When you think of trees, you envision tall, strong trunks and sturdy branches covered with leaves for the sun to peek through. You might see a hammock for relaxing afternoon naps, a tire swing for the kids, or a source of cool shade for your garden. Healthy mature trees increase property value while enhancing the overall enjoyment of your home. But when a tree is dead or dying, it becomes a hazard as well as an eyesore. Unfortunately, a dead tree isn’t as easy (or inexpensive) to remove as a small ornamental shrub – which is why many homeowners tend to leave them in a place far too long. However, if you have one or more trees that are bereft of life, it’s time to literally cut your losses. Here’s why.
A Dead Tree is a Safety Hazard Any Time of Year
The urgency to remove dead trees is typically more pronounced in Florida during the early months of hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30 and peaks in August and September. As those who have lived in the Sunshine State for any length of time know, trees that are dead or diseased to the point of instability can be uprooted by heavy winds and topple over onto roofs, vehicles, etc. Brittle dead branches can snap off and do likewise, and may also become projectiles, crashing through windows and screen enclosures. In addition, if you have a tree on your property that you know is dead, many insurance policies won’t cover damage to your home or car if the tree falls during a storm.
As we mention in our blog post – “Being Prepared for Hurricane Season” – those who were here in 2004 for Hurricane Charley (which made landfall on August 9 as a category 4 storm) remember the damage caused by an estimated total of 28,000 trees uprooted throughout Orlando and Winter Park. Since then, Central Florida communities encourage homeowners to prune old or overhanging branches and remove declining trees to prevent a similar situation.
Just because Central Florida has been spared a direct hit from a named storm in recent years doesn’t mean that a dead tree in your yard poses no safety risk. Not to sound ghoulish, but a dead tree gradually decomposes. A tree may rot from the inside out, making it much more unstable than it might look. As American Cutters states, “Internal wood decay lessens or eliminates wood’s natural strength and flexibility by destroying its lignin (the strong fibers in wood). Without lignin, the wood becomes weak and can break unpredictably.”
In such a case, the tree itself or a branch could fall spontaneously, causing serious property damage, injury, or worse – and you could be liable for damages to a neighbor’s property or personal injury. While Central Florida hasn’t had to deal with full-blown hurricanes recently, our torrential summer afternoon thunderstorms produce gusty winds that create conditions conducive to accelerating the process. Don’t ignore the problem and assume your luck will continue to hold out!
A Dead Tree Can Spread Disease to Healthy Trees and Attract Pests
A dead tree that’s still standing poses additional risks. According to Tree Images, “If your tree died from a disease, it can pass the illness along to your other plants. Tree diseases often present in the form of powdery mildews, which can affect your entire yard. These airborne infections can be extremely difficult to contain once they start to spread, so nipping them in the bud (pun intended) when they are still in a single tree could save your whole landscape.”
Then, there’s the matter of termites. No matter what species a tree is, if it’s rotted or dead, it’s a prime target. Even a dead branch is enough to attract hungry termites. All termites prefer dead and rotting trees because they are very easy to chew through and get to the cellulose. As the good people at Keller’s Pest Control point out, “They thrive in moist, humid environments. Termites love nothing better than a moisture-damaged piece of wood. Considering the fact that our climate is basically humid all the time, Florida is a termite’s idea of paradise.”
Once termites establish a colony in a dead tree or tree stump, it’s only a matter of time before they make their way to your house and wreak their damage on it. Dead trees also provide an attractive home to carpenter ants and other wood-boring insects that can then subsequently infest other trees – as well as your house.
Leaving a dead tree in place can leave your property vulnerable to vermin. According to Evergreen Tree Services, animals may seek out the tree and nest in it. “Rats are known to create nests in dead trees, and when rats are in your dead tree, they’ll eventually invade your home to find food and additional shelter.”
What to Do About a Storm-damaged Tree
Not every tree damaged by a storm needs to be removed. Depending on the circumstances and condition of the tree, restoration may be possible. Gardening Solutions – a website presented by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) – provides a useful guide to help homeowners determine if a hurricane-damaged tree can be restored, or needs to be removed.
“To be a good candidate for restoration, a tree should not have cracks in its major limbs or trunk. Its roots should not be exposed or lifted out of the soil. In addition, the branches and trunk structure need to have been strong and healthy prior to the storm.”
A tree that needs to be removed may have one or more of the following criteria:
- The lower trunk is cracked or broken. If the main trunk is cracked, then the tree is weak and should probably be removed.
- A large stem has split from the tree. A large branch or co-dominant stem that has broken often leads to massive decay and weakness.
- The tree is leaning towards a target. If a leaning tree is likely to fall on a person, building, power line, or roadway, or is presenting another serious threat, it should be removed. Leaning trees usually have major roots broken and are unstable.
- The tree’s structure was not good prior to the storm. Restoration is difficult for large trees that had poor structure before the storm. Trees with multiple trunks, co-dominant stems, and bark inclusions are all good candidates for removal.
- Large limbs are broken. Trees with many large damaged branches in the canopy (as opposed to branches with only leaves stripped, or trees with only small branches broken) are more difficult to restore. Consider removing these trees.
Whether it’s a damaged or dead tree that needs to be removed, the expense of removal is a real concern. Your homeowner’s insurance policy may cover the cost in order to decrease the possibility of a dead tree falling. Individual policies vary, so read yours carefully, and contact your agent if you have questions.
Should you need to pay out-of-pocket for a dead tree to be cut down, you might be considering whether you can do it yourself – or with the help of friends or family members. We recommend you read our blog post – “The Best Way to Remove a Tree” – for an overview of the equipment and technique required. Overall, however, we strongly advise that you hire a professional. We know we’re getting ahead of ourselves, but Daniel’s Lawn Service & Pressure Washing provides experienced, safe removal of any tree. Most homeowners lack the equipment and personal protective clothing and gear to safely do this – not to mention the physical ability. Even if you’re strong and sturdy, however, cutting down a tree requires more than brawn.
Should you think we’re steering you toward hiring a professional for obvious reasons, this is what American Climbers has to say.
“Removing a dead tree takes much more than simply borrowing a chainsaw and cutting it down. To do it safely, dead tree removal requires planning and organization, skill and experience, and the right equipment. Even if you’ve cut down a tree before, you’ll quickly find out that chopping down a dead tree is nothing like removing a living tree … Where a climber might rig a sound tree and use its crown structure to move from branch to branch, it’s not safe to do that with a brittle, decaying tree. Instead, removing a decayed tree requires specific equipment that is not tethered to the tree, such as a bucket truck or crane.”
As we hope you’ve learned, you have much more to lose by keeping a dead tree on your property than the cost of removing it. When you’re ready to make sure your home is protected over the long term, our team of experts can safely remove any tree. To learn more about our services – including stump removal, land clearing, and landscaping – contact us today so we can do the work, and you can do the enjoying!