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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou

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[#1] Posted: 08/25/2013 - 5:17:30 PM
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UPDATE:
I wanted to post an update because I received so many helpful responses from all of you. We had an arborist out to look at the trees. There are a few serious wounds in one tree, but they are both still solid and healthy i.e. not a threat to our house. We arranged to have some nutrient treatments applied and she will be back every year to have a look at them.

Also, she assured me that when the tree with the serious wounds in it does need to be brought down, there are many options for planting other trees around the site to keep erosion and other land issues at bay.

I feel much less fearful about the whole issue now and that has made me realize that I really love those trees! They bring a lot of shade to our whole house and they are just really beautiful.

So, thanks, everyone, for helping to allay my fears and for urging me to get an arborist out stat.

Original message follows:


Hello,

I apologize for the long entry here and lack of any technical understanding, so please bear with me as I explain my dilemma:

Our house was built in 1947. We've lived in it since 2008. It's a nice little cape cod right outside of DC. There are two very big, very tall red maple trees that were probably planted when the house was built. They are close to the house (about 4-5 feet from the outside of the house) and very thick, probably about 6 feet around, maybe wider. They give the house a lot of shade, which is nice.

There is a big wound in one of the trees, that I was told would eventually be fatal. I am also always worried about these mammoth trees falling on our house during a big storm. And finally, I am worried that if we cut down one or both of the trees (a job that would cost over $10,000, I'm told) the roots would decompose and cause serious damage to the foundation of our house. Right now, there are no large cracks in the outside of the house, the basement is pretty dry, and the unfinished part of the basement also doesn't appear to have any large cracks.

My question is this: 1) how likely do you think it is that these trees may have already caused damage to the foundation or structural integrity of the house? 2) Are these trees a huge liability? Should we get the hell out of this house while we're still alive?

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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou
[#2] Posted: 08/25/2013 - 5:34:13 PM
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While not an arborist, "eventually fatal" could be quite a long time and allow for you to save up, if need be, to remove the tree(s). From what I have read, each of the species of maples have different root systems.

About the foundation. It has been my experience that cracking or heaving would have appeared already if the tree's are that old. There should be some heaving of the walkway's, patio slab etc, if the roots were causing issues. Tree's this large don't necessarily root under a foundation, in some cases, they go right through a basement wall. That would be quite noticeable;) Have you considered hiring a home inspector to have a closer look?

My opinion is, yes the tree's are too close to the home, but, doesn't appear or sound like they are causing any structural issues.

Rob Jones
South Sound Inspections
Seattle Home Inspection

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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou
[#3] Posted: 08/25/2013 - 5:41:46 PM
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Thanks! That is helpful. We do think our foundation is in good shape, but again, we are just laypeople. We did do an inspection in 2008 and it passed. But now we have a child and the issue weighs heavily on my mind.

Are there any good home inspection companies in the DC area? I just need some peace of mind. How much would it cost if we just had an inspector come out and look at our foundation? Is this like a $200 job or a $1000 job? Is peace of mind a completely elusive concept when you're talking foundations and trees?


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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou
[#4] Posted: 08/25/2013 - 6:02:29 PM
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Don't bother to hire a home inspector to look at your foundation. That will be a huge waste of money. It's pretty clear that your foundation is fine -- at least the part that's visible, and an inspector can't see the rest anyway.

Call an arborist if you have concerns. Who told you the tree has a fatal wound? Do you believe that person? Do you want a second opinion? Are there branches that threaten your house? Has this tree stopped growing? Is it at a stage where the roots are done growing and now the tree will either thrive or die? The concerns are primarily with the tree, so call a tree person if you have questions.

Steve Nations
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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou
[#5] Posted: 08/25/2013 - 6:02:30 PM
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The root ball of a tree is usually equal to the drip line. That is, if the leaves and branches of the tree canopy reach out 30 feet from the trunk, the roots will -- or will try to -- reach out the same distance. So if a tree is planted so close to the house that the branches overhang the roof, the roots will be doing their darndest to push that way too, exerting a lot of pressure on the foundation.
Once the tree is cut down, this pressure will go away. Decomposing roots shouldn't cause much of a problem. Removing the trees will also help extend the life of the roof.
We do inspections in Silver Spring; you're welcome to give our office a call.

Welmoed Sisson
Inspections by Bob, LLC
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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou
[#6] Posted: 08/25/2013 - 6:14:50 PM
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Thanks, Steve. You are right. We need to call an arborist. That's what we'll do.
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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou
[#7] Posted: 08/25/2013 - 6:16:31 PM
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Removing a live tree that big will considerably alter the moisture gradients in the soil in the vicinity of the tree. Moisture levels -and soil elevations - would likely rise once the tree is no longer pulling hundreds of gallons a day from the soil. Greater moisture content can easily lift foundations. Whether the foundation fails depends on whether it can bear those forces or not.

Any good arborist can tell you more than I.

Marc

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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou
[#8] Posted: 08/25/2013 - 6:39:08 PM
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Tree roots really aren't looking for concrete, nor do they necessarily "push" on a foundation without a number of other possible factors that might apply.

What roots will do is drink up all that water under the house; trees that large are probably soaking up 300 gallons a day (at least) in the summer. When the soil has all the water pulled out of it, it can subside (settle). Subsidence can cause footing/foundation settlement.

But, since nothing is showing, I wouldn't sweat that one either.

For all the urban legend talking about trees damaging houses, I've rarely seen it in my career. Maybe a couple times in 25+ years. Sure, it can happen, but so can a lot of things. (Fine print note.....for every home inspector that says it rarely happens, there will be at least one other home inspector insisting it happens all the time.)

Call the arborist, see what they say, then come back and share the info. There's no quick slam dunk analysis on this one; it will take a few folks opinions before you know anything for sure.


Kurt in Chicago

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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou
[#9] Posted: 08/25/2013 - 7:32:09 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Welmoed

The root ball of a tree is usually equal to the drip line. That is, if the leaves and branches of the tree canopy reach out 30 feet from the trunk, the roots will -- or will try to -- reach out the same distance. So if a tree is planted so close to the house that the branches overhang the roof, the roots will be doing their darndest to push that way too, exerting a lot of pressure on the foundation.
Once the tree is cut down, this pressure will go away. Decomposing roots shouldn't cause much of a problem. Removing the trees will also help extend the life of the roof.
We do inspections in Silver Spring; you're welcome to give our office a call.



Hey there Welmoed....welcome to TIJ.

Please hang around. We need women to contribute. This place overflows with testosterone.....we could use balance.


Kurt in Chicago

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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou
[#10] Posted: 08/25/2013 - 7:39:51 PM
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"Tree roots extend as far as the branches, so if there are branches over your house, there are roots in/under it" is folklore. Kurt is correct. Roots don't want to fight through concrete to find moisture and nutrients.

Michelle, be glad you don't live in my house in the middle of a dense forest. There are at least 30 mature hardwood trees close enough and large enough to destroy my home if any one fell.

Bill Kibbel, Historic & Commercial Building Inspections - Old House Resources
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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou
[#11] Posted: 08/25/2013 - 7:43:31 PM
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To amplify on what others have said previously, I wouldn't be in a hurry to cut the tree down. After all, it and your house grew up together. And the house isn't showing too many signs of problems, correct? Maple trees can have a much longer lifespan than yours have. If there aren't any signs of problems I wouldn't recommend rocking the boat IF you want to keep the tree.

As has been mentioned previously, if you cut the tree down the deterioration of the stump and roots will likely cause far larger problems than you have experienced up to this point.

Kevin

"Politicians are interested in people. Not that it is always a virtue; fleas are interested in dogs." P.J. O'Rourke

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[#12] Posted: 08/25/2013 - 8:06:31 PM
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OK, I'll chip in.
Ask the arborist if he can top the trees. Take the top halves off.

This will cost less than removing two whole trees. The tops will grow back fairly quickly, but once topped, they are easier to top again every 5 years or so. They will look odd for a few years but they will grow better for it and they will do less harm. Kinda like the way they cut the horns off a cow, makes them friendlier.
Bulls, too, yes, welcome, Welly.


I took a Bigleaf maple down to the ground for my stepdad about 10 yrs ago. My son got the 1990 Mustang that was under the tree, my stepdad got rid of the car he didn't want and the tree he didn't want. And I got to spend two days in a tree.
I started up top with a Swede saw, like a bow saw, y'all, took down the top and the limbs. Then when I got closer to the ground, I could run a chainsaw while standing on a ladder, no belt and spurs for me, but it took two days with dragging branches to the landfill and all.

Now a word about maples. They grow fast and they are brittle. Maybe the Red maple is stronger, but they are not strong like an oak.

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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou
[#13] Posted: 08/25/2013 - 10:14:44 PM
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Hi,

All good advice but the most important reason that you should call an arborist is that if those trees do come down and you haven't called an arborist to evaluate them there's a good chance your insurance company will not pay you a dime because you didn't exercise "due diligence."

That happened to a client of mine about 7 - 8 years ago. She had me inspect the house in October. There were tall trees on the property - about half a dozen. I told her to get them looked at by an arborist and do whatever the arborist said to do by way of pruning, removing etc. She closed in November.

In mid-November we had a series of wind storms that took down trees and power lines all over the county and left many of us without power for more than ten days. Not long after that period started, I got a call from my client. She wanted to know if I knew of a tree removal service in the area. I told her of a company I knew and asked what was up. She responded that one of those trees had come down......on top of a neighbor's house. She'd called her insurance company. They asked her if she'd had the trees evaluated by an arborist when she took possession. She had not. She'd leased the house back to the seller for two months and hadn't moved in yet so she hadn't gotten around to getting the trees evaluated. Her insurance company tsk, tsk'd and then told her that there was nothing they could do because as the homeowner she was expected to exercise due diligence and she should have had those trees evaluated.

The rest of the story is that she was sued by her neighbor's insurance company to recoup the cost of repairing her neighbor's house and she ended up going bankrupt and her home was foreclosed.

Get them looked at. Then do whatever it takes to follow through with the arborist's recommendations as soon as you can.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou
[#14] Posted: 08/26/2013 - 07:19:42 AM
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Wow, Mike. That is a sobering tale!! Now my husband thinks we should call the insurance company just to make sure we are covering our bases on the due diligence side of things.

We have an arborist coming out on Thursday, so I will update you all on what they say. We had been letting these trees go for years without pruning, but now I think we need to take a more responsible approach.


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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou
[#15] Posted: 08/26/2013 - 2:45:50 PM
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Can we share your story, Mike?

-


Erby Crofutt
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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou
[#16] Posted: 08/26/2013 - 2:52:51 PM
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Sure, why not? It's not my story anyway. I bet it occurs every day all around the country.

OT - OF!!!

M.

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[#17] Posted: 08/27/2013 - 9:50:01 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by hausdok

Sure, why not? It's not my story anyway. I bet it occurs every day all around the country.

OT - OF!!!

M.
Yeah but that was a big blow in 2006, IIRC. In fact it was hurricane force winds that hit here and flattened some mighty Spruce trees that were 100's of years old. The property next to us still has windfalls laying there from that storm.

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[#18] Posted: 08/28/2013 - 06:01:00 AM
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Quote: Originally posted by John Kogel

OK, I'll chip in.
Ask the arborist if he can top the trees. Take the top halves off.

This will cost less than removing two whole trees. The tops will grow back fairly quickly, but once topped, they are easier to top again every 5 years or so. They will look odd for a few years but they will grow better for it and they will do less harm. Kinda like the way they cut the horns off a cow, makes them friendlier.
Bulls, too, yes, welcome, Welly.


I took a Bigleaf maple down to the ground for my stepdad about 10 yrs ago. My son got the 1990 Mustang that was under the tree, my stepdad got rid of the car he didn't want and the tree he didn't want. And I got to spend two days in a tree.
I started up top with a Swede saw, like a bow saw, y'all, took down the top and the limbs. Then when I got closer to the ground, I could run a chainsaw while standing on a ladder, no belt and spurs for me, but it took two days with dragging branches to the landfill and all.

Now a word about maples. They grow fast and they are brittle. Maybe the Red maple is stronger, but they are not strong like an oak.


I disagree. Topping is a bad horticultural practice and promotes weak advantitious growth. It is better to elevate, remove lower limbs to several feet above the roof, and remove and dead or dying limbs. Have the tree guys come back every few years and maintain the trees. I worked around plants, landscapes and trees for a lot of years.

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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou
[#19] Posted: 08/28/2013 - 06:04:50 AM
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Drift....

Explain advantitious growth, please. I googled it, but how does it relate to this issue?

What about orchards? I see a lot of orchards getting flat topped.

Kurt in Chicago

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[#20] Posted: 08/28/2013 - 06:11:06 AM
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If you cut a branch in the wrong place the wound will start to bud and send out a lot of weak growth. It is a reaction to a perceived problem in the tree, such as a disease or damage. The plant wants to produce more seeds to offset its impending doom. With fruit trees you want that type of growth so that you get lots of buds, flowers and subsequent fruit. A hardwood shade tree is a different situation. Same with a rose bush, berries, etc.
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[#21] Posted: 08/28/2013 - 06:21:12 AM
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Many arborists down here call the topping of the very common Crepe Myrtle trees: Crepe Murder

They don't like it and do not endorse it for the reasons noted by Chris.

Link below is for an article at Texas A&M about the "crime".

Texas A&M article about "Crepe Murder"

Cheers,

Nolan E. Kienitz
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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou
[#22] Posted: 08/28/2013 - 07:09:33 AM
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OK, makes sense.

I top my fruit trees because all the orchard owners I know top theirs, and it brings more fruit.

For my yard trees, and advice to customers, I always advise selective cutting and clearing out dead wood on the best recommendations of a forester/arborist. Most of it is very common sense stuff, based on simple observations.


Kurt in Chicago

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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou
[#23] Posted: 08/28/2013 - 2:37:01 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by allseason

If you cut a branch in the wrong place the wound will start to bud and send out a lot of weak growth. It is a reaction to a perceived problem in the tree, such as a disease or damage. The plant wants to produce more seeds to offset its impending doom. With fruit trees you want that type of growth so that you get lots of buds, flowers and subsequent fruit. A hardwood shade tree is a different situation. Same with a rose bush, berries, etc.

Good advice. Good to know.

Marc

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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou
[#24] Posted: 08/28/2013 - 5:21:40 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by allseason

Quote: Originally posted by John Kogel

OK, I'll chip in.
Ask the arborist if he can top the trees. Take the top halves off.

This will cost less than removing two whole trees. The tops will grow back fairly quickly, but once topped, they are easier to top again every 5 years or so. They will look odd for a few years but they will grow better for it and they will do less harm. Kinda like the way they cut the horns off a cow, makes them friendlier.
Bulls, too, yes, welcome, Welly.


I took a Bigleaf maple down to the ground for my stepdad about 10 yrs ago. My son got the 1990 Mustang that was under the tree, my stepdad got rid of the car he didn't want and the tree he didn't want. And I got to spend two days in a tree.
I started up top with a Swede saw, like a bow saw, y'all, took down the top and the limbs. Then when I got closer to the ground, I could run a chainsaw while standing on a ladder, no belt and spurs for me, but it took two days with dragging branches to the landfill and all.

Now a word about maples. They grow fast and they are brittle. Maybe the Red maple is stronger, but they are not strong like an oak.


I disagree. Topping is a bad horticultural practice and promotes weak advantitious growth. It is better to elevate, remove lower limbs to several feet above the roof, and remove and dead or dying limbs. Have the tree guys come back every few years and maintain the trees. I worked around plants, landscapes and trees for a lot of years.
allseaz, I am in full agreement that it damages the tree, but I am in favour of topping to save the house.

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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou
[#25] Posted: 09/16/2013 - 10:48:53 AM
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Original poster here... just posted an update..
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UPDATE: Worried sick about red maples close to hou
[#26] Posted: 09/16/2013 - 3:15:54 PM
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That's good news.
We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them
Albert Einstein
 
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