Constructing with Care

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Published on: Oct. 2, 2006

Last revision: Nov. 29, 2010

You have finally found the perfect piece of property on which to build your dream home. It is a great location, close to the city but still in the country, and it has lots of trees. In fact, the development is named after trees; even the streets have tree names.

Property with trees usually sells first and for more money. However, many new homeowners are disappointed when, in the months to 10 years following construction, all of the trees start dying on their property. That’s usually when help is called in to determine what “disease” is attacking the trees. It’s a sad event when the homeowner learns that the cause is construction damage, and that it could have been lessened or avoided by following some important rules for building around trees.

Before you purchase

When considering purchasing property with trees, look for locations that have had no disturbance to the site. In other words, no one has used mechanized tree removal, often referred to as “grubbing.”

When a property is grubbed, younger trees and understory trees (trees that grow under the larger canopy trees) are removed. Understory trees consist of redbud, dogwood, serviceberry and other small native tree species. Also lost during this process are many different types of native shrubs and wildflowers.

Grubbing can cause soil compaction. Soil compaction is the leading cause of tree death on a construction site. Tree roots mostly lie shallow in the soil, as shallow as 2 to 18 inches. The majority of the roots in this area are the small, fine, hair-like feeder roots, which are the life support system of the tree. When the soil is compacted by equipment and/or repetitive movement, oxygen and water become unavailable for these roots, causing tree decline and death.

Consider hiring a tree professional, such as a Certified Arborist or Consulting Forester, to look at the piece of property with you. They can assist with identifying tree species and determine which dead or dying trees should be removed, as well as which trees might be considered special for your property. They can also offer guidance throughout the construction process, helping you communicate your wishes to the builder and establishing tree protection during construction.

How to get started

If you have already chosen your contractor, include them at this time. Be sure to communicate to them exactly what you expect to accomplish for your property and your home.

Before any equipment is brought in, you will need

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