Thursday, April 24, 2014

Trees Can Be Beautiful - And Hazardous!

It's spring!  It's spring!  It's spring!  FINALLY!!!

Trees are starting to bloom and plants are starting to grow...
Municipal by-laws protect trees against wilful damage, removal, construction collateral damage and the like, but what protects the homeowner from the trees? 
What does a homeowner need protection from?
Growth - Trees grow and grow and grow
  • Are the branches overhanging the roof?  This is tricky.  The bigger the tree, the bigger the potential damage.  Solution - get the tree evaluated by a tree company to determine health. 
  • Are the branches overhanging or touching power or phone lines?  Solution - call the utility company for an opinion.
  • Are they near a foundation and can they push on it?  Solution - remove it but you may need a permit.
  • Are they pushing up a drive or walkway from below?  Solution - you are going to have to re-do the drive or walkway and you can't damage the tree - it's tricky!
  • Roots can infiltrate weeping tile and sewage drain pipes.  Solution - consider a camera inspection of your drain lines if the house is older and the trees are bigger.

Note: This happened to me - In our 1st year in our 1920s house, we had a plugged drain line and I had to have the sewer partially replaced and relined to the street for about $2000.  Murphy's Law being what it is, it was 3 days before our big Thanksgiving dinner, but we got it fixed in time to have our plumbing active for the big feast!  Tree roots were the culprit!!!

Decay - Older trees rot and ants can nest in them, not to mention termites in some areas.
  • I have seen trees come down that were rotted through, with holes filled by concrete (so we know they were previously evaluated).    Often the damage or rot is very high up the trunk in some Y-shaped branches.  Solution - get the tree evaluated by a tree company to determine health.  Keep that receipt for your records in case of a future insurance claim to prove your due diligence.
Take a look at this tree that fell and look at the height relative to the fence, poles and cars.  Fortunately this tree fell into the street and killed only a car.
A good home inspector looks for signs of rot or damage, and will at least mention them to you.  He/she should also discuss the plumbing issues.  Remember though, an inspection is visual and essentially limited to what can be seen!

And the bottom line is....
  • Get a good firm grasp of the health of your large trees by hiring a tree service to give you a report.
  • Consider a camera inspection of the drain lines, a nominal cost that can include cutting out roots in the pipes.