When Trees Rampage!


It’s nice to have trees around our homes. A tree can add many things to houses; shade, character, birds and somewhere for the kids to play.

But what happens when the trees rise from centuries of servitude, and come looking for revenge?

Some trees are spiteful buggers and can damage our homes in a number of ways.

  1. They can fall on your home. Less damaging than an aeroplane, more damaging than rain.
  2. They can drop leaves into gutters, catch fire and burn your home to ashes.
  3. They can tear your house apart like a sea monster wringing the life out of a sailing ship.

Well maybe not exactly like a sea monster, but they can put some serious stresses into a building. Not so much like a tentacle, but by sucking the water out of the ground through their roots.

Oh, and apparently trees can break dams and flood your home, like the ents in Lord of the Rings.  It was on TV so it must be true.


How does this happen?

We build our homes on many types of soil. Soil, like many other things, expands when wet and shrinks when dry. Trees drink water out of the ground through their roots.  So a tree can dry out the ground under one part of your home, while another remains wet. This can create a low spot under part of your house, and that part of the house ‘falls into’ the low spot. This is when you can see cracks appear.

Of course nothing in life is really this simple, some plants are more damaging than others, and some soil types expand more than other types when they get wet.

However, as a simple guide:

  • Thirsty plants suck out more moisture and cause more damage than say a cactus.
  • Shrubs and trees with deep roots cause more problems than those with shallow roots.
  • The bigger the plant, the more water they need.


What can I do?

The first step is to avoid damaging plants. Plants to avoid include melaleucas and eucalypts (thirsty and big). Plants that are OK include rhododendrons and azaleas (shallow roots). Eucalyptus are among the worst because they are native, can grow to a large size and they are almost everywhere. A good nursery or landscape designer are great places for information on which plant to choose.

Keep plants away from the house. An old trick is to put a footpath around the entire house, to keep the ground adjacent to the house at a consistent level of moisture.

Small plants and shrubs are better than larger shrubs and trees. So plant some flowers and small shrubs near the house, not a blue gum. In fact never plant a blue gum anywhere near your home.

Keep trees away from the house! How far away? Advice from engineers, plant experts and the CSIRO is consistent: 1 to 1.5 times the height of the fully grown tree, is the distance to keep it away from the house. So a nice gum tree which eventually grows to 30m tall, (yes, it’s a small one) should be planted around 45 m from the building. So if a tree is close enough to fall on your house, it’s close enough to cause foundation damage from drying the soil.

If you are going to have some plants around the house, either try to prevent excessive or irregular watering or choose plants which are drought tolerant and don’t need watering.


The eagle eyed among you have picked up I haven’t gone into soil types. That’s for another day.


8 Reasons to Hate Ivy

They (now) say a person’s home is their castle. And what castle is complete without a lovely ivy covered wall or two?

Ivy is a plant which has a lot of things going for it; it is quick growing, looks great, and makes a very effective screen or ground cover.

I both love and hate ivy. I love the romance it adds, particularly to large stone buildings; I hate the damage it does, and will never have it growing where I live.

Ivy is a better climber than Spiderman, thanks to its ‘aerial roots’. These roots spread out from the vine itself, and can grip to just about any surface. They can insert themselves into almost any surface and become almost impossible to remove.



  1. In some places ivy can prevent moisture from evaporating, leading to premature rotting and moisture damage.
  2. In other places it can suck the moisture from building materials, leading to cracking and deterioration as the affected parts do not expand and contract along with unaffected materials.
  3. It can damage bricks and mortar, although mostly older, softer materials. (Sound masonry is reasonably unaffected).
  4. Small shoots will grow into every little crack, then grow larger and will easily loosen, or pull trim from wall, roofs and gutters.
  5. Because it sticks so well, and grows so thick, it is easily climbed by star crossed lovers, burglars, mice, rats and possums alike.
  6. It makes an excellent refuge for vermin, and also encourages insects to migrate above their usual habitat (around ground level) and damage or enter the building at any height.
  7. Vines will enter a roof space at one point and spread to other locations. This can add an unwanted amount of flammable material in the roof space.
  8. The berries are moderately poisonous, and the flowers attract European Wasps.


Good things about Ivy 

In the interest of providing a balanced view, there is possibly one good thing about ivy. Some research in the United Kingdom suggests that ivy covering stone walls may be beneficial by creating a thermal barrier in regions where the walls are subject to freezing/thawing cycles. This isn’t a huge problem in Tasmania, unless perhaps you own a stone castle in the central highlands.



Ivy sticks like the proverbial to a blanket. I have tried to pull it from a brick wall, and actually pulled the surface from the bricks and mortar from the joins. Don’t do it. An easier way is to cut all the roots at ground level and dig them out. Then wander off for a few weeks, the rest of the plant is definitely dead, preferably crispy. Then you should be able (with care) to pull the ivy from the wall. The dead aerial roots will tend to break before they rip off the surface they are sticking to. Then the hard work begins; with a stiff brush try to remove as much of the remaining aerial roots as you can. Better still, pay someone to do it as it is hard and tedious work.

ivy Paint damageivy Paint damage

WARNING: be careful when removing ivy to make sure you don’t damage the building, and be prepared to fix any damage you may uncover.

ivy Paint damageivy Paint damage

Keep a close eye out for new shoots for some months after. If any shoots appear: at the next full moon salt the ground, then soak in petrol, and burn at midnight while performing an exorcism. Some people also recommend painting your naked body with the blood of a sacrificed chicken and dancing around the fire as added security.

I’ve also been told spraying with weed killer works equally well. While definitely more civilised, it isn’t nearly as much fun.



Some varieties don’t have the aerial roots. If you really need some ivy action in your life, talk to a nursery, or someone in the know. They will be able to point you in the direction of the less damaging and invasive varieties.


Geek stuff          

Ivy (genus Hedera) has 12-15 species, of which 11 or so can be found in Australia. Some of these varieties, particularly the drought resistant types are banned in some parts of the country. The reason there isn’t an exact number is because there’s a family argument going on. Some plants (represented by some botanists) don’t recognise some other plants as being part of the family. Naturally these other plants, (represented by other botanists) are feeling marginalised and a bit left out. They say talking to plants is good for them, but I reckon if all you’re talking to them about is a family feud, you seriously need a life…

Until next time


ivy Paint damage

Ivy Damage

A nice picture showing where ivy has been removed.  The aerial roots can be seen still sticking to the paint after the rest of the plant was pulled away.

You can also see where some of the aerial roots have taken the paint with them, rather than stay behind.

Celebratory Offer!

Err, its fireworksErr, its fireworksTo celebrate our new digital presence, we have presents!

Every client who uses our services between now and 30 June 2016, will be asked who told them about Anem.

If it was you, we will give you a bottle of Jansz Tasmanian sparking wine, to say ‘Thank You’.

So get out there, tell your friends about us and start planning your party!

Hello World!

We’ve finally dragged ourselves into the digital age.

What perfect timing; our business computer has finally succumbed to old age after 8 years of faithful service, and BassLink has been cut, delivering the lightning fast internet we remember from dial-up modems…

Who we are

We are Anem: more precisely Anne and Emil Kavic. A lot of work went into the name…
Emil has a long history in the domestic building industry as a builder, renovator, trainer and project manager.
Anne has a strong background in communications, training, counselling and management, and for the last 20 years has been helping explain Emil to the world.

How we work

Emil undertakes the inspections, providing the technical input.
Anne takes this input and turns it into a document that meets your needs and is easy to understand.

Why Anem?

Emil has been undertaking building inspections for friends and colleagues for over 20 years.  Finally we’ve bitten the bullet and decided to tackle this in a more regular manner and using our combined skill to offer a professional and reliable service to the rest of the world.


Well, maybe not quite the rest of the world just yet, but at least pretty much anywhere in Southern Tasmania.