November is the heart of windstorm season. Could your tree be just waiting to fall? Look for these tipoffs to trouble:
- pushed-up soil at the base of a tree
- wood shavings or borings from insect activity
- leaning, lopsided or V-forked trunks
- history of breakage
- cracks and hollows
- signs of rot or disease.
Don't be quick to cut
If you spot any of those, call a certified arborist to help you assess the risk and explore options for making the tree safer. Be wary of tree services that suggest either topping or wind-sailing the tree. Once commonly thought to reduce the chances a tree could fall in a windstorm, both practices now get a thumbs-down from the Department of Natural Resources. They can provide entry for insects and disease and weaken the tree's natural adaptations to the prevailing winds in your area. The best solution may be doing nothing at all.
If, sadly, a tree must come down, hire contractors with care. Tree removal is dangerous work, and you'll want to make sure the company is licensed, bonded and insured.
Before cutting, check local ordinances, property covenants and any restrictions from your homeowners association. A permit may be required. Also, make sure your signed contract covers you for liability. Circumstances like cutting a tree near a bald eagle's nest or removing trees that turn out to be on a neighbor's property can have serious legal consequences.
If my tree falls on a neighbor's house, who pays?
Likely your neighbor's insurance, since tree owners usually aren't liable for "acts of nature" like windstorms.
However, if you knew or should have known there was a problem with your tree, you could be held responsible – so it pays to get it checked out!
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