Invasive bamboo spreads beneath ground floor of London home

We’ve been busy dealing with another serious case of bamboo encroachment, this time in North London where bamboo had grown beneath the ground floor of a terraced property and emerged beneath the floorboards in the kitchen, dining room and living room.

The homeowner had noticed that the bamboo in his garden, which was planted by the previous owner, was spreading. Keen to redesign his garden he had it removed last year, unaware that it had spread beneath the property and exploited a weakness between the original house and extension. As well as spreading beneath the floorboards, the bamboo has also grown up inside the cavity walls of the property.

Due to the vast distance the roots can travel, in excess of 30ft (10 metres), running bamboo has the potential to be even more damaging to property than Japanese knotweed and has similar abilities to push through brickwork, drains, cavity walls, patios and exploit cracks or weaknesses.

Yet it remains popular among homeowners and gardeners, with our research showing only one in ten (9%) people in the UK would avoid planting it because of the threat it poses to buildings.

Most species of bamboo are invasive if left to their own devices, but the ‘running’ varieties are the most problematic, sending out long lateral shoots beneath the ground to emerge beneath fences, patios, sheds and homes. All types of bamboo have large underground root and rhizome systems and some common varieties can easily reach heights of 5 metres, blocking light and views.

Nic Seal, Founder and MD of Environet, said, “We’re seeing more and more cases of serious damage to property caused by bamboo, which is still sold in garden centres and plant nurseries with little in the way of warnings about its ability to spread. Thankfully the bamboo did not spread to adjoining properties in this case, but if that does happen it can also cause legal disputes between neigbours. We had a case earlier this year where bamboo encroached from a neighbouring property and appeared in the living room of the house next door, causing over £100,000 of damage. The only way to deal with bamboo decisively Is to excavate the root ball and dig every long rhizome out of the ground.”

Advice to homeowners

Bamboo is best avoided completely, but if you do want to plant it, here’s how to prevent it from spreading:

  • Choose a clumping variety such as Bambusa or Chusquea, rather than a running variety
  • Always plant bamboo in a container or strong pot - never directly into the ground
  • Prune bamboo hard and regularly, at least every spring, to keep it in check
  • It is possible to treat a bamboo infestation using the energy depletion method, which involves repeatedly cutting the canes to ground level before new leaf appears, but this can take many years with no guarantee of success
  • Bamboo can be excavated in a matter of days with our professional help and we’ll provide peace of mind with a 5-year guarantee.

If you have bamboo in the garden and are concerned about it spreading, contact us today to arrange a survey.

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