New Homeowner Guide Part 2: Custom Home, Legacy Trees

custom cabin with large trees

You found the perfect lot of land to build your dream home. You didn’t choose it in spite of the trees that were there, but because of them. You recognize that these trees have value – value that can’t be replaced by new trees; value that needs to be protected and maintained.

If the existing trees were taken into consideration when designing and building your custom home, then they are, in fact, a vital part of your home.

This means that any construction on the property needs to take them into consideration.

And that means that it is important to work with a company that is familiar with landscaping, construction and tree care from the initial design through the implementation. Specifically, how construction can affect the biology and soil conditions that determine the future health of your trees.

Here is an overview of how trees add value to your property, the risks that they face from construction/landscaping projects, and how to assess the risk that mature trees might pose to your new custom home.

1. The value of your trees to your custom home.

Aesthetic value? Definitely. Sentimental value? Hopefully someday (when the yet-to-be born grandkids come to visit).

But how else do trees add value to a property?

When assessing the value of a tree, CVTS-L’s Plant Health Care manager Jamey Schwartz has previously explained that TRAQ-certified arborists consider a variety of factors including the species, the location and the condition of the tree.

Schwartz goes into more detail in that blog entry, but the key takeaway is that the tree and landscape value makes up about 5-10% of the total property value – and that’s worth protecting.

2. Construction stress during the build-out of your custom home.

In this scenario, you’ve designed your house on a plot of land that already contains mature trees. The placement of the house was determined largely by the location of those trees. So it is very important that you don’t damage those trees during the actual construction and landscaping projects ahead.

When we’re talking about construction stress, we’re talking about protecting the root system, which can extend as wide as twice the canopy. Particular attention should be given to the “Critical Root Zone,” which extends approximately as wide as the canopy itself.

How can you build your dream house while protecting the health of your trees?

  • Don’t park vehicles (especially construction vehicles on top of the root system. Compaction changes the soil properties and affects the amount of oxygen that is available to the roots.
  • Don’t pile mulch or construction debris on the root system. Piling debris can change the position of the roots in relation to the profile of the soil, and since most of the oxygen is in the top twelve inches, pushing the roots deeper than this (or otherwise compacting them) can dramatically decrease the amount of oxygen available to the roots and they will suffocate.
  • Don’t scrape soil off of the top with an excavator. This can cause tearing and scraping of the roots, which take much longer to heal than clean and precise pruning cuts.

Additionally, moving equipment in the proximity of your trees can cause other damage such as scrapes to the trunk/bark and snap off critical limbs. All of which cause additional stress to the tree.

The damage might go unnoticed at first, but a few years later, the tree could have construction stress and it might not be salvageable at that point. And that fifty-foot tree will not be able to be replaced.

As experts in tree care, landscaping and construction, CVTS-L can be hired to perform pre and/or post-construction assessments and even rope off the root system to make sure that your trees don’t incur accidental damage in the process of making your dream home a reality.

Arborists can also coordinate with general contractors to make sure that incidental changes to the property don’t create unforeseen problems for your trees. Construction and land development can dramatically change the grading of the site, and while the safety of the home will take precedence in terms of grading, we can make sure that the trees aren’t negatively impacted. For example, creating a low spot, or flood spot, on the property that collects water can kill evergreen trees that have grown there previously for years.

3. Risk Assessment and storm damage.

In addition to preventing problems, we can assess and treat existing issues affecting the strength of your trees. For example, a TRAQ-certified arborist can verify that it is, in fact, safe to build your home in the vicinity of the tree and recognize potentially hazardous – or even negligent – situations before they become disasters.

Additionally, our tree preservation strategies include the construction site analyses mentioned above, pruning, cabling/bracing, lightning protection, root zone therapy, air spading and more. Learn more here.

A Comprehensive Approach

Whether your property is a blank slate or an estate that has been passed down for generations, it is important to consult with landscape professionals who can consider your project from every angle and see it through from initial planting through the entire lifespan of the plants. As the authority in tree care, landscape design, plant health care, and construction, the experts at Cumberland Valley Tree Service – Landscaping draw on forty-plus years of experience to guide your project from concept through implementation and beyond.

Contact us today to discuss how CVTS-L can assess and protect the mature trees on your property.