Having a tree in your garden or close to your house can really spruce up the appearance of your home. As beautiful as they are, trees also pose a potential hazard and have to be properly maintained, because in New England trees are often the victims of harsh weather, such as severe rain, snow and ice storms.
The damage caused by fallen trees is typically covered under homeowners’ insurance, whether they fall on your property or your neighbor’s, but there are some factors to consider. Dead trees are considered a potential liability and should be removed before they fall, something that most insurance companies see as the homeowner’s responsibility. Not removing a dead tree could be considered negligence.
Although insurance companies will typically cover the damage caused by fallen live trees, it’s up to the homeowner to arrange the removal of the tree or any leftover debris. In some extenuating circumstances, your town may remove the tree if it hinders or damages public property such as roadways or power lines, or poses access constraints. When a tree falls, there are other losses to consider, such as replacing the tree and the cost of the deductible for repairs to the home.
Some of the steps you can take to protect your home from fallen tree damage include:
- Inspect all roof, gutters and fences to make sure they are intact and capable of withstanding harsh wind and rainstorms.
- Trim tree branches and remove any dead branches.
- Get professional advice or assistance with proper tree pruning. Incorrectly cutting the branches yourself could cause more damage to the tree.
Many tree pruning and removal jobs are too difficult and unsafe for homeowners. If your trees are too much for you to handle, consider hiring a tree pruning and removal expert such as Manning Tree & Landscape.
When assessing trees, it’s important to consider the following:
How healthy is the tree? If 50% of the tree is damaged, it probably should be eliminated. A tree that is in decline can continue to survive for many years but will always have limited or abnormal growth and appearance. Trees that have been damaged by herbicide frequently have misshapen leaves, but frequently can recover.
Is there trunk damage? Vertical cracks, seams, dead branch stubs and large, older wounds suggest internal decay. Severe damage to the main trunk often warrants removal of the tree. If the damaged area is less than 25 percent of the circumference of the trunk, the wound could gradually heal over and no permanent injury should result.
Is the tree hollow? Because the life support tissue, the xylem and phloem, of a tree is on the outer edges of the trunk many trees will live for years with a hollow trunk. The issue is possible compromised trunk strength making the tree dangerous. A guide to help in decision-making is if one-third of the interior of the tree is hollow or rotten, it probably should be removed.
Are there large dead branches? Large trees that have had their tops broken or large damaged limbs are a danger to people and property. If less than 25% of branches are damaged, the tree will probably survive. Crossed or rubbing branches should be removed. Narrow branch angles especially of the main trunk are particularly prone to splitting and should be corrected. This is best done when the tree is young. If a narrow crotch is too large to remove the two co-dominant leaders could be cabled to relieve the strain and avoid breakage. This procedure is performed by an arborist.
Are all dead branches on one side of tree? If so, the tree will be lopsided and potentially hazardous. Dead branches that are all on one side of a tree can be a symptom of root or trunk damage on the affected side. Such trees should be evaluated by an arborist.
Are there sprouts coming from the base of the tree or epicormic shoots (small branches coming from the trunk)? These sprouts are a response to severe stress indicating that there is something wrong with the tree. This is typical of trees that have endured recent new home construction injury, over-exposure to the sun after thinning a forest, or soil compaction. Have them evaluated by an arborist. These are an indication that all is not well with the tree.
Is there trunk rot or a large fungus growing near the base of the tree? Not all mushrooms growing under trees are associated with root diseases, but fungi growing on the tree are an indication of internal rot and should be evaluated by an arborist.
Has there been excavation near the tree causing root damage? If 50% of the root system is damaged, it probably should be removed.
Is the tree leaning? Leaning trees are more of a hazard than those growing vertically. A sudden lean indicates breakage or weakening of roots and tree should probably be removed immediately. A tree leaning more than 15% from vertical probably should be removed.
Is the tree under power lines? Trees under power lines should mature at heights less than 25’. A tree that is growing into power lines will need to be thinned out. During wet weather, electricity can arc as much as ten feet to wet tree foliage and ground out causing a power failure or property damage. Removal of trees limbs anywhere near power lines is never a good idea for homeowners. The price of accidental touching power lines is simply too great. Always hire a professional for these dangerous jobs.
While trees always get the most attention, stumps can be a problem, too. Stumps with deep root systems will quickly send up new shoots that want to grow into new trees – problematic for homeowners trying to clear areas for new landscaping or other purposes. Here are some the major problems tree stumps present:
- Stumps are ugly. The sight of an old, rotting stump definitely isn’t appealing. If you’re particular about your yard and landscaping, removing the stump is well worth it.
- Stumps are dangerous. Children running and playing in your yard may not look for stumps and trip over them. If a neighbor trips, it’s a liability for you as a property owner. And, of course, tree stumps can damage your mower if you accidentally hit one when you’re mowing your lawn.
- Stumps cause new tree growth. Old stumps, as we mentioned above, can send up new sprouts. This is unsightly to your landscaping and quite costly to try to remove because the new shoots may keep coming back, and you may need chemicals to kill them off completely. These small trees also leech nutrients from other plants located near them, weakening the very plants you’re trying to grow.
- Stumps are a navigational hazard. Tree stumps are an obstacle you have to maneuver around when weeding or mowing your lawn.
- Stumps attract insects. When you leave decaying stumps in your lawn, they attract beetles, termites, ants, and other wood-boring pests. You may not mind them in your yard, but they can eventually spread to your home.
Stumps take up precious yard space. Especially if you don’t have a very large yard. The space you lose to stumps and roots may occupy a lot of space that could be used for shrub or flower beds.