Most Homeowners Unable to Assess Tree Damage, Study Finds
After a storm, here’s why you should leave the assessing to the professionals
If a bad storm ripped through your community, damaging a tree in your yard, would you know what to look for to figure out if the tree could be saved or needed to be cut down?
Probably not, according to a study from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), which shows that homeowners can’t properly assess the risk of a damaged tree.
The study’s author, Andrew Koeser, PhD, an assistant professor in environmental horticulture, showed photos of trees to more than 90 people and asked them to determine the risk. Most of the participants focused only on damage to the tree instead of thinking about whether it could fall on a house, nearby structures or people.
Given what’s at stake, it’s important to take those considerations into account. According to the National Storm Damage Center, damage caused by trees during severe weather causes more than $1 billion in property damage in the United States each year.
“I would rather not have homeowners assess risk,” Koeser said in a press release. “It is something they should think about, but a professional should go to the person’s home to decide how to deal with the damaged tree. The question really is, ‘What do professionals and non-professionals consider when they start thinking about tree safety?’”
The National Storm Damage Center recommends asking these five questions when deciding whether or not to cut down a damaged tree.
- Is the tree basically healthy, aside from storm damage? If so, it has a better chance of recovering with the right trimming, care and time.
- Are the major limbs broken? If so, this makes it more difficult for a tree to recover.
- Are at least 50 percent of the tree’s branches intact? A tree that has lost more than half its branches may not be able to survive the next growing season.
- Is the main upward-trending branch broken? If so, the tree will be stunted and may not survive.
- Is the tree in a desirable location? If it’s near power lines or poses a threat to your home or anyone else’s, you may want to take it down.
Koeser, who a faculty member at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida, which is part of UF/IFAS, says homeowners should look for tree defects, including abnormal growth patterns and decay. If you find easily recognizable defects like dead or falling branches or cavities, consider having the tree examined by a qualified arborist.