Don’t Damage Existing Landscaping During Construction
Dear James: We bought a lot with many trees for our new house. What precautions should our contractor take so trees near the house are not damaged during construction?—Diane K.
Dear Diane: Obviously, some of the trees will have to be removed to create open space for your house. If you plan to use the energy conservation advantages of a wooded lot, pay attention to the types of trees and the shade they provide when locating your house on the lot.
A naturally wooded lot is very attractive, and you definitely want to cause as little tree damage as possible. After working all day while trying to take care of a family yourself, the serenity of sitting quietly in a wooden backyard is often just what the doctor ordered to keep your sanity.
Damage during construction to trees is not generally apparent for a year or two after it has occurred, so it may be difficult to determine if the contractor caused it or not. For trees near your house, you can easily spend $1,000 to have a dead or weakened one taken down. You will also lose a quiet spot to relax, and the resale value of your house may also be diminished.
Before you begin constructions, it would be a good idea to hire a professional tree consultant (arborist) to meet with you and your contractor. Various species of trees are susceptible to various types of damage. During the landscaping inspection and meeting, you can determine the best paths for heavy equipment to follow and where not to clean and rinse off the equipment at the end of each workday.
It might also be a good idea to include a clause in your construction contract to cover damage to trees that is not apparent immediately. After meeting with the arborist, you will have an idea of which trees will be most susceptible to damage and what type of damage may result from the construction project.
Assuming a bulldozer does not crash directly into a tree, hidden damage to trees most often results from cutting roots when trenching, compacting the soil with heavy equipment and chemicals getting into the ground from washing the equipment or scrap materials that get buried.
Different trees have different root patterns, and some can sustain quite a lot of root damage and still survive. Maples have a shallow root pattern that is near the surface. These can easily be cut by shallow trenches. Oaks can sustain up to 40% root damage, so run trenches near them if needed. Beech trees can survive only minimal root damage, so avoid them.
Heavy equipment will compact the soil. This squeezes out many of the air pockets, which stresses the root system. These tiny air pockets also hold moisture after a rain. Have your arborist mark acceptable paths for the heavy equipment. You can purchase yellow or orange ribbons at most home center stores to use to mark the equipment paths to use.
Construction materials, such as cement and brick mortar, are highly alkaline. This is actually good for some plants (particularly evergreens) but can be harmful to others. Have the workman rinse off their tools and equipment in an area where it will run into a storm drain and not into your yard. If pressure-treated lumber is used, it would be wise to have the scraps removed and not buried.
For more detailed information about protecting your landscaping and trees in general, contact the following organizations: American Forests, (202) 737-1944; National Arbor Day Foundation, (888) 448-7337; World Forestry Center, (503) 228-1367; and International Society of Arboriculture, (217) 355-9411; or visit www.treesaregood.com.
Send your questions to Here’s How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit Dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at Creators.com. Copyright 2021 Creators.com
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