Can Japanese knotweed damage my property?

Look at the images below – we say “yes” if you allow it to grow unchecked

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What does Japanese knotweed damage look like?

Take a look at our gallery of Japanese knotweed damage pictures and videos, showing the common types of damage that can be caused.

Is Japanese knotweed damage as bad as they say?

There is no doubt that Japanese knotweed causes damage. Some over-react to the problem, whilst others don’t take it seriously enough. It is fair to say that extreme cases of damage have been sensationalised by the media in the past to create a good story, and even to scare people into thinking that their properties are about to fall victim to this invading terror.

The reality is that while Japanese knotweed causes similar amounts of damage to other problematic species such as bamboo or buddleia, it is unfortunately much more difficult to get rid of, giving it a well earned reputation as one of the UK’s most aggressive plants.

Of course, with Japanese knotweed, damage isn’t the only concern – as there are environmental and legal implications too.

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What evidence is there that Japanese knotweed causes damage?

Specialists across the UK have documented a huge portfolio of evidence of damage caused by Japanese knotweed over the last 25 years. The natural tendency of the media is, of course to highlight the worst-case scenario possible, meaning that the true scale of damage caused by Japanese knotweed is often overstated. That doesn’t mean that it should be ignored, however.

There have been reports in newspapers claiming that a property needed to be demolished as knotweed was growing under it. This is plainly not true, but to say that Japanese knotweed does not cause significant damage to buildings is also not true. As usual the truth lies between these two extremes of views.

A limited study published in 2018 called “Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica): An analysis of capacity to cause structural damage (compared to other plants) and typical rhizome extension” concluded that;

“(Japanese knotweed) should not be considered any more of a risk, with respect to capacity to cause structural damage in urban environments, than a range of other species of plant, and less so than many.”

While it is true that structural damage may be rare, you will see from our gallery of images that damage in general is much more common.

How does Japanese knotweed cause damage?

Japanese knotweed is unlikely to cause significant structural damage to buildings indirectly by subsidence, or by collapse. Japanese knotweed does however cause damage, both by its above ground canopy exerting pressure on adjacent walls/fences, but also by its expanding network of underground rhizomes and roots, and, for mature stands, its crown.

Creeping, highly regenerative rhizomes have the ability to exploit weaknesses in built structures, and will then expand over time, exerting pressure on the element to cause damage. The general rule of thumb is that if water can penetrate it, so can knotweed.

Japanese knotweed growing through concrete cracks

Can Japanese knotweed grow through concrete?

The simple answer to this question is no. When people first find Japanese knotweed on their property it often leads to a sense of panic and an attempt to get rid of it. One of the stories that we often see about this invasive weed is that it can grow through concrete, but this is actually a myth.

Japanese knotweed is a highly invasive and fast-growing plant with the potential to cause significant damage, which is why it is so important to get rid of it quickly.

No plant can actually get through solid concrete but it will seek out cracks to try and eventually break through. When the plant starts to grow more, it can force apart the surrounding concrete and cause more damage. If you have an area of concrete and it’s intact with no cracks and fissures, it is likely that, if present, Japanese knotweed would grow around it, rather than through it.

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