Construction work, even fairly minor projects, can cause damage to trees, which may be to the branches, the trunk, or the roots. Trees are an important feature of the landscape, both in terms of beautification, and for the environmental benefits they bring. Damaged trees can pose a hazard to both property and people, and the loss of trees can affect the value of your home.
Before beginning any construction project, householders should contact a tree care specialist who can assess the situation and make recommendations. There are a number of steps that can be taken to prevent problems and a tree care specialist will be able to work with the builder or architect before the project commences to agree a plan that will minimise the risk to the trees.
How to prevent damage
Any prevention plan should begin with an assessment of the trees on the property. Certain tree species are less able to recover from damage and need additional protection. Some of the most vulnerable types are white and red oaks, and sugar maples. It is also worth noting that large, mature trees are also less capable of recovering from damage than younger, smaller ones. Understanding this will help to formulate an effective plan.
Exclusion zones around trees will help to prevent damage to the tree trunk or branches. Damage to these can leave the tree open to infection or infestation, or lead them to becoming a falling hazard. Surrounding the tree with spray paint or temporary fencing that extends to the full reach of the foliage will help to prevent such damage.
Damage to roots is also an important consideration. Roots can extend out up to three times the height of the tree so the larger the tree, the greater the distance the roots will cover. Roots are both the anchor of the tree, and the main source of nutrients, so damage to them can lead to the trees death. Heavy machinery, or storage of materials, can compress the soil, affecting the roots ability to absorb nutrients and support the tree. Additionally, equipment should not be cleaned out where there are root systems, or waste materials disposed of, as this can lead to poisoning. Cement residue is a particular problem.
Where possible, traffic routes and storage areas should be planned to avoid root systems. If it is not possible to stop machinery from driving across the root area, spreading a deep layer of wood chips or gravel (at least two inches) across the affected zone will help to reduce soil compaction. Watering should be maintained throughout and after the construction period, especially in dry areas, to help ensure that the roots are receiving enough moisture to support the tree.
During and after the construction, homeowners should check and monitor the trees for signs of damage. If they think that there may be an issue, they should consult their tree care specialist as soon as possible. Early treatment of any problem may make the difference between a tree recovering from damage or having to be removed.