Keeping trees safe during construction

Planning ahead can ensure trees survive your home building or renovation

Credit: Flickr / Annrkizst

Planning ahead can ensure trees survive your home building or renovation


The processes involved with construction can be devastating to the surrounding trees if no measures are taken to protect them. Broken branches and wounds to tree trunks are the visible injuries; however, it is damage to root systems that often result in tree loss.

Jim Skiera, Executive Director of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) says, “People often buy treed lots because they value the maturity of the landscape.” But sometimes, he cautions, construction activity unintentionally destroys trees and the homeowner has to pay tree removal costs and has a treeless lot. “Many construction procedures can be devastating to surrounding trees if no measures have been taken to protect them,” says Skiera.

In an ideal situation, an arborist will give advice in the planning stages of construction. Trees can be preserved if the appropriate measures are taken soon enough. Unfortunately, it is often only when the first signs of decline appear that help is first sought.

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If you have construction-damaged trees consult a professional, certified arborist promptly. An arborist can assess each tree for viability and potential hazards, and recommend treatments.

Good planning can minimize some of these more common tree damage problems:

Soil compaction caused by increased foot traffic and heavy machinery decreases soil oxygen and water pores, inhibiting root penetration, resulting in tree health decline. Severed roots due to excavating are a serious problem to tree health and stability. If even one major root is severed, the tree can lose five to 20 per cent of its root system.

Site clearing can expose trees to additional sunlight and winds after neighboring trees are removed; blow downs may occur.

Physical injury to the trunk, limbs, and branches may not cause immediate death, but can threaten the long-term pest and disease resistance of a tree, not to mention its beauty.

Trees may need watering, mulching, bracing, pruning, or even removal. Each tree should be evaluated individually to ensure that it receives the appropriate treatment, repair, and follow–up care. For planning or tree care assistance during construction, contact an ISA Certified Arborist.

Reprinted from with permission of the International Society of Arboriculture. ISA is dedicated to the care and preservation of shade and ornamental trees. For more information consult a local ISA certified arborist.