When you think of beautiful cottages, what do you picture? Most people will envision a stone home with bright green ivy crawling up the sides. Ivy can be a gorgeous decoration for the outside of your home, but some may worry that the strong roots will damage their foundations.
Ivy roots can damage bricks and foundations. The roots of an ivy plant are strong and tough to break through, and they tend to grow in long resilient strands that can get in between any cracks in your home’s foundation. Ivy is more likely to damage your walls than your foundation, though.
Below, I’ll go over the common types of ivy roots found on homes and how they may damage the foundation. Additionally, I’ll talk about the types of foundation damage that can result from an ivy plant. We’ll finish out with some easy ways to get rid of ivy if you decide it’s causing more damage than charm to your home.
How Ivy Roots Damage House Foundations
A staple of old cottages is the ivy growing up their walls. Some people will intentionally plant ivy near their homes so that it will climb up their masonry, while others are pleasantly surprised by it. Some will even build specific structures onto their exterior walls to give ivy a safe place to grow (though it’s hard to tell because they’re usually covered in ivy!). If ivy damages homes, why would so many people do this?
A keyword in the above explanation is that the houses with successful ivy growth are usually masonry. There is little evidence that masonry is damaged by ivy. Masonry is a strong, resilient material built with many individual units of brick or stone and glued together with mortar.
However, foundations are often built of other materials. Typically a house’s foundation will be composed of a few different materials, including cement and wood. Ivy can get in between the cracks and grow, damaging the foundation over a long period. This process can take many, many years, but if you’ve moved into an old house covered in ivy, this is something to take note of.
You’ll know you have English ivy if your ivy looks similar to the ivy you often see in cartoons and other movies. It has green leaves with white veins, grows up and outwards, and has strong, resilient roots.
Your home’s foundation can be damaged if ivy is growing wildly, especially if you have a lot of components built of wood. Cement, stucco, and brick will become damaged over a long period of time, but wood is what has the most risk of damage. This is because ivy roots can grow more efficiently between any cracks in the wood. Wood isn’t as strong as stone, so it cracks and breaks more easily.
Over long periods, ivy may also affect the cement and brick of a home, but this takes longer. The roots would need to grow in a very specific fashion to expand any cracks. A large portion of the damage can be done by whatever bugs the ivy is bringing with it. If you have any electrical wires or pipes in your foundation, the ivy can damage those as well.
It’s important to note that while ivy can damage your home’s foundation, it’s more likely to damage the walls by growing within them and causing rot.
If you look at your foundation and see ivy growing in between the cracks or creating any new cracks, you likely have a damaging ivy. Again, this is most likely to occur with wood, but don’t rule it out if your cement is covered in ivy. It’s most likely that ivy will damage any stone if you live in an old, historic home, but it can still damage newer cement.
Ivy is notorious for growing without help (you don’t have to water it or even pay attention to it for it to grow), and it can be difficult to get rid of.
A professional, whether that be of landscaping or home building origin, can come to check out your ivy roots and see what degree of damage they are causing. If the damage isn’t obvious, they’ll be able to determine whether you need to have the ivy removed.
What Should I Do if Ivy Is Damaging My Foundation?
As discussed above, ivy is most likely to damage your home’s foundation if you have a wooden foundation. Additionally, electrical wiring and plumbing in your foundation may be susceptible to ivy damage. This can mean a costly repair or even living without electricity or plumbing until the problems are fixed.
If ivy is damaging your foundation, promptly repair the damages and remove the ivy. You can get rid of ivy with organic herbicides or physical removal. Some landscaping companies also offer professional services for ivy removal.
You can get rid of ivy on your own or contact a professional to help you. Before deciding which route to go, just remember that ivy is hard to get rid of, which is why it’s growing invasively on your home. If you want to deal with the issue yourself, it will take some time. However, if you’d like to take it into your own hands to save money, the time spent may be worth it.
Most people will get rid of ivy by manually cutting the plants and digging out the roots. This can be a challenge, though, because ivy is so strong.
Instead of just pulling at the plant or cutting it, you could also utilize an herbicide to simplify the process. Herbicides can be purchased online and at most gardening stores. You can also make one yourself with the following common household ingredients:
- Dish soap
This solution will kill weeds and make pulling ivy easier.
If you want to use a chemical-free technique to kill the roots, you can try the boiled water method. For this, all you have to do is pour hot water all over the roots of the plants. This will make them wilt and kill most of the roots, making them much easier to pull.
You may need some help from both a landscaper and a contractor on this one. A landscaper will be able to help you get rid of the ivy, or at least pull it back to the point it isn’t growing into your house. On the other hand, a contractor will be able to help you assess the damage and fix what’s been broken.
Is It Okay To Let Ivy Grow on Your House?
With all of that being said, is it alright to allow ivy to grow on the outside of your house?
It is okay for ivy to grow on your house if you have strong masonry walls. However, ivy has been found to damage wood, stucco, and some types of brick. If you have a wall made of these weaker materials, stay vigilant and control the ivy.
Take control of overgrown ivy as soon as you can, especially if your house is composed of weaker materials. Ivy can be really pretty and give your house some curb appeal, but it’s important to be aware of any damage it may cause.
Ivy is a gorgeous addition to a house, though it sometimes isn’t grown on purpose. This plant grows up and out and has resilient roots that are hard to cut through. Ivy often grows on old houses made of masonry, and it doesn’t typically damage this kind of house. However, it is known to damage other types of walls.
If you have ivy growing and want it gone, you can call a professional landscaping company to fix it for you. Otherwise, physical removal is also possible via herbicides and cutting.
- Rhino Piling Ltd.: Plants That Can Damage the Foundations of a Building
- University of Illinois Extension: Vines: Climbers & Twiners – Vines on Buildings
- HGTV: Make Your Own Natural Weed Killer
- US Forest Service: Fire Effects Information System (FEIS) – Hedera helix
- Today’s Homeowner: Can Ivy Damage Brick or Wood on Your Home?