The Root of the Problem

David Abrego

Before embarking on a construction project, whether it’s a new home build or addition of a pool or driveway, be aware of the harm that can occur to the trees on your property.

When trees are damaged during construction, their wounds aren’t always visible. In fact, most often damage surfaces over time in the form of gradual decay.

While the most common tree injuries due to construction are broken branches and bark mutilation, root damage is the biggest threat to tree health. Roots in the upper soil (6 to 12 inches below the surface) are the most important because they transport all nutrients and water.

Heavy equipment used during soil grading causes considerable root damage by physically destroying the roots or compressing the soil. This reduces the porous space where roots grow, compromising their future development.

There are ways to protect your trees during construction:

  • Create a tree protection zone to restrict access to the tree. The more extensive the physical barrier, the better the tree’s chances of survival. Preferably, the protection zone should extend to the outside of the tree canopy.
  • Add 6 to 12 inches of mulch around the root zone during construction to lessen the impact of heavy equipment. Just remember to remove the excess mulch at the end of the project — only 2 to 3 inches of mulch should remain.
  • Consult a certified arborist right from the project’s start.

Trees are valuable assets to homes and the community. You can protect them and prolong their life with a little care and planning.

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