Fig roots damaging house - Anyone ever see roots in crawl space

julio01March 8, 2010


I have a fairly large fig tree about six feet from the house thats about 10 years old. There are about five main trunks each about 5 inches in diameter. I was concerned about the brick on the wall as it started cracking a few years ago but decided to do nothing as I wasn't sure it was due to the fig. Now I went under the house in the crawl space and it has many roots some 1.5 inches in diameter very straight looking like cables. I notice some roots 1" in diameter are even about fifty or sixty feet away from the fig. I'm pulling up the plastic sheeting that was over the roots and am considering killing the tree. Has anyone else ever seen this problem. There may be a small leak keeping it moist under the house and drawing the roots where if it were dry there would be no problem.

I appreciate any advice. And there are no other trees close to the house, just hedges which have been there thirty years. Never saw any roots under the house before when under the house.

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glenn9643(z8 MS)

Fig roots are often long and I've never seen any get very large. Never heard of the roots damaging a structure. In the south they were often planted near a wall or out-building but in those days the buildings were generally built with conventional foundations and no masonry was involved.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 8:21AM
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Hi Julio01,
just a guess here but if you have other trees on your property they also could be doing this from a good distance away.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 9:03AM
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Just a follow up comment on the roots. The reason I'm certain its the fig is that there were no roots under the house 10 years ago, I planted the fig 10 years ago, no other trees are near the house, and now there are roots. They also come from the direction of the fig, with a 1.5 inch root coming out from the ground about 10 feet from the fig (there are 3 or 4 roots this diameter coming out of the ground w some 60 ft from the fig which I find hard to believe). All the big roots come from the direction of the fig with smaller roots between. I'm not worried about the brick as its already cracked and I doubt there will be much more brick damage soon. What I'm worried about is termites coming in thru roots or other side effects from having roots under the house. I guess they pull out any excess water at least.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 9:26AM
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wabikeguy(7 AB)

There are several types of ficus that have destructive, invasive roots.

What kind of fig is this? Is this a fruiting fig, or some other member of the ficus genus?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 2:24PM
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I second wabikeguy's questions
[I was just about to post - but he beat me].

The F.carica roots are said not to be invasive.

Some other fig genus are known to have roots strong
enough to "split rocks" or "strangle other trees".

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 3:09PM
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For some pics of F.carica growing in some very odd
places (with no apparent root damage) see:

Here is a link that might be useful: And we worry about mediums

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 3:55PM
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Its supposedly a brown turkey fig bought from a nursery. Bought with several others. Only two are producing a lot of figs, the one near the house and another down the hill about 100 ft from the house. The one down the hill produces larger fruit. The rest are starting to produce better each year but not many figs yet. There is another fig tree next to the house but it is much smaller. The one near the house thats the problem grows a lot more follage than the rest, was cut back and is again taller than the highest point on the roof.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 4:30PM
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The BT is one of the most mis-used/abused fig names
(so far only in the F.carica genus).

A simple/dumb question (excuse me - no offence meant):
Do the leaves of the tree in question resemble
the other F.carica fig trees you have? If not, a pic
may be very helpful here for ID purposes.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 5:05PM
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From what I have seen from my own eyes Ficus carica can screw up your house foundation. I know some say this is not true but my recent trip in Turkey got me convinced at 100% that a ficus carica can be a bad thing for the foundation of your house.

If your concrete is well sealed then no issues but the moment there is some kind of crack you are in for trouble on the long run. I have some pictures of historic monuments getting screwed by ficus carica but it never came to my mind to take pictures of houses.

I will search the pictures in my computer and post them here for you to see.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 9:47PM
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I did not find the ones I was looking for but these ones should give you a good idea on how a ficus carcia could work you structure.

Also, have a close look at picture n3.

Some houses were in bad shape because of a fig tree had grown into the structure of the building.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 10:24PM
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Thanks for the information and pictures. For some reason I can't find a picture of the fig tree. The leaves are not out yet but they do resemble the other fig leaves and has had more figs on the tree than the rest combined.

I saw a fig fig root outside adjacent to the brick and I think they made the footing only 12 inches or so deep so the roots just tunneled under the concrete and came out on the other side. Seems pretty wet under there so I guess I'll have to remove the insulation covering the pipes and see if I can find a leak. Maybe the damp soil made it grow more than it would have otherwise.

Thanks for everyone's help.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 12:45PM
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Maybe the fig roots are doing you a favor by sucking up the water from the leak, if there really is one. My neighbor had a drain pipe from his shower that unbeknownst to him became detached from the shower pan, so all the water from every time he took a shower was draining under the house into the crawlspace. It caused the soil to get so soggy that one end of his house sunk three inches, making his house unlevel, which cost him big bucks to fix.
BTW, I have a Chinese Elm about 20 feet away from a rental house in the backyard that's roots grew under the house about 30 feet wide and came out another 15 feet in the front yard, for a total length of about 65 feet.
My neighbor had a Eucalyptus that had roots 50 feet long that grew under the fence and were sucking water out of my garden.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 6:30PM
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A lot of the roots were above ground between the soil and the vapor barrier so I pulled out the plastic which some of was wet on both sides. I couldn't see anything dripping. One thing I'm sure is rusted out is the galvanized washing machine drain which is separate from the sewer drain. The cold water supply pipe was rusted out (also galvanized) and we replaced it in 1997 with PVC. For now we aren't using the washing machine until we find the probable leak. The soil seems muddier on the end of the house where the washing machine drain was which is about 60 ft from the fig tree. Didn't see any problems where the bath drains but I'm still going to remove the insulation under the supply pipes and make sure everything is ok.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 2:52PM
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