8 Warning Signs Your Tree is a Safety Hazard

Healthy, structurally-sound trees provide countless benefits to homeowners and business owners alike. Not only can they add aesthetic appeal to your property, but they can also increase property value, while cooling the air and providing shade to save on utility bills.

But if you have a hazard tree, the cons could outweigh the pros. Hazardous trees pose a serious concern for the safety of people and property and should be dealt with immediately to prevent damage or injury.

The big question, however, is how to determine if your trees are hazardous. Some of the symptoms might be hard to spot if you aren’t a trained arborist. Keep reading below to discover the 8 warning signs to look for to figure out if you have hazard trees on your property.

What is a Hazard Tree?

Hazard trees are those with structural defects that make them unsafe and are likely to cause damage to nearby structures or injure someone if they fail. These are the trees most likely to fall over, or at least drop branches onto anything underneath. This happens most often in severe weather.

Hazard trees are unpredictable and could collapse at any time, making the threat of a hazardous tree very serious, both for homeowners and commercial property owners who may be held liable for damages.

And it’s not only large canopy trees that pose a threat to people and property. Even small trees can cause serious damage. Dead trees and tree parts as small as only 6” in cross section have led to serious injury and death.

How to Determine If a Tree is Hazardous

It’s important to note that not all tree defects, diseases, or even damage cause a tree to be hazardous. Your trees don’t need to look perfect to be safe. So here are the most important things to look for, both on your residential property and on commercial properties throughout Fairfield and New Haven Counties.

This tree has multiple trunks, rather than one strong, central leader, and is more prone to failure.

1. Multiple Trunks Instead of One Strong, Central Leader

One of the easiest things to look for when examining your trees for potential hazards is the overall form. This is especially true for larger trees, as the consequences can be much more dire.

A stable, reliable tree is one with one primary trunk, growing straight up. All other branches should extend from this central leader. But trees don’t always grow like this. When younger, many trees will develop two or more main trunks. If they aren’t pruned properly early on, the multiple trunks will start growing in different directions.

Without a strong central leader, the tree is much more likely to split in a storm, which could result in one or more trunks falling. This is bad news, particularly if it’s near a house, building, street, or parking lot.

If you notice a large tree that lacks a central trunk, but rather see two or more major trunks, you should have the tree inspected to see if preventative action, such as cabing, is recommended.

A tree leaning too far in New Haven, CT, which is likely to fall over and damage anything nearby.

2. Leaning Trees that are Likely to Fall

Another easy thing to spot is if a tree is leaning. Leaning trees may add visual interest to a landscape, and they may be a common site in nature. But they usually aren’t safe, especially near property.

If a tree is leaning more than 10 degrees, it’s only a matter of time before that tree falls over, crushing anything in its path. When a large tree is leaning, the best course of action is to remove it altogether. However, there are times when a leaning tree can be corrected so it’s best to consult with a local arborist for advice if you have a leaning tree that you want to save.

3. Dead Wood in Your Trees that Could Fall at Any Moment

If your tree is especially large, dead wood can be tough to spot. It’s also easier to spot later in the fall or winter, when the leaves have fallen, and the branches are all visible.

If your tree has dead wood, it can break off at any time. Dead branches may fall when wind speeds pick up or under the weight of winter snow or ice.

Many times, branches will break off without falling to the ground. They might be held up by other branches (temporarily). This is often called a “widow maker.” It’s best not to leave them hanging around long enough to find out why.

However large or small, the dead wood in your tree should be removed as soon as possible to prevent damage to property, injury to people, and further injury to the tree itself.

A tree with rotting tree bark on a residential property near Fairfield, Connecticut.

4. Decay Which can Compromise the Structural Integrity of the Tree

Decay is a major problem that often leads to tree failure. It can happen in many ways, though it typically occurs from the inside out.

The good news is that not all decay is cause for concern. Interior decay doesn’t always affect the strength and structure of the tree. But when decay works its way to the outside of the tree, you have a problem. Much like a pipe, most of the tree’s strength is in the outer shell.

When you can see or touch soft, crumbly wood, with a cavity nearby, you might have a structural problem. And when decay coincides with issues like weak branch unions, cracks, or other problems, then you should take corrective actions.

Since decay, and the effect it has on the strength of trees, can be hard to distinguish, it’s best left to local, certified arborists to determine the best course of action.

A tree canker affecting a large shade tree near a home in Madison, Connecticut.

5. Cankers Could Suggest Structural Problems

Cankers are dead sections of tree bark, either on the trunk or a branch. Many tree bark injuries that lead to cankers happen mechanically, such as by a lawnmower or string trimmer. Cankers can also be caused by plant pathogens, such as bacteria and fungus, that colonize wounded tree tissue.

Cankers should be addressed immediately if they extend halfway across the diameter of the trunk, as the structural integrity of the tree may be at risk.

The good news is that cankers can be avoided with proper planning and pruning. Regular tree pruning can ensure that tree branches don’t intersect or rub against each other constantly, which is often where wounds start. By properly pruning branches just outside the branch collar, rather than leaving a stump or cutting flush against the trunk, you can minimize the wound area, allowing it to heal by itself before disease or pests can infect the area.

6. Cracks Likely Mean a Tree has Already Failed

If you notice a crack in the bark of the tree that extends into the interior wood, your tree is already failing. These can be very serious incidents and should be addressed immediately.

Cracks happen often where a trunk splits into two main trunks. They’re also often found alongside other defects as well, such as decay. In this case, it’s just a matter of time before failure.

7. Included Bark Which Can Lead to Splits or Cracks

Included bark, or “ingrown bark,” occurs when two or more stems grow so closely together that bark is trapped between them. Instead of being connected by strong, healthy wood, the two branches or stems have a thin layer of non-supportive bark between them.

Without the strength of wood holding the branches together, the branch union becomes very weak, leaving the area prone to cracking or splitting apart and creating a highly dangerous situation.

A tree covered in holes from woodpeckers, who were searching for food or nesting cavities.

8. Excessive Holes Which Suggest Decay

Some trees fall victim to excessive woodpecker activity. In general, woodpeckers prefer dead trees. If they can’t find dead trees, they’ll find weak or rotting areas on your tree that are infested with tasty treats (for woodpeckers – humans don’t usually find insects and larvae particularly appetizing).

While healthy, mature trees can withstand woodpecker damage, excessive holes may indicate that there is a high pest population in your tree, or that it is already damaged and decaying. If you notice a lot of woodpecker activity, it may be worthwhile to have your tree inspected.

What to Do if You Believe a Tree is Dangerous

If you have reason to believe a tree is hazardous, there’s a good chance that it is. If you see anything abnormal with your trees, whether it’s one of the issues listed above, or something else entirely, it’s best to contact a local Licensed Connecticut arborist, preferably one with a Tree Risk Assessment Qualification, to examine the trees in question.

A trained arborist can discover exactly what hazards are present and can determine the best course of action. In many cases, if only specific branches are causing problems, the tree may be spared. If there’s a way to save your tree while keeping you and your property safe, they will.

If there’s no way to save the tree, then it will need to be removed to ensure safety.

Why Removal is Often the Best Option for Hazard Trees

In many cases, tree removal is the best option when hazards are present. Why? Because hazards often compound. Broken branches or decaying wood often led to other problems, such as pest infestations, diseases, or additional wound areas.

Where there is one major problem, other problems are often close behind. By removing the problem tree all at once, you eliminate the risks of damage or injury, rather than just postponing the risk.

This also allows you to plant new trees and follow the best pruning and maintenance practices to ensure safe and healthy trees in the future.

Call Rayzor’s Edge to Remove Hazard Trees from Your Property

If you see any of the issues listed above, or have other concerns that we did not cover, it’s best to call a local certified arborist for a closer inspection. Hazard trees can be very dangerous; it’s not worth risking the safety of people or property by delaying action.

Rayzor’s Edge Tree Service specializes in tree service and hazard tree removal in Fairfield and New Haven Counties, CT. Our team is composed of Connecticut licensed arborists who are experts in identifying issues with the tree species found in our local area. We’re also accredited by the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) and are held to the highest standards when it comes to tree care and safety.

Our insured and certified arborists are also Tree Risk Assessment Qualified (TRAQ) and follow strict procedures, governed by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) to detect and evaluate tree danger.

If you need to have your trees inspected to ensure safety for your home or commercial property, you can count on us to come up with the best plan to either stabilize problem trees or remove them when necessary.

Call us at 203-258-5584 today or use our online form to schedule a free consultation and get those hazards off your property fast.

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