Safe Tree Removal and Landscaping Options

Sprouting from seeds as light as a feather, trees can grow to be several metres tall and weigh a tonne or more.  They provide shade and natural beauty but their sheer size also creates some risk for homeowners.  Disease, insect infestation and age all weaken trees and, over time, their stabilizing root systems become less vigorous.  During wind storms, these trees are susceptible to toppling.  When a home, car or power lines are in the path of the falling tree, the destruction, dangers and costs can be significant.  

If a tree growing on your lawn falls onto a neighbour’s property, you will likely be liable for the costs of cleanups and any repairs.  In some cases, a tree fall can result in personal injury and death either from the impact or from electrocution due to downed power lines.  Every homeowner is responsible to take reasonable care to avoid these outcomes.  Since no one can predict when Mother Nature will whip up a storm, it is important to assess the health of trees at least once a year and remove any unhealthy plants.

Fungus, insects such as pine beetles, and lack of water or too much water will all undermine the health of trees.  Take preventative measures by fertilizing with compost and bone meal, applying organic fungicides and pesticides and ensuring that your trees receive the proper amount of moisture.  When a tree has become unhealthy or is simply nearing the end of its lifecycle, the best option is removal.

Before you start swinging the axe or firing up the chainsaw, read on!  Tall trees are usually cut from the top down rather than felled by cutting at the bottom.  This is done because it can be difficult to control the direction of a fall and in some urban areas, there is no safe, open space for the whole tree to land.  The top down method involves an experienced arborist shimmying up using a harness with a safety line or bringing in a crane with a bucket.  Municipalities also typically require homeowners to hire a professional arborist when branches are within two metres of power lines.

If you hire an individual or a company without insurance and the required worker’s safety coverage, you will be liable for any damage to your home and any injuries.  Before hiring a tree removal company, ensure they have insurance coverage and protection for their employees so that if a tree falls on your home or a neighbour’s property as a result of their negligence, the company’s insurance should cover the costs of any repairs.  

Stump removal may be an additional fee.  Typically, arborists will leave several feet of tree truck, dig around the base to expose the roots, sever the largest roots then use the trunk as a lever to pull up the remaining root ball.  Large trees usually require the use of heavy machinery.  The alternative is to leave the shortest possible tree stump to rot naturally; however, it may take many years.  Paying for complete removal is often worth the expense to create a tidier lawn.  

A felled tree can be chopped into firewood, chipped for landscaping mulch or simply removed.  Obtain a quote for whichever service suits your needs.

Mature oak, cherry and walnut trees contain prized timber so it pays to inquire about making use of the wood.  You may discover that the arborist takes the tree to a local sawmill, in which case, you may be able to negotiate a discount.  Most homeowners lack the equipment to transport a massive log to a sawmill so compensation will be the value of the wood minus a transportation service fee.

After the removal of old or sick trees, you may want to consider new and different options.  For example, if you paid to have a towering pine tree removed, you might enjoy the benefits of a smaller, more manageable deciduous tree.  Dogwood, magnolia, willow and edible fruit trees provide shade with fragrant blossoms and foliage in the warm months but during the shorter winter days, their bare branches allow the sunshine to fill your home.  When it comes time to remove the tree, their smaller size makes the task easier.

Consider these small to medium sized trees:

  • Cornus stolonifera (red osier dogwood) has small white flowers and fruit, but brilliant red shoots in winter. Grows to two metres tall.  Hardy to Zone 2.
  • Acer palmatum 'Dissectum' (Japanese maple) has feathery green leaves that turn orange in the fall. Grows to two metres tall.  Hardy to Zone 5.
  • Magnolia stellata (star magnolia) has white flowers blushed with pink. Grows to three metres tall. Hardy to Zone 5.
  • Syringa reticulata 'Ivory Silk' (Japanese tree lilac) has lacy white flowers in midsummer. Grows to four metres tall. Hardy to Zone 4.
  • Fagus sylvatica 'Purpurea Pendula' (purple beech) has dark purple foliage. Up to 3 metres tall. Hardy to Zone 5.
Visit your local nursery or online sources to discover a selection of trees that will suit the style of your home, light and soil conditions and your growing zone.

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