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How to prevent ground heave when removing a tree

Removing a tree is sometimes necessary, for example, if it has become diseased or unsafe, or if you want to use the land for a different purpose. However, it can be problematic for the foundations of a property due to the ground becoming uneven. This is known as ground heave and can result in damage to landscaping or even walkways or driveways. Read on to find out how to prevent ground heave when removing a tree.

What is ground heave?

Ground heave can occur when a tree is removed from the soil. Since the water is longer able to be absorbed by the tree’s roots, the soil begins to swell as it gets wet. This swelling can lead to the soil lifting up, sometimes to a greater volume than when the property was constructed. This can cause the foundations to shift. The amount of heave that occurs after tree removal depends on a number of factors, including the age of the tree, the permeability of the soil and the availability of free water.

Tree heave is most likely to occur if the tree was older and had a very high water demand, such as poplar, oak and willow. It can be difficult to say how long it’ll take for the ground to recover from tree heave. Whilst sometimes it can take as little as a few months, it could possibly take as long as 25 years to return to normal.

How to reduce the effects of tree heave

Fortunately, there are things you can do to mitigate the effects of ground heave after tree removal. These include:

  • Consider the risk of heave where an existing tree might mature or die. If a tree is planted within the area you’re building on, there’s a good chance that it could die during the building’s lifecycle. This is particularly likely if the tree has dried the soil before the foundations are laid. To combat the issue of soil swelling from existing trees, you could opt to sever the roots so that the soil is able to rehydrate.
  • Establish the correct foundation depth for the ground conditions. There are tools available to calculate the depth required for the foundations, taking into account the proximity of the tree and the type of soil. Foundations with a depth of more than 2.5m will need an assessment carried out by an expert.
  • Opt for stump removal. Having the stump removed along with the tree will reduce the number of roots remaining in the ground, reducing the risk of heave occurring.

Can ground heave be fixed?

If you have a ground heave after tree removal, it’s best to contact experienced professionals to help. Sometimes, the solution can be simply to pump water out of the area that’s causing the problem. However, occasionally the affected area might need to be excavated and broken pipes repaired or replaced. A qualified professional will be able to identify the cause of the ground heave and work to address it effectively.

If you need tree removal and want to reduce the risk of ground heave, contact experienced tree surgeons to carry out the work. Get in touch with Essex Tree Brothers by calling (01245) 955 117 or (01621) 484306 or by sending us a message via the website.

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