If you’ve recently purchased a home with a yard, or are looking for the right property, remember it’s more than just the house you want to ensure is in good shape. Look outside too! If you’re lucky, there may be some trees out there!
Trees are a beautiful part of any property, providing shade, privacy and aesthetic value. However, they can also pose a significant risk if not properly looked after. Dead trees — and falling branches from live trees — can cause extensive damage to your home or, even worse, cause injury to family members playing in the yard. That’s why it’s essential to regularly inspect and maintain the trees on your property to ensure they are safe and stable.
Why we love healthy trees and shrubs
With so many sizes, colors and types, trees and shrubs provide a sense of beauty and serenity to a property and can really improve your family’s overall quality of life. It makes sense to keep them healthy for as long as possible. Here are four reasons why:
- They reinforce the environment: Not only do trees help clean the air and reduce soil erosion, but they also provide a safe habitat for local wildlife.
- They promote energy efficiency: By providing shade in summer and wind protection in winter, trees and shrubs can help to reduce year-round energy costs.
- They boost property value: Healthy trees in a healthy yard enhance your home’s curb appeal and, when you sell, your asking price.
- They’re a maintenance barometer: If trees are diseased or damaged, it may hint that the seller didn’t prioritize upkeep around the home.
How does a tree become a problem?
Several factors can turn a tree against you. As they age, root systems can become weak and unstable, making it harder to support a fully grown tree. Storms and high winds can exacerbate this, breaking off heavy branches or toppling adult trees with weakened roots. Fungus and pests can also wreak havoc, quickly straining a tree’s structure and making it more likely to die and fall.
Neglecting a hazardous tree can have serious consequences — structurally damaging to a home, breaking windows, knocking down chimneys, taking out decks and totaling vehicles. Even a small branch falling during a high wind can kill a person.
If you suspect a tree may be at risk, take action immediately. Have your property examined by a certified arborist — someone trained in caring for and diagnosing tree health and recommending necessary next steps.
Tree hazards to watch out for
To prevent accidents, it’s important to look for signs of weakness. Property owners should walk the property at least four times a year, like when the seasons change. Take note of the following telltale signs:
- Cavities: Large holes or hollows — especially at the base — can weaken a tree and make it more prone to breaking or falling.
- Co-dominant stems: Two trunks growing side by side from the same point are also at risk of splitting because they do not have a strong central leader.
- Compact soil: Stable roots have difficulty growing in densely packed down soil or under a hard, impermeable surface. Trees close to driveways and patios are suspect.
- Crowding: Trees planted too close to each other will compete for water, soil and sunlight. If not thinned out, you may lose them all.
- Dead branches: Keep an eye out for dry, brittle branches that are at odd angles or have dead leaves when they shouldn’t.
- Forks: Trunks with V-shaped forks, as opposed to U-shaped, are more prone to splitting. If forks are wide and open at the top, this indicates weak points that should be remedied.
- Infestation: Borers, beetles and termites can weaken a tree and make it more prone to collapse. Look for holes in the bark, sawdust or dying branches.
- Leaning: Trees tilted too far in any direction may be at risk, especially during storms or high winds. Look for exposed root systems that may not be able to support any weight imbalance.
- Overgrowth: Overgrown trees with heavy branches extending over roofs, power lines or other trees can be a real headache.
- Rot: Check for signs of decay, such as mushrooms growing at the base, holes or cavities in the trunk or recessed and soft areas on the surface.
Should I try to save a tree or remove it?
If you have a dying or dangerous tree on your property, addressing the issue as soon as possible is essential to prevent any potential damage or injury. But whether a tree stays or goes is a personal decision closely tied to your budget. Removing a tree can be costly; caring for one is much less expensive.
If you’re considering a home with a dangerous tree, bring it up with the seller. You may be able to negotiate the price down. If the tree is on a property you already own, here’s how we suggest navigating the situation.
- Assess the situation: First, determine whether the tree is actually dying or dangerous. If you’re unsure, consult with a professional. They’ll determine if the issue is due to disease, pests, improper care or natural causes such as old age or storms. Knowing the cause can help you choose the best course of action.
- Consider your options: If the tree is salvageable, you might save it by pruning, fertilizing or applying pesticides. If not, removal is the only real option — and don’t put it off.
- Cut your losses: If there were ever a time to say, “don’t try this at home,” it’s now. Hire a tree removal service to safely remove and dispose of the tree in an environmentally responsible way.
- Replace the tree: If you decide to remove it, consider replacing it to restore the aesthetic value of your landscaping. When choosing a new tree, factor in the root ball size, its mature height and width, the type of soil and the amount of sunlight it needs. Again, a tree care company can recommend the best tree for your particular situation.
Be home among the trees
Care of trees and shrubs involves regular pruning, fertilizing, watering, mulching and much more — like knowing signs of hazardous conditions on your property. If you’re unsure about what’s required, consider consulting with a landscaping professional.
Remember, as you put down roots in your new home, it’s important to regularly inspect your neighboring trees and address any and all issues sooner rather than later!