Structural damage, accidents, and injuries caused by hazardous trees are generally avoidable. Knowing how to properly identify and handle threatening tree issues can save time, money and, in some cases, lives.
We’ll cover a few common hazardous tree situations and how you can handle them before it’s too late.
Tree Roots and Foundation Damage
It’s not fair to assume that foundation damage to your home is caused by the beautiful oak in your front yard. In fact, tree roots do not have the ability to pierce a home’s foundation without an already existing crack. The danger of tree roots lies in their search for water and nutrients.
A tree’s eternal search displaces soil, which is the real culprit for foundation damage. Clay soils compact tightly and may cause foundation lift when pushed by roots. Loose, dry soil may lose its ability to support a foundation as roots move through it.
Whether they’re moving soil or leeching water from beneath your home, roots can cause the foundation to lift, settle or sink unevenly, creating hazardous structural damage.
What should I do if I think my tree’s roots are a threat?
Cutting a tree down should be the last resort for tackling root problems. Homes with full basements (deeper foundations) are often unaffected by root growth and shrinkage. A home inspector or arborist can help you determine the severity of the threat.
If you have an older home with a shallow foundation, building a root barrier and pruning away threatening roots can prevent damage. A professional analysis of soil and tree type can eliminate the possibility of a major threat.
In general, a tree is considered hazardous if it has a “target” or something it could fall on and damage like a car, home or human. Fungi that grow and reproduce turn live, flexible tree tissues brittle and breakable, primed for failure.
Sometimes decay is not apparent from the outside of the tree. Older trees should be inspected regularly by a professional. Observable signs of decay are deep cracks and holes where the fungi could enter, the presence of mushrooms or fungus and dead branches at the crown of the tree.
What should I do if my tree is decaying?
If you notice decay, don’t let it go. It can advance rapidly and cause tree failure. Get an inspection by an arborist. Depending on the location and the severity of the decay they may advise you to have the tree removed or cap a decaying wound with metal or spray foam to keep it dry and protected.
Crown Vigor and Tree Architecture
Diseased or decaying trees will often show signs at the crown first. If you find many small bare twigs and branches in your yard or observe them with binoculars, it’s time to take action. Larger, more damaging branches will fall next.
Trees can recover from this dieback but it will take a professional to determine the exact cause. In addition to decay, dieback at the crown can be accompanied by weak V-shaped forks (typical in elm, oak, maple, yellow poplar, and willow trees) and lopsided growth.
V-shaped forks are inherently weak and can fail due to heavy ice, snow or winds. Trees that were once straight but are growing at more than 15-degree angle are prone to uprooting and falling.
What should I do if my tree shows stress at the crown or is lopsided?
If you aren’t able to identify decay as the source of stress, V-shaped forks and lopsidedness may be able to be combated with structural pruning. The earlier in a tree’s life this is done, the greater its chances of survival.
If structural pruning will not help the tree or the crown decline is too advanced, an arborist may advise removal of the tree.
Trees provide humans physical and emotional support we often take for granted. Those that can be saved, should be. Regular inspections should be conducted for both the safety of trees and ourselves. Enlist the help of a professional arborist to help you make the best decision regarding the future of your flora.