Having dead or dying trees around your property can be hazardous to your home, your family, and your community. Regular inspections can protect you from unwanted expenses, or worse, injury to your family or neighbors.
What creates a hazardous tree?
Any tree that has a compromised structure can bring cause for alarm. In some cases, trees are coming to the end of their life. They have a lifespan just like we do. But if the tree has experienced trauma in its lifetime, this can shorten that lifespan and become unhealthy – just like us.
Some signs of a damaged tree include a misshapen structure, leaning to one side, cracked bark, or dead branches. [learn more in our article about hazardous trees.]
Trees can become damaged from poor pruning, such as from bad topping cuts, storms, or becoming exposed to elements that create bad growing conditions.
Increasing temperatures and drought are also expanding insect infestations, such as pine bark beetles that have wiped out millions of acres of pines in the Rocky Mountain region of North America. Or just the opposite, where increased levels of precipitation is changing the growing environment and weakening the root system.
Bark is the tree’s skin and natural defense against insects and disease. If you see large cracks in the bark, it means the tree is susceptible to decay and probably should be watched carefully.
In fact, trees in your yard need to be inspected regularly and be put on a maintenance schedule – just as you do for your auto or your own body.
7 Reasons a tree can damage your house and harm loved ones
1. Untrimmed trees may have long branches that reach out across your roof or rub against siding. Even a gentle breeze can cause a branch to damage roof shingles or tiles.
Strong storms can blow down a weakened tree and cause extensive damage to personal property – yours or a property near you.
2. Trees next to power lines on your property should be trimmed to reduce the risk of causing a power outage by branches rubbing against the lines. During rain events, power lines can arc several feet to wet branches and cause a fire. This type of trimming should only be done by a professional, or by the power company.
3. Roots have a main function to seek out water. While tree roots won’t pierce through a strong house foundation, it can go through cracks and create structural damage. Some trees have invasive roots and can grow into older clay pipes and drains causing a lot of damage from breakage or clogging of entire systems.
This damage can be to your own plumbing and drainage system, or a nearby structure. Either way it is a major expense to repair.
4. Roots can create subsidence under a home, especially if they are built on shrinkable clay soils. This will cause a home to sink, cracking foundations, walls, and the overall structure.
Roots can also cause an uplift of a foundation, just as you have probably witnessed the uplifting of a sidewalk.
Foundations aren’t the only hardscape in danger. Roots can creep under concrete patios, driveways, and streets.
5. Excessive leaves and twigs can accumulate in your gutters causing leaks and structural damage from pooling water near the foundation.
6. Untrimmed trees block sunlight that is needed to evaporate moisture from the soil beneath its branches and create drainage issues. With poor drainage you risk grasses and plants becoming diseased and possible soil instability.
Grass normally can’t compete with trees because the largest root system will get the most nutrients from the soil.
7. The biggest reason to keep your trees in good health is the damage they can do to loved ones. Weak or dead branches are easily blown down, even with a light wind. It is said that anything over 4 inches can cause major damage to property and life.
How to prevent damage from your trees
Trees left unattended will most likely become a problem over the years. Taking a few proactive measures can save you a lot of money and heartache. Here are some suggestions.
You want to identify any hazards and prevent them from happening. There are many signs that a tree is diseased or damaged. Start by doing a quick inspection, looking for the following:
- Dead branches, either attached or detached and hanging.
- Fungus growing on the tree.
- Damaged bark.
Hiring a tree expert during the inspection can bring peace of mind since some signs may elude you.
Remove decay and any damaged branches that could cause an issue later. This will promote health and keep the tree to a manageable size. Learn the local regulations regarding pruning and tree removal in your area. Plus, working with a tree expert at least at the beginning, will ensure you are not doing harm to the tree.
Move items away from trees
You may want to remove trees that hang over your home to prevent damage. Or just move things out of harms way, such as your car, playground equipment, or outbuildings. If you are not able to rearrange things, be sure the trees are properly pruned, or if necessary, consider crown reduction.
Plant trees away from your structures. The root system will be approximately the circumference of the trees crown. And it is good practice to plant it as far away from the house as the height of the mature tree. So, if the tree is expected to grow 20 foot tall, plant it 20 feet from your structure.
Installing root barriers
A root barrier can deflect roots deeper in the ground to protect structures. Barriers come in different formats, so speaking to a tree expert will determine which is best for your situation.
Trees have many benefits such as cleaning CO2 from the air and providing shade to cool our homes and neighborhoods. But they also come with responsibility. If you think it is time to inspect your property, start by contacting a tree expert, so you can develop a solid plan together.