like the winter is just about done and spring is kvetching at our doors!

Wait – there’s ice on my porch and my thermostat is still at 68 degrees (some of us keep warmer by looking at our Con Edison bills), so Jay, pray tell, where is spring? The answer is simple! When the kosher supermarkets are putting away all the chometz items and bringing out the Pesach food!

But there is another, easy way to see spring. Can you guess? Yes, the first fly has invaded our home!

Another sure way is to look at the garden. Plants and trees are beginning to come alive! Who doesn’t love a beautiful garden, flowers, and trees? (Well, those who have hay fever and have now turned the page on Jay the inspector’s article…) Sorry, folks - despite hay fever or seasonal allergies, there is no escaping plants.

As home inspectors, we often see the negative influences of plants and trees and how they can affect the foundations of our homes. Being that this is a broad topic, I will briefly cover just one aspect. But please remember that home inspectors are trained to spot damages caused by plants and trees that can result in a flooded basement! Poor and unplanned landscaping are big contributors to this spring and summer phenomenon.

Question: Can tree roots cause damage to a home’s foundation?

Answer: Tree roots can damage a house’s foundation, with an invitation to do so. Tree roots are very opportunistic and will only grow and penetrate where it is easiest to grow, such as friable soils and mulch. Typically, when roots encounter solid, impervious surfaces such as pipes, sidewalks, curbs, and foundations, they are redirected laterally or up and over. However, if there is a breach or a crack nearby, they can and will exploit those voids in search of moisture. Such as sewer pipes aren’t damaged by the roots, they are just very capable of finding those leaks and moving into the moist and often nutrient-rich pipe.

Roots normally grow horizontally and not very far beneath the soil surface. Sometimes, when roots encounter the looser backfill soil near the foundation, they can abruptly start growing down. You may be able to locate these roots, if they exist, by excavating a foot or two down, within a few feet of the foundation. If you find a suspect root, cut it off. Unfortunately, in some cases, excavation down to the base of the foundation may be necessary. This may have to be done anyway to repair and stabilize it. Cutting the roots should prevent future problems, especially if a root barrier is installed to prevent re-growth.

Have a wonderful and productive week, step away from the Johnny Walker, and face Pesach!

 By Jay Aron