Plants That Can Damage Your Property
Written by Zenyx Griffiths
19th Jan 2017 (Last updated on 27th Mar 2020) 8 minute read
There are several plants that can damage your property which your surveyor will highlight if they’re found during the property survey. The main plants to be aware of are:
- Japanese Knotweed
- Oak, Willow and Poplar Trees
- Lime and Pine trees
- English and Common Ivy
The main goal of any property survey is to highlight any issues or damage that will affect the property you’re interested in and it’s overall value. If you’re concerned about any plants that are or could damage your property, then it would be wise to compare surveyors and have a property survey conducted so that the issues can be highlighted. You can then receive the relevant advice to resolve these problems.
This guide from Compare My Move will explain how to effectively look after your property and how to get rid of certain plants that can cause damage to your home.
The first plant that can damage your property is Japanese knotweed or Fallopia japonica. Japanese knotweed can grow as fast as 10cm a day and is capable of forcing its way through concrete, foundations, walls and drains. This can then cause subsidence, creating major cracks in the brickwork and physically sinking the property.
Although you are under no legal obligation to declare the presence of Japanese knotweed on your property, you could face fines of up to £5,000 and/or up-to 2 years in prison if you allow contaminated soil or plant material to spread into the wild or across your property’s boundary. Neighbours can also file a civil lawsuit if the weed causes damage to their property and can be sourced back to your garden.
Identifying and Removing Japanese Knotweed
The plant can be identified by its white flowers and bamboo-like stems which grow as high as 3m in the summer. It also has zigzag-shaped and purple speckled stems, making it stand out amongst the rest.
Japanese knotweed grows quicker during the summer and will fade over time during the cold winter months. However, Japanese knotweed can survive from any root the size of a fingernail so complete removal is necessary.
How to Remove Japanese Knotweed
A specialist contractor is required to remove this plant as Japanese knotweed is controlled by the UK government. All parts of the plant and any contaminated soil are classified as controlled waste and must be removed in the correct manner. However, if you’re looking to prevent any initial signs of Japanese knotweed from spreading or growing larger, then the options you have are to:
- Spray it with chemicals - only use approved herbicides
- Bury it at a depth of at least 5 metres
- Burn it - you should first let it dry out then use a controlled fire to burn it. However, you should check with your local council before continuing to do so
Oak, Willow and Poplar Trees
Oak, willow and poplar trees growing close to your property can cause subsidence, structural damage and blocked drains. They are just a few of the many trees that can damage your property. Much like Japanese knotweed, tree roots have the capacity to break through concrete and drainage pipes. Buildings up to four storeys, built before the 1950s, are most at risk of subsidence caused by a tree roots due to their comparatively shallower foundations.
Trees can dry the soil out in the surrounding area in both spring and summer, potentially causing ground shrinkage under your home’s foundations. Shrinkage is not too common but could cause the costly issue of subsidence if your property is within proximity to the tree. If the subsidence becomes too dangerous, the only likely solution is underpinning which is rather expensive.
Roots will always grow to where there is water and drainage pipes are no exception. Roots can usually find a way into drainage systems, causing damage to underground piping and potentially flooding your garden. Oak trees further than 30m from your property are more than likely within a safe distance and won't affect your home, but it's important to check with a professional.
Identifying and Removing Oak, Willow and Poplar Trees
There are a few signs that allow you to tell if you’re dealing with an oak tree. The leaves are often lobed, symmetrical and growing acorns, whilst the bark is rather scaly. Oak trees will also have a thick trunk and can grow up to 21m in height.
Willow trees often grow near water and have distinctive narrow leaves cascading down the vines that are usually between 5-10cm long. The leaves can even grow as long as 15cm, depending on the type of willow tree it is.
There are more than 25 species of poplar, which grow in a variety of different ways. The most common poplar tree is the cottonwood, which grows tall and thin and can often be used to create hedgerows. Cottonwood trees can reach a height if 100 feet with a thick trunk but uneven and weak branches.
How to Remove Oak, Willow and Poplar Trees
To remove the tree, you’ll most likely have to hire a tree surgeon who will safely remove and kill the roots using a specialist fluid to ensure nothing continues to grow. If you are unsure about whether your tree might be an issue, a property surveyor will usually pick up on any cause for concern, providing you with advice on how to resolve the issue.
Lime and Pine Trees
Lime and pine trees are notorious for secreting sap on whatever is below. Parked cars, patios, driveways and even your house could all be subject to the sticky residue that falls from these trees in the spring and summer seasons.
Although it’s not advised to remove these trees unless you absolutely must, it’s important to keep an eye on its surrounding area. The residue that falls on your property can easily cause damage to paintwork and become a safety risk on patios if not dealt with. The roots can also cause subsidence like the other dangerous plants on this list. However, if a lime tree is further than 20m from your property, it may be within a safe distance.
Identifying and Removing Lime and Pine Trees
Lime trees can be identified by their small, downward-facing, yellow-white flowers that grow in spring and summer underneath long and narrow leaves. The Common Lime species has red leaf buds that grow into heart-shaped, dark green leaves that grow to about 6-10cm in length.
Pine trees are often thin, tall trees that often grow pine cones that will fall to the ground in autumn. Pine trees are easily identifiable from their branches which are covered in small pine needles that grow up to 16 inches long. The needles often grow in clusters, with the number depending on the specific type of pine tree it is.
How to Remove Lime and Pine Trees
Although it’s possible to remove these trees yourself, we recommend hiring a tree surgeon who will kill the roots with specialist fluid. This ensures that the lime or pine tree will not grow back over time. To remove these types of trees, you will often have to remove the physical stump which is why professional help is recommended. Your property survey should highlight if the tree and tree roots are a danger to your home.
English and Common Ivy
English ivy is known to lift roof tiles and pull away guttering. These climbing plants support themselves with aerial roots that penetrate cracks or joints in your masonry and can cause your interior walls to become damp. Ivy can climb as high as 50 ft and blankets bricks, blocks and wood. As it continues to climb, the roots take hold of whatever it touches and it becomes difficult to control.
Alongside these issues, it should be considered that all forms of climbing plants can be used by small wildlife like spiders and rodents as access into your home.
Other self-clinging plants such as Boston ivy and Virginia creeper do not cause any damage to your property. But it’s still recommended to contact a surveyor if you have any concerns.
Identifying and Removing English and Common Ivy
While English or Common ivy may look similar to Virginia Creepers from a distance, this pesky plant can be identified by the dark berries growing alongside it in both spring and summer.
English ivy is usually green or light grey, whereas Virginia Creepers and Boston ivy can be green, red and even purple. English ivy leaves are often heart-shaped, waxy and with pointed lobes. It can reach a thickness of 10 inches and can be rather bumpy in texture.
Removing English and Common Ivy
When undertaking work or removing ivy from your home, make sure that there are no birds nesting beforehand. It’s an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it’s in use or being built.
Ivy can be removed from your building by hand, but remember to kill the roots in your brickwork and any roots that are grounded otherwise the ivy may return. A simple weed killing spray should be enough to kill the roots of the ivy.
Save on Your Surveying With Compare My Move
If you're in the process of buying a home, then it would be wise to have a property survey conducted to highlight any issues that could be caused by plants and trees surrounding the property. If you’re concerned, it’s better to tackle the problem head-on and find a professional as soon as possible. Simply fill out Compare My Move’s quick and easy form to get the best prices for you and to ensure you find only the most qualified and experienced surveyors.