Vines climbing the side of a house can look totally charming; something about them implies there is a roaring fire inside that house and a plentiful supply of tea and biscuits. They’re also a way of merging with the natural world around you, even if your house is located in a suburban subdivision. And climbing vines can offer some advantages to your house: They can cool it down by shading it from the sun and increase your sense of privacy, for example.
But depending on the type of vine that had attached itself, vampire-like, to your home, they can also be incredibly damaging. There are many varieties of climbing vine—if you inherited one when you bought your house, or if one crept up onto your exterior walls uninvited, it pays to identify exactly what you’re dealing with (hire a professional if you have to). And it likely pays to have the vine removed, because unless you’re prepared to put a lot of energy into tending that vine, it could very well do a lot of damage.
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Vines grow without your help, thank you very much. In fact, they grow a little too well without your help: The main aspect of tending to a climbing vine on your house is going to be the endless battle to trim them and train them, stopping them from silently weaving into and under everything and eventually enveloping your entire house. You need to cut off dead stems to prevent them from rotting or cluttering the ground and prevent stems from tangling and knotting around each other—but these activities will also stimulate growth, so the vine will take it as a personal challenge and grow even faster, launching a doom cycle of sorts.
And not only do you have to tend to those vines constantly to keep them under control, you’ll have to do so on a ladder, because—in case you hadn’t noticed—vines grow up.
The species of vine using your house as a ladder to the sky matters because different species can damage different types of exteriors. English Ivy, Boston Ivy, and Virginia Creeper are popular climbing vines, but they can do a lot of damage to vinyl, stucco, or wood exteriors. They can cause damage to brick, too, though it can take a very long time for that damage to become evident. Some vine species will literally rip gutters off your walls if left to their own devices.
The damage that climbing vines can do is wide-ranging:
- Moisture. Vines can trap moisture, especially if they’re growing in shade and don’t get regular sunshine. Ivy and other vines can grow up and under wood slats or siding panels, bringing moisture with them that eventually causes rot and mold.
- Cracking. Some vine species adhere to your walls by attaching themselves via invasive tendrils. Vines can get heavy as they grow, and the force exerted on your home’s exterior can cause cracks that in turn let moisture get under the facade.
- Hidden problems. Even if the vine itself doesn’t cause any trouble, it can hide problems from you until they’re emergencies. Minor damage or signs of a squirrel invasion can be obscured by a thick blanket of green vines.
- Insects and rodents. Vines are also attractive places for all kinds of bugs to set up shop, which can transform your outdoor spaces into mosquito city. They also act as superhighways for ants to find their way into your second floor bath, and rodents to discover the weak spots where they can burrow into your house from the outside.
One final consideration concerning vines is that they are often an invasive species that can kill off other plants in your yard or garden, blanketing the earth and blotting out the sun for any competition. They can also be literally invasive, finding their way inside your house through tiny gaps in your window flashing, weather stripping, or other vulnerabilities.
If you absolutely must have (or keep) a climbing vine on your house, your best bet is to hire a professional gardener to tend to identify and tend to them, and have an inspection done to ensure that they aren’t damaging your wall. Even better: Attach a screen or trellis to the outside of your house and let the vines grow on that instead of the wall—once the vine grows thick enough, it will fool the eye, and leave your walls safely unencumbered.