Vines, grass, and a bicycle on the vertical wall of a building in Mexico City (C) Daniel FriedmanShrubs, Trees, Vines on or Close to Building Walls & Chimneys

  • VINES & SHRUBS on BUILDING WALLS, CHIMNEYS - CONTENTS: vines on building walls & chimneys create risks of termites, carpenter ants, fires, and even fatal carbon monoxide poisoning of building occupants. Vines, shrubs, trees too close to building walls also contribute to mold, algae, and rot problems on the building exterior.
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Shrubs, trees, vines growing on or too-close to buildings:

This article explains that vines on building walls & chimneys create risks of termites, carpenter ants, fires, and even fatal carbon monoxide poisoning of building occupants. Vines, shrubs, trees too close to building walls also contribute to mold, algae, and rot problems on the building exterior. We discusses the importance of keeping trees, shrubs, and vines trimmed away from building walls, both to prevent termite or other insect damage and to avoid algae and mold growth on building surfaces.

This article series provides information about wood destroying insect damage, termites, carpenter ants, mold, algae, building wall, exterior trim, or even structural damage invited by heavy vegetation on or close to the building. Even though we find centuries-old buildings with ivy-covered walls, these risks remain a concern. Above: vines, grass, and even a bicycle decorate the wall if this building in Mexico City.

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Building Shrubs, Trees, Vines on Walls, Foundations, Chimneys & Termite or Structural Damage Risk

Wisteria on a home in Brooklyn, New York (C) Daniel FriedmanIt is important to keep trees, shrubs, and vines trimmed away from building walls, both to prevent termite or other insect damage and to avoid algae and mold growth on building surfaces.

[Click to enlarge any image]

That's because vines growing on building walls, even on walls of solid masonry buildings built of stone, brick, or concrete block, provide a covered passage that makes it easier for termites, carpenter ants or other insects or pests to attack the building.

The humidity and shade afforded by trees and shrubs close to walls increases moisture levels on the building wall and invite algae or mold problems on those surfaces.
See STAINS on STONE, STUCCO DIAGNOSE & CURE for more about the formation of algae, fungus, lichens or moss on building surfaces.

Above: ancient wisteria covers the walls of this home in Brooklyn, New York.

Shade from trees close to a building may be desirable for cooling comfort, but that same shade may encourage moss or algae or lichens growth on building roofs and on walls.

Below: the author (DF) cut down this huge beloved maple because of the combination of roof damage and recurrent carpenter ant infestations in the home's lower roofs.

Removed tree that was shading roof and bringing carpenter ants into the structure (C) Daniel Friedman

Below: it's apparent that tree shade explains the moss and lichens growth pattern on the roof of the Jacob's Inn just off of the A40 in the parish of Wolvercote, on the edge of Port Meadow, near Oxford in the U.K.

Moss on a roof in Wolvercote, Oxford, UK (C) Daniel Friedman

Trees that are too close to buildings may cause foundation damage as tree roots grow against the structure, and in some cases root structures also increase the risk of crawl space or basement water entry as roots can provide water transport passages through the soil around the building. In the black-and-white photo by the author taken in March of 1989, the roots of this tree had damaged the building foundation.

Tree damage to foundation (C) Daniel Friedman

The siding at ground level and in-slope grade added to the risk of rot and insect damage at this house wall.

Tree falls, knocks porch off of home (C) Daniel Friedman

Other risks of trees close to a building, even if far enough away to avoid foundation damage include the risk of a tree falling onto the structure, or the encouragement of lightning strikes at the building. Above a tree fell onto and knocked down part of the porch of this home in Dutchess County, New York. Below, a wonderful old oak fell onto and damaged this Poughkeepsie New York home.

Large oak falls on a home in Poughkeepsie, New York (C) Daniel Friedman Paul Galow

Really? I am not arguing that all trees near homes need to be cut down, but the health of these trees should be examined from time to time and sick trees at risk of collapse in a storm should be trimmed or cut down as should trees that are damaging the structure through root growth.

Question: how to remove vines from building walls, other necessary inspections & repairs

Vines overgrowing a chimney risk flue blockage, carbon monoxide poisoning, or a house fire (C) Daniel Friedman2016/07/20 AUTHOR:Arthur (no email)

COMMENT:What are best practices to remove an invasive climbing vine and repair an exterior residential wall (condo building). THe exterior wall is painted white and is composed of a thin stucco like layer , over cement layer over soft red brick wall. The condo building is a cement iron rebar reinforced columns and floors with the walls filled in by brick.

There is no insulation externally or on the interior. There is no or vapor barrier or moisture wrapping or wood material. Environmentally, the condo is in a very humid tropical weather like zone with a heavy rainy season during the summer (Now through OCTOBER) and dry season during winter through spring.

The climbing vine (locally called moneda d' oro- unsure of spelling) roots have infiltrated ,through the cement and red brick to the interior wall on some condos. Water infiltration is a problem on the interior of some condo apartments and deterioration of the wall is evident. Previous attempts from property management only resulted in infrequent pulling off the vines of the wall up to 4 stories. The vines grow back and the damage to the wall is never repaired.

Now there is water infiltration and roots that have penetrated the stucco like thin covering over soft red brick. It rains every day now as we are in the rainy season and one condo owner wants to pursue removing the vines and repairing the exterior wall now. The contractor proposes pulling off the vines and wash wall down with muriatic acid then repairs brick mortar where necessary and apply cement coating and then a thin layer of stucco-like coating and paint white.

Considering the use of muriatic acid, and pulling off the growth, my concern is there are roots within the walls (bricks) where pulling out the vines may cause more unnecessary damage as oppose to burning with a torch. Or, will muriatic acid be sufficient to remove the thin woody roots embedded in walls?

Did I mention that we have a sub-terranean termite issue although not seen on this wall visually. Any advice to properly remediate this situation for good with a proactive maintenance plan will be appreciated at your earliest convenience. and with this being rainy season raining everyday is this the t


Vines growing on  building walls and chimney are unsafe (C) Daniel FriedmanArthur,

The vines have to be physically removed from the wall surfaces. Inevitably that means that some damage to the wall surface will be found, including

Your contractor's repair procedure is a common one; the contractor wants to avoid using pressure washing which is likely to damage the masonry wall before it fully removes all vine particles, and may be afraid to use a torch for fire-safety reasons; the torch approach, even if safe in some areas (it's not safe around wood trim, etc), still leaves charred material adhered to the walls.

I suggest thorough physical cleaning, washing to remove muriatic acid from the building surfaces, inspection for remaining roots or branches in mortar joints or other openings, removing those by hand as needed, then re-pointing or tuck pointing the wall with matching mortar where needed.

See STONE SURFACE CLEANING METHODS for cleaning suggestions for problem areas, and for a discussion of the cause, cure, and prevention of algae and mold growth on building surfaces.

You may need to dig or pull out the vine roots or to use an herbicide where the vines have been growing.

Church Farm, St. Weonards, Herefordshire, UK (C) Daniel Friedman

Above: dense wisteria or other vines on the outer walls at the Church Farm, St. Weonards, Herefordshire, U.K. - by the author.

Below: dense tree and vine growth along a moss and lichens covered corrugated cement-asbestos roof, Herefordshire, U.K. These conditions invite insect attack to wood components in the building.

Trees & vines growing too close to and actually on a building roof, Herefordshire, U.K. (C) Daniel FriedmanWatch out: Keep in mind that all of these chemicals are potentially dangerous and toxic and must be applied following instructions from the manufacturer for both worker safety and later for occupant safety.

When the walls are cleaned and sealed against leaks, regular inspection for new vine growth should be enough to find and remove un-wanted growths before they begin to cover the walls.

Watch out: vines covering chimneys present a fire hazard and a potentially fatal CO hazard if the flues are blocked.

The hazards of vine-overgrown chimneys are discussed in detail at CHIMNEY INSPECTION from GROUND.

Watch out: vines covering building walls are an engraved invitation to termites and carpenter ants to attack the building, as they give a covered passage up foundation walls or masonry walls to openings that permit access to wood framing or trim.

So after all of your de-vining it makes sense to have two more inspections and added work if it's indicated:

  1. Inspect for active termite or other wood destroying insect activity on or in the building, paying special attention to wood structural components near ground level as well as for higher wood components that were given access by the vines. Treat as needed.
  2. Inspect for impact on the structure: structural damage, should your pest inspector find evidence that termites or carpenter ants or other wood destroying insects (WDI) have been in the building.
  3. Address the building water entry problem properly. I'd be surprised if vine roots were themselves sufficient to cause a building water entry problem. Most often the water problem originates with defects in gutters, downspouts, or surface grading and runoff. Keep in mind that in addition to the invitation that vines on walls offer to termites, wet conditions in and around the building can also increase the risk of insect attack on the structure.
    See WATER ENTRY in BUILDINGS - home - for a detailed how-to guide.



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