Tree Services Educational Content
COMMON TREE PROBLEMS
Tree experts recommend regularly examining your trees to look for potential problems. Arborists can also spot issues early on. They will suggest preventative measures and let you know about warning signs to keep in mind.
Dead branches. Dead branches are a fall risk, and they don’t look very nice. They also serve as an entry point for decay. They should be promptly removed.
Fungus and mushrooms. Fungus and mushrooms growing on a tree or around its base are signs of decaying or rotting wood or roots. When a tree’s roots decay or rot, the tree is dying. As the roots weaken, the tree loses support and is more likely to fall or split. If the problem is caught early enough, an arborist may be able to save the tree.
Dead trees. Dead trees don’t sprout leaves, so they are easiest to see in the spring. Have dead trees or limbs removed promptly. This is especially important if the dead tree is in an area where it could hurt someone or damage property. Once a tree is dead, wind from a storm could be enough to bring it down.
Missing bark. Bark is a protective part of the tree. Large areas of missing bark can signal a sick tree. These bare spots also leave the tree open to insect infestation.
Beetles and borers. Beetles and borers are small insects that attack and can kill trees. They tunnel into the bark to lay their eggs and deposit fungus. That fungus later feeds their young when the eggs hatch. The tunnels and the fungus disrupt sap flow and ultimately kill the tree. By the time most attacks are discovered, the infested tree is doomed. Quick action may save the surrounding trees.
Girdling roots. Trees that are planted too deep or otherwise incorrectly are at risk for root girdling. Girdling roots are roots that have wrapped themselves around the trunk of a tree at its base or below the soil. These tightly wrapped roots can prevent the tree from getting water and nutrients. That lack of water and nutrients weakens the tree and leaves it vulnerable to insects and disease. Eventually, girdling roots can kill the tree. Trees with girdling roots often have deformed lower trunks. Sometimes, girdling roots can even be seen at the base of the tree. An arborist will know whether the problem roots can be safely removed to improve the tree’s health.
Raised earth around the tree base. Raised or broken earth around the tree base may be a sign that the tree is starting to uproot. This puts the tree at risk of falling, especially in a strong storm.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
Liability is significant. If you feel that a neighbor’s tree is at risk of falling on your house or property, you can ask them to remove it. To protect yourself, make this request via certified letter. This step documents your request and may help your case or claim if the tree does later fall and damage your property.
Climbing spikes are damaging. Climbing spikes strap to a tree climber’s feet and let the climber support their weight while climbing. Because spikes damage the tree bark, climbing spikes should never be used on any tree you are trying to save. It is only safe to use climbing spikes on a tree that is being removed.
Tree topping can kill. Tree topping, or cutting off the top of the tree, is a common practice, but tree care experts do not recommend it. Instead, experts recommend crown reduction. This technique involves removing specific branches at or near the treetop. While tree topping can easily kill the tree, crown reduction is far less damaging. Experts recommend removing no more than a quarter of a tree’s branches at one time.
Difficulty drives removal cost. Experts can remove even difficult trees with little damage to the surrounding area. But doing so takes a lot of skill (and the right equipment). Removing a tree safely is an involved and expensive task. Companies offering to remove a tree by cutting into the base and allowing it to fall freely are putting you at tremendous risk. When you compare quotes, always look at the proposed removal method.
Landscaping can kill a tree. Trees breathe through their roots. In fact, adding just six inches of soil on top of a tree’s root system can suffocate it.
Permits may be required. Many city and county governments regulate tree removal and require inspections and permits. Some homeowners’ associations also require approval for tree removal. Getting the right permits and approvals is technically your responsibility. Many tree services will help you with this process, especially when it comes to city or county permits.
Payment should be withheld until work is finished. If you pay in full before the job and cleanup are done, you might find that some details get left out. Pay only when the entire job, including all cleanup, is complete.
PROTECTING TREE ROOTS
A tree’s root system typically extends out from the trunk a distance roughly equal to three-quarters of the tree’s height. The root system is easy to damage accidentally. This can happen during sprinkler system installation or sewer line work, for example. If you end up needing this type of work, talk to the company you use about your trees. They might be able to avoid tree root systems or take precautions to minimize damage. If a trench must go through a tree’s root system, check with an arborist before beginning the project.
HIRING A PROFESSIONAL
Due to the heights involved, tree work is very dangerous. Professional tree workers can be seriously injured or even killed on the job. A falling tree or branch can damage a home, a vehicle, or other property. Any tree service company you hire needs to have workers’ compensation and liability insurance.
Also note that the term “tree service” is used broadly. It can refer to any company specializing in tree removal, trimming, or doctoring. However, you’ll get the best advice from companies with qualified experts, like Certified Arborists. Someone with a chain saw and a business card may recommend the same solution—i.e., removal—for every problem. Reputable companies will recommend what is best for your situation, not just their bottom line.