Have you ever noticed what a yard teeming with unkempt greenery does to a home's overall appearance? Sickly trees and scraggly limbs can really take some of the shine off an otherwise attractive property. The problems don't end with aesthetics, though. When an overgrown branch or an entire tree gives in to gravity, it doesn't always land harmlessly.
Imagine a bark-covered projectile on a collision course with your new car or your bay window. Now that could get ugly.
Fortunately, taking a proactive approach can help prevent your trees from creating an eyesore or a safety hazard.
How to Hire Professional Help
For homes with a lot of trees, the sheer size of the job may be more than you want to take on. Before you hire a tree care service, ask about important details, such as:
- Proof of insurance
- Proof of certification
As with any other business, the credentials matter. Don't forget to ask for a detailed estimate, as well.
Things to Do If You DIY
If you feel comfortable tackling the trimming on your own, make sure you have the right tools. Routine maintenance can be taken care of with hand pruners, a pruning saw and long-handled lopping shears for hard-to-reach branches.
Experts recommend pruning trees during their dormant seasons. Late fall or winter is the ideal time for hardwoods, for example, while trees such as redbuds and dogwoods should be pruned shortly after they flower in early spring.
As for technique, remember a few general guidelines to help preserve the health of the tree:
- Make dead and broken branches the priority, as opposed to live, healthy branches.
- Stick to smaller branches, less than two inches in diameter.
- Instead of making your cut flush against the trunk, cut just outside the swollen area at the base of the branch. This area is called the branch collar.
- Avoid removing too many live branches from the tree's bottom half.
- Always be careful about trimming branches from the top of the tree.
A tree is more than a decoration. It's a living thing, so groom it accordingly.
Leave Power Lines to the Pros
Vegetation and electricity can make for a hazardous mix. By some estimates, falling trees and branches are linked to about 30% of all power outages.
What should you do if you notice one of your tree limbs extending uncomfortably close to a utility line? Pick up the phone, not the pruning shears. Local electric providers usually shoulder the responsibility for trimming trees around their power lines, so call and schedule a time for a utility crew to visit your home.
In the case of customer-owned power lines, a tree-trimming service may need to be hired privately. (You'll still need to contact the utility provider beforehand to shut off the juice.)
What If The Tree's Beyond Saving?
In some cases, no amount of pruning will make a difference. Before deciding to remove a tree, you need to consider several factors, including:
- Whether it's a species with shallow root systems or weak wood.
- Whether the trunk shows signs of decay, hollowing or fungus.
- Whether the branches or leaves show signs of disease.
Consult an arborist and, if necessary, contact a professional tree removal service. There's no shame in turning to the experts.
A Safe Yard Is a Beautiful Thing
As a homeowner, it would seem you have two choices:
- Maintain your trees to make your property safer and more attractive.
- Hope for the best and keep your insurance agent on speed dial just in case.
A standard homeowners insurance policy typically covers damage to your home caused by falling trees or branches. However, detached structures, such as garages and sheds, may require additional coverage. There's also the potential for confusion and neighborhood discord over fallen trees. If one of your spruce pines were to keel over and crash into your neighbor's house, it's generally his or her insurance that would be responsible for covered damages, not yours.
Why not simply do your part to keep trouble from — if you'll excuse the expression — taking root? With some due diligence, you may never have to file a claim for tree damage or try to explain to your neighbor, "Never mind my deductible. It's yours you need to worry about."
Keep your trees looking good and under control. Safety and responsibility have a beauty all their own.
Barry Bridges writes for Quotes.Safeco.com and HomeownersInsurance.com, an online resource for homeowners and drivers across the country. Offering automobile and homeowners insurance quotes, consumers rely on HomeownersInsurance.com for competitive rates from top-rated insurance carriers. The HomeownersInsurance.com blog provides fresh tips and advice on a range of financial topics to help homeowners and homebuyers make educated decisions about their insurance purchases.