One of the biggest problems with trees each year is when the tree or branch falls.
This can lead to damage to your house, car or other things and it even can cause major injuries and sometimes even death. Some people are afraid of this happening and they think about having the trees removed from their property.
However, if they have healthy trees, this isn’t always a good idea. Having one big tree on the property can add lots of value to the property or it also can help you with saving money on costs to cool your home. Trees also are great for cheering you up and making you happy.
So how do you know when the time may be right for removing a tree? Below are some of the signs that your tree may need to be removed. Some of them you can see on your own and others may need a more practiced eye in order to know when it’s time for it to take it down.
It should be noted that you shouldn’t substitute this blog for talking with a professional. An arborist who has experience and certification will be able to see trouble that other people can’t. But this is a good place to start.
Inspecting Trees by Looking at the Four Zones
To thoroughly examine your tree, look at the four zones.
- Zone 1 – Your whole tree, seen from some distance away
- Zone 2 – That ground beneath your tree, which includes visible roots as well as that ground surrounding them. This also includes the tree’s first 3 feet of its trunk.
- Zone 3 – Your tree’s trunk
- Zone 4 – Your tree’s crown. This its leaves and branches, which includes the spot where the branches are connecting to its trunk as well as each of the branches all the way to the branches’ tips.
Zone 1: Your whole tree
Stand somewhere that allows you to see your entire tree all at once and take a good long look. Look at the whole thing, instead of the tree’s individual parts. These are things to look at.
- Is your tree leaning? If it is, which way is it leaning? Has the tree been leaning for a while? Has the lean increased since yesterday, last week or last month? Is the lean towards the east? The trees that are leaning towards the east will be more vulnerable and likely to fall since the majority of winds are coming from that direction.
- Are you able to see any large dead branches? Does the tree have lots of them or are there just a couple? Are those dead branches on the tree’s lower part? Just on one of the tree’s sides?
- Does your tree have sections that have absolutely no leaves? Is there a sparse leaf cover? Are that tree’s leaves dropping a lot earlier when compared with other trees that are the exact same species? Do its leaves look strange?
- Are the branches of the tree dying from the tips?
If you’ve answered yes to one or more of those questions, you may have a tree that is getting ready to fall over, dying, imbalanced or sick. You want to immediately have it evaluated by one of the certified arborists in your area. You don’t want to take a chance.
Zone 2: The ground beneath your tree
This includes visible roots as well as that ground surrounding them. This also includes the tree’s first 3 feet of its trunk. There is two kinds of roots. The ones that are most visible are the large structural roots. These hold up your tree. The absorbing roots are smaller and they can’t be seen, and these are the ones that give your tree with nutrients and water from soil. Even when a tree looks vibrant and strong and has beautiful foliage, it still can have severe problems with its roots. Look at the trunk’s base along with the ground surrounding the tree’s bottom. This is where you could find the evidence that the roots have issues.
- Pull back the ground cover, ivy or mulch and closely look at where the tree’s trunk is meeting the ground. Do you notice raised or crack soil? If so, your tree might be uprooting.
- Are you noticing mushrooms near or on the trunk or roots of the tree? This is a big indicator of trunk or root decay. When the anchoring roots of a tree are cut, rotting or decayed, there’s a huge risk that the tree is going to fall over. If a lot of your tree’s trunk is decayed, that trunk may break or buckle.
Decay, root rot and uprooting at the tree’s base can mean situations that are very dangerous which will require you to take action immediately. Certified arborists can help you with determining whether it’s okay to leave your tree standing or if you should remove it.
Some other things you should look for when you’re inspecting Zone 2:
- Deep holes close to the ground are going to be a very bad sign. Your tree might collapse if its trunk is missing a lot of wood near the ground.
- Have you spotted any dead branches beneath the tree? If you have, chances are that your tree has more of them that haven’t dropped yet, particularly if it’s never been cleaned by someone who is an expert at tree care. Think twice before walking beneath your tree if you’re seeing a lot of dead branches laying beneath the tree. Arborists will also be able to spot branches you didn’t even notice.
- Are you seeing fine or coarse sawdust at your tree’s base? If you have, chances are that there is a carpenter ant colony in the tree or it’s being attacked by small beetles called borers. If there is carpenter ants, you really have a problem since they only nest in wood that’s dead. An invasion of borers usually will kill your tree, though with some of the species if you catch them early enough and tree them you may be able to save your tree. That is why arborists are a good person to consult.
- Cracks or raised sections – If you are seeing these in your sidewalk or driveway, this can be a huge problem. They can cause people to trip and get hurt. It’s a good idea to call an arborist so you can find out how to save the roots of the tree and still address the issue.
Zone 3 – Your tree’s trunk
Your tree’s trunk is what holds your tree up and supports its branches’ massive weight. You want to thoroughly inspect that area of the tree.
- Cavities – These can often be dangerous, based on how big they are, where the cavity is found on your tree, and their depth. If there is one that is above the level of your eyes, you might want to climb up and inspect it so that you know its depth and if there is decay.
- Splits and cracks – When you have these in the tree’s trunk, they can be really dangerous. If you are noticing a split or crack in your tree’s trunk, your whole tree can break or fall apart anytime.
- Missing bark – If you’re noticing spots where the tree is missing bark or bark is falling off, this usually means that there is a dead part in the tree. Look for some spots on the trunk of the tree where it has no bark, where the bark is falling off, or where it’s discolored. If bark is missing it also can mean there’s a wound on the surface, a fungal attack or an infection.
- Missing bark streak – When you see this going down your tree, it normally means that your tree’s been struck with lightning. Sometimes trees can recover after this has happened, but if your tree’s turning brown a few weeks after it happened, the tree’s died.
- Sawdust – This is often a sign of beetles and ants attacking your tree. When ants cut into wood that is decayed, there are coarse shavings left behind. Beetles which attack pine trees, known as pine bark beetles, leave things called pitch tubes and they look like sap that is the size of marbles.
- Multiple trunks – When your tree has more than one trunk, they sometimes split and crack at the connection of the trunks. Connections that are strong look like U’s. Connections that are weak will look like V’s. Sometimes wood layers will be added by the tree over that connection so that the crack is strengthened. Following a windstorm, examine that connection in your tree at the point where the trunks are meeting. If that connection is high up, you can use binoculars. If there’s a line that is light in color that is contrasting with the bark’s natural dark color, chances are that the crack is fresh. Your tree might be starting to split apart. This should be considered an emergency.
When you are noticing any conditions that are listed above in the tree, you should immediately get in touch with an arborist. They’ll be able to tell you whether you can leave your tree there or if it needs to be removed.
Zone 4: Your tree’s crown
This is going to include the branches extending from its trunk and the leaves. A very obvious and common sign that your tree is not healthy is seeing dead wood. When hardwood trees have dead branches, it’s easy to see them. If the remainder of the tree is filled with green leaves, the branches that are dead will be the ones that are bare of leaves or that have brown leaves on them. When pine branches die, the needles on it will be brown. If the branch has been dead a while there won’t be any needles at all on it.
Another sign that a branch on the tree has been dead a while is that it doesn’t have any bark on it. These types of branches are going to easily break. They need to be carefully removed so they won’t fall on something on someone. If your hardwood tree has a lot of brown leaves upon it during the winter probably is dead, except for the American beech trees since they hold onto the dead leaves til early in the spring.
Examine the tree for branches that are broken, particularly after you have had a bad storm. Sometimes you won’t even know that there are broken branches until the leaves have turned brown.
Pockets of rot or decay will sometimes be on a branch’s upper side and they aren’t visible to someone on the ground. That is why it might be essential to have an aerial inspection done by an arborist. This means that the arborist is going to climb the tree to take a closer look. This will especially be important if there’s large branches and they’re extending over your house.
It’s important to be proactive. Below are some guidelines you should follow so that your family, home and yourself are protected.
- Make sure you’re inspecting the trees regularly!
- Immediately have trees checked if you’re seeing, or think you’re seeing, any of those warning signs that are mentioned above.
- You should have an arborist regularly check your large trees, once every 3 years is the bare minimum
- If you’re having extreme cycles of weather, like a lot of rainfall or drought, it’s a good idea to have your trees examined more often.
- Examine trees following extreme weather, like really strong wind, heavy snow or ice, or a lot of rain. When you’re walking around the house, carefully examine your roof as well. Punctures in the roof due to falling branches can cause bad water damage in the home.
- When your trees have broken, dead, weak, or cracked branches, call an arborist to have the trees pruned. This should be done at least every 3 years, or sooner if you’re noticing problems. This is going to help with keeping your trees beautiful, healthy and safe. It’s also important to remember that tree trimmers shouldn’t be climbing the tree with leg spikes!
These are the tips that you can use to help you know whether or not your tree is ready to come down. Use these tips and you’ll know when you have a healthy tree or whether it’s time to take your tree down.
Have more questions?
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