A.Bill Palmer, president of Complete Construction Consultants in Lyons, Colo., responds: Trees consume enormous amounts of moisture, so it’s conceivable that a root system growing too close to a home could suck enough moisture out of the soil to crack the foundation. This is particularly true in dry areas with very expansive soils, which shrink or expand with changes in moisture content.

In nonexpansive soils, damage from tree roots is often caused by a different mechanism. Root structures seeking water can grow to the point where the pressure they exert on a wall causes foundation walls to bulge and slabs to crack and move. There are even cases where tree roots have grown into or through concrete walls, cracking them and...

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