Many homeowners will say they like the earthy, rustic look that climbing ivy gives as it grows and envelope a home. While it may add a unique aesthetic, it could also be detrimental to the structure of your home or chimney.

Understanding Ivy and Vines

Ivy is a climbing and creeping vine, usually with two types of roots: subterranean and aerial. The roots underground provide the plant with most of its nutrient and water supply. The aerial roots search for a solid surface to attach to.

Some of the most common types of vines seen on houses are English Ivy, Boston Ivy and Virginia Creeper. English Ivy is an evergreen invasive species in the USA that originated in Europe and Asia. Boston Ivy and Virginia Creeper are seasonal vines that usually establish a permanent presence once they start growing.

Types of Damage Caused by Ivy and Vines

Climbing vines use the roots to climb up and around objects. While the aid of a glue-like substance allows vines to attach themselves to almost any surface, the typically look for cracks and fissures.

  • Brick and Mortar – Some experts might say today’s technology lends a hand in the fight against ivy damage. If your home was built before the 1930s the mortar is most likely lime-based and therefore softer than today’s cement-based version and more disposed to an ivy invasion.
  • Crumbling Brick – Ivy is one way to cover up an unsightly home, but it also keeps you from seeing any damage underneath. The penetration of the vines could be the reason for an unknown leak or collection of moisture and rot.
  • Mortar-less Walls – Stacked stone or brick walls that don’t require mortar might not withstand the force if you try to remove the ivy at a later time.
  • Wood or Side Paneling – Ivy and vines work their way into cracks and spread through any opening. This leaves the materials prone to moisture damage, insect infestation or even rot.

Keeping Everything Under Control

If you are still considering planting ivy or vines around your home there are responsible ways to manage it.
Avoid Wood Surfaces – Any wooden trim work or shutters are a prime target for splintering, rot or infestation. Keep any threatening roots away!

  1. Prune Regularly – If you have a designated area in which you plan to keep the ivy contained be sure to train it to stay there.
  2. The Less Invasive the Better – Invasive species mean there is no natural predator in the area. Invasive vines can choke out any neighboring trees, wooded areas or houses that are close by.
  3. Hire a Professional – Especially if you have a fireplace, have a professional come out and inspect the area. Any unsound structures could easily be pulled down by climbing ivy and problems are quickly covered up. Find and fix any problems before planting a strong-willed vine.