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Timber! How to Handle Fallen Trees

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fallen trees

Tropical weather, violent summer thunderstorms, strong winter fronts, disease, rot or just plain old age. There are many reasons why you may wake up one morning and find a fallen tree or broken limbs on your property or house. How the tree fell, where it fell, its size and the damage that was done will determine your ultimate course of action—anywhere from hiring a service to remove the tree, doing it yourself and/or filing a claim. Of course, proactively avoiding any of this hassle in advance by frequently inspecting and trimming trees accordingly is desired, but accidents do happen and in that event, you want to mitigate any further damage. Remember, broken limbs and trunks are extremely unpredictable! Here are some tips for safely handling that fallen tree.

Carefully (and safely) assess the size of the tree and where it fell. Often a partially fallen tree can pose more of a danger than one that has fully fallen. Note any immediately recognizable damage and take as many pictures of the damage from as many angles as you can safely.

Wear appropriate protective gear when moving in and around the tree and limbs, as well as when you begin to work with it. Consider head and face gear, hearing and eye protection, gloves, heavy clothing to adequately cover arms and legs and protective footwear like steel toed shoes. Florida tank tops, shorts and flip flops won’t cut it!

While having a similarly protected partner to assist you is extremely helpful, children, pets and unprotected casual observers are not, including your crazy brother-in-law who’s always up for a double-dog-dare. Keep anyone in the vicinity at least two tree-lengths away if chopping it down.

Look for loosely attached or detached branches hanging in the tree (or in other trees around it) as well as split or cracked trunks in general that will need to be removed immediately to avoid danger or further damage. Trunks split down the middle or showing horizontal cracks also need to go immediately. Branches that are broken but firmly attached that pose no immediate danger can be pruned at a later time.

Be extremely cautious when using hand saws, chain saws, loppers, trimmers and power tools. If you don’t have these tools already and aren’t experienced in this arena, calling a tree removal service should be a priority. Even if you are experienced, assess the size, condition and location of the tree before you rule out a professional service. Now is not the time to let a big ego go to work; it could actually create more damage in the end to your house, your property, yourself and others.

A professional tree removal service will also be able to help you determine if a partially damaged tree will need to be fully removed or if it has a chance of surviving. They can assess the health of the tree’s crown, root lifting, cracks, cankers, decay, breakage and movement of the soil around the base as well as degree of lean and make a determination based on their expert experience. Leave any heavy duty cabling or bracing to a professional arborist.

Keep as many live branches in the tree’s crown as possible to avoid further wounding and stress on the tree.

Don’t be a martyr. Get help. Wood debris can be very heavy—even a two-foot log can weigh as much as 100 pounds!

If a particularly strong storm has hit your area, be very wary of who shows up at your house with a chainsaw, a pick-up truck and a cheap price. None of this reveals any qualifications in tree removal, disease, insects nor pruning.

When staking a tree, use a broad strap or fabric at least one inch wide. Don’t use rope or wire. Only leave it in place for a year.

Avoid fertilizing damaged trees as it can inhibit a tree’s recovery by creating a supersized, top-heavy tree. If there isn’t a strong root system to support it, the tree’s stability will be compromised.

Stressed and damaged trees that stay in the yard will need water so continuously monitor soil conditions. Maintaining proper moisture will help the tree defend against pests and diseases that prey on damaged trees. Mulch can also help in this regard as well as keep the soil cooler in hot Florida summers, prevent the soil from being compacted and encourage healthier root growth. Use wood or bark chips to cover at least two to three feet in diameter around small trees in a depth of two to four inches, but pull the mulch back at least four inches from the trunk to prevent stem decay. Larger trees need a larger diameter.

Do not deal with limbs if they are hanging on a power line or anywhere near a power line. Similarly stay away from trees that have taken down a power line—even if power to the line has been cut.


This article is for informational purposes only and does not form a part of, replace, change or amend any terms, conditions, provisions or language within your Olympus Insurance policy. We encourage you to read your entire policy.

Olympus Insurance is licensed by the state of Florida. Information found on this site is intended for Florida residents only.