Can Tree Roots Cause Sinkholes?

Homeowners, as well as business owners, may be wondering if tree roots can cause sinkholes.

The answer is yes, a sinkhole may develop due to the deterioration of the tree’s root system.

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Most Common Causes of Sinkholes Caused by Trees

This is a problem that is encountered by property owners once they have had a tree removed.

The sinking ground occurs once the tree’s roots begin to decay and decompose.

Since the tree itself is the host for the roots, which supply the water and nutrients necessary for the tree’s growth, once the tree is removed, the roots will not survive.

As time passes, the roots decay, leaving a void in the soil where they once were. For trees that have a large network of roots, this can mean a significant loss to the soil, which leads to a sinkhole.

A tree is also susceptible to disease, which can lead to root rot and decay and compromises the security of the tree to the soil.

root rot and decay

As the system slowly decays and the roots die, the area around the tree begins to sink.

Another reason for a sinkhole is if a property owner has a tree cut down but leaves a stump.

In some cases, when the stump is ground by a tree service, part of the stump may be left standing versus removing it completely and then grinding the roots.

As the remaining stump begins to decay, it will lose its density and begin to crumble and decompose and return as part of the soil.

Unfortunately, the area the stump once occupied is now a void that can lead to sinking ground.

Problems Caused by Removing Tree Roots

Something to keep in mind is when a tree’s root system is damaged, it can be years before any symptoms present themselves.

If you are concerned about the health of a tree, contact a tree service company with an arborist on staff to do an examination.

It may seem like a good idea to prune back a tree’s root system that is growing above or near the top of the ground.

Removing Tree Roots

That is not a good idea since the roots are growing that close to the surface in order to receive oxygen.

If clipped, their supply is cut off.

Another factor to consider when having tree roots removed is the tree itself can become unstable as the roots are its security system bonding it to the ground.

Root removal can also lead to an unhealthy tree in the future, which can lead to decay and decomposing wood.

As the tree declines, a sinkhole is usually the result.

Large trees, such as oaks and pines, require enough nutrients and water to grow, bloom, and overall, be healthy.

When the tree roots of these large trees are removed, they are immediately denied the natural resources they need to survive.

Without these basics, they will eventually decline, decompose, and become the start of the process of creating a future sinkhole.

Prevention of Sinkholes Due to Tree Roots


Since a decaying root system is a main source of sinkholes, there are prevention methods to address the problem.

While it may seem as though this is not a situation that can be readily fixed if addressed early on before there is significant damage, avoiding a sinkhole is usually a possibility.

First, once a tree is removed, all of the root systems must be excavated. This should be taken care of as soon as the tree is removed.

What this means is all of the networks of roots are removed and once completed, the hole must be filled in and covered to prevent future sinking.

As mentioned, leaving a tree stump standing can lead to sinkholes. This is especially true for diseased or damaged trees that are no longer growing.

Once the main part of the tree is removed, leaving a dead stump only leads to decaying wood, which results in the breakdown of the stump base into the soil.

Without the stump, the area is compromised, and the soil is prone to sinking. For this reason, tree stumps should be ground and completely removed, and the area filled and covered.

Can I Fix Sinkholes Caused by Tree Roots?

hire professional services

If you are an expert landscaper or work with a tree service, yes. If you do not have the experience and knowledge necessary to remove trees, tree roots, and tree stumps, it is recommended to hire professional services to avoid any additional damage.

A licensed tree service company has the tools and experienced technicians to do the job correctly from start to finish.

Can Sinkholes Be Filled In?

Whether a sinkhole due to tree roots can be filled in is a question you will want to ask a licensed tree service representative.

The reason being, if the tree, stump, and roots have all been removed at some point and now the ground where the tree formerly stood is sinking, you need to know the exact reason for the sinking.

It may be due to the compromised soil and needs to be filled in, or it may be a natural issue that has nothing to do with the tree roots and requires a different remedy.

If the sinkhole is due to the prior removal of the tree and its root system, the area can be filled in using a shovel and rake to add and disperse the filler.

To do this, use a mixture of topsoil combined with organic materials, such as grass clippings, compost, and leaf mold.


This combination adds nutrients back to the soil and helps restore it to a healthy state.

Signs Tree Roots May Be Causing Damage to Your Property

There are several reasons why property owners opt to have trees and their root systems removed, not only because of the potential for generating a sinkhole but also for potential damage that may occur to the property.

Here are a few of the signs tree roots may be a cause for concern and another reason to consider professional services.

Check the interior and exterior of your home for cracks in the foundation and walls, check the floor surfaces, look for cracks in the windows, and check that doors and windows open and close without a problem.

Check the concrete of the driveway, walkways, patio areas, and footpaths for cracks or bulging, or lifting of the material.

This can mean tree roots are present beneath the surface.

Monitor any tree stumps left on the property for signs of sinkholes. As noted, deterioration of the stump can take a while.

If the property is equipped with a sewer system, tree roots can get into the system and wreak havoc.

tree stumps

Things to Do Before Cutting Down a Tree

If you are planning to have a tree removed for whatever reason, a licensed tree removal company is the best option.

Use a company that provides an estimate, contract, and a guarantee of the work provided. Also, depending on the city/state where you live, before having a tree removed, check with the regulatory office to be sure the tree you want removed in fact can be removed.

Some trees are protected, and you must get approval, or face a fine, before having them removed.

If the tree is causing damage, this is usually a reason approval is granted for endangered trees.