Tips to Avoid Tree Damage to Your Home

Even The Mightiest Oak Tree Needs The Occasional Haircut

There’s few more welcoming and soothing features in American yards than a mighty oak, dogwood or maple tree offering shade, comfort and beauty to your home’s landscape. Having a beloved generations old tree older than your home is having your own living Norman Rockwell painting.

Alas, like children, trees need care and nurturing as they age. Unfortunately, trees, like people, aren’t designed to live forever. And as trees reach their golden years, it becomes harder for them to withstand nature’s wrath as wind, thunder and rain storms can turn aging, dying and overhanging branches into costly weapons that can damage your home and endanger your family’s safety.

While appearing harmless on a sunny, calm day, when thrown into a blender with heavy winds, rain and lighting, trees – especially aging ones in poor health — hanging over your home’s roof, deck and patio can be extremely dangerous. Limbs hanging over a home are a threat to the rooftop and your entire property. Storm Damage reports damage caused to trees by severe weather accounts for more than $1 billion in property damage each year. Broken limbs, fallen trees and wood debris propelled by fierce winds cause structural damage, roofing damage, siding damage, break windows, fall on cars and topple power lines

Even the quiet damage inflicted by overhanging, aging limbs can lead to severe long-term consequences. As branches scrape against roof shingles on windy days, they can strip layers off asphalt. Leaves falling directly onto your roof or into your gutter can lead to mold, deteriorations or leaks.

The first rule of trimming trees: Know how and when to trim them yourself. For tree limbs hanging over your roof, DIYing the problem is risky and the mistakes can be costly. The best option is having a certified and insured arborist tackle the job. Arborists know how to properly trim trees and branches while keeping your home unharmed.

Knowing What Trees & Branches To Cut

To identify the condition of a damaged tree, remember trees are remarkably resilient and can often heal from storm damage. Focus on the limbs overhanging your home and showing signs of stress. A tree with most of its large limbs broken or missing has a very low survival chance and should be removed. A tree that has lost over 50 percent of its branches will likely not be able to produce leaves in the spring. A tree missing a strong leader branch will have its growth stunted and may not be able to survive. Heavily damaged trees located near power lines, your roof or windows should be removed promptly.

How to Cut a Tree Limb

The wrong cut of a damaged limb will do more harm than good. Before beginning, make sure you are ready to be your family’s Paul or Paula Bunyan. Have a ladder, chainsaw, pruning saw or pole saw ready, as well as a rope, safety goggles and gloves.

According to, proper pruning of large tree limbs involves three cuts:

  • Cut #1, Notch Cut: Cut a small notch in the bottom of the limb, 2-3 feet away from the trunk, and about a quarter of the way through. This notch will keep the bark from splitting when you make the next cut.
  • Cut #2, Relief Cut: Just outside the notch, make a relief cut completely through the branch. This removes the weight of the branch, so that you can make your final cut without the branch splitting and falling.
  • Cut #3, Final Cut: The cut that matters. Your final cut should be right where the branch collar (that swollen bump) transitions to smooth branch bark. Follow the slant of the branch collar. If you can’t fit your saw into the crotch at the right angle, then cut it from the bottom up.

Large branches require more care than smaller, thinner branches. Cut large branches into manageable sections to allow for a simpler, safe cutting process. Remember, when dealing with overhanging branches, never cut underneath and then above. This method will cause the branch to fall on or too near to the building.

Avoid cutting branches too short or too long and do not forget to make relief cuts.

Even homes that don’t have trees standing close on their property can stand in danger from neighboring trees on neighbor’s property. Iowa state law allows home owners to trim tree branches that extend onto your property, even if the tree is planted in a neighbor’s yard. Make sure to talk with your neighbor before trimming and know you are responsible for any harm to the tree.

Trees are majestic, friendly and stunning aspects of your home’s landscape. But don’t let your property’s trees age without care, maintenance and regard for your home and family’s safety.

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