Protecting Trees During Construction

Whether it is new home construction or an extensive renovation, minimizing the impact on the surrounding landscape takes careful planning and commitment from both homeowners and contractors working at the site. Experienced builders are becoming increasingly sensitive to preservation of the natural beauty of a home site and many have perfected methods to minimize construction damage to trees, shrubs & other vegetation.

An Educated Consumer
As with most significant changes in industry, the move towards preserving natural beauty during construction is consumer driven. Most homeowners are very much aware of the positive effect that mature trees & shady areas have on their quality of life . . . not to mention property values. In new housing, buyers are increasingly requesting that their homes be positioned to take advantage of rock outcroppings & mature tree specimens. They are disenchanted with developments that offer dozens of homes scattered on a barren landscape, with just a couple of forlorn trees left standing strangely out of place.

It is no coincidence that home sites that border wooded areas are most sought after. During renovations & foundation work, there are often many landscape considerations. Often times trees & shrubs are planted near a home when it is built and they grow to be a perfect compliment to the structure. When that structure is expanded, it takes a talented builder and committed homeowner to retain the services of an experienced tree mover for relocation of living specimens.

It’s All in the Planning
In new construction, builders will typically develop a topographic map to show land grades, slopes, streams & areas of large rock. Homeowners can request that builders include the location of specimen trees, wooded areas & rock outcroppings on these maps, allowing for optimal placement of the home in relation to the natural beauty of the property. Dwight Mossman of Hobbs, Inc., a builder of distinctive homes in the northeast, recommends including trees greater than six inches in diameter on the topographic map. He also includes the species of the trees involved in order to maintain maximum outdoor visual appeal during all seasons. “My clients pay the same attention to outdoor details as they pay to indoor specifics,” Mossman explained, “They place a high value on landscapes that include mature trees since trees provide natural cooling & a buffer to the wind. My clients understand that specimen trees cannot be replaced and should be taken care of during construction. Careful mapping & injury prevention provides an enhanced product.”

Site management plans can include specifics on traffic flow & parking to minimize the impact of vehicles on the environment. In addition, construction fencing should be placed at the dripline of the tree, anchored as far from the trunk as possible. Visualize the tree as if the canopy were an umbrella- the drip line is where the water droplets would fall to the ground. According to Mossman, “Cabling & bracing may be needed when the stability of a large tree is compromised. It improves the tree’s chance of survival.”

Sources & Symptoms When tree roots are removed or damaged, or fill is placed on the soil surface, trees may show decline symptoms within a few months. Trees on construction sites are injured by: Lowering of groundwater

Compaction of soil

Removal of top soil

Loss or damage to roots

Damage to trunk & leaf crown.

Symptoms include small or off-color leaves, premature fall color, extensive water sprout development on the trunk & main limbs, dead twigs and eventually dead branches.

Naturally, the best way to protect trees on a construction site is to prevent, or at least minimize any changes that may cause injury. Trees that have been injured are best treated by first stabilizing their environment. Next, deliver the appropriate amount of moisture & avoid additional stress factors caused by insects & disease with an accredited plant health care program. Follow up with maintenance pruning, cabling, bracing & the implementation of a nutrient program designed to recolonize the soil with beneficial mycorrhizae and provide the nutrients required for healthy growth.

When homeowners & builders are committed to preserving natural beauty, they can work together to minimize the impact of construction & renovation, creating a home to be enjoyed both inside & out.

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