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Are dead trees dangerous?
Last updated: 1 October 2020
One of the questions we get asked time and time again is whether dead trees are dangerous or not.
The short answer is, yes, dead trees are dangerous. They also become more and more dangerous as time goes on. The longer you procrastinate about getting something done about your dead tree, the more likely it is that it will fall any day now.
The reason why they are dangerous is that the timbre begins to break down once the tree has died. Dead timber is not as strong as live timber as it becomes brittle and prone to breaking. As time goes on they start to decompose, rot sets in and branches will start to fall. You run a real risk of the whole tree actually falling over. It’s not a case of if but when.
What should I do with a dead tree?
There really is only one thing that you can do with a dead tree and that is removed. As mentioned above, dead trees are very dangerous and get worse as time goes on. The sooner you get it removed the better.
At the very least, if it is a large tree and you can’t afford to remove the entire tree as dead tree removal can be expensive, you should have it taken down to a safe level. Remove all branches first, and also cutting down the trunk to a level that if the tree was the topple over it would not hit a house or any other expensive structures.
It is definitely worth removing the whole tree in one go if you are able to do it. Getting a tree company back out a second time to remove the other half of your tree is only doing to end up costing more. It is more economical to get it all done in one go.
Signs a tree is dead
Some people do have trouble telling whether a tree is dead or not, especially if the tree is a deciduous tree and loses all its leaves in the winter anyway. Some think that a tree can just skip a year of blooming with leaves after winter. This is not true and if you do notice a tree is not germinating leaves or is losing all of its leaves at the wrong time of the year it’s a good sign of the tree is dying or totally dead.
A sure-fire way to tell is to break the tip of a branch and have a look at the color of the inside. A live tree will have some green in there although you will need to look closely to see it. If it is life it will also be a lot harder to break off as the fibers of the tree are better at keeping the tree in one piece. A dead tree will snap quite easily and the inside will be clearly dead. There will be no moisture and the color will be brown.
Damage caused by falling dead trees
The damage caused by a dead tree that finally does fall over can be extensive. When a tree dies one thing people don’t realize is that the roots of the tree also die. In actual fact, the roots of a tree will decay at a much faster rate than the rest of the tree above the ground. This is because of the amount of moisture in the ground. Moisture is great for a live tree, but once a tree is dead, moisture rots wood and the little bug and enzymes go to work breaking down the timber even faster.
If a tree is dead above ground you can be sure that the root system below ground is in a much more rapid state of decay. This will mean the tree very unstable and likely to fall.
Falling trees can damage fences, sheds, cars, and even your house, and in some cases, your home insurance won’t cover this damage. When you have noticed your tree has died you need to make it your business to get the tree removed as soon as possible. I know it can be expensive to have trees removed, especially dead ones as arborists charge more when they are dead. It going to be a lot more expensive however when the tree eventually falls on a car or house as you would also have the repair job as well as the clean-up bill. Don’t wait until it is too late, act now!
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Can I sue my neighbour if his dead tree falls on my house?
Suing your neighbour for a dead tree that falls on your house is a possibility, but only if you can prove negligence. I’m not a lawyer and I cannot advise you nor can this be taken as legal advice, but if you have asked your neighbour to remove the dead tree and you have written evidence of this, they fail to take action and the tree falls, then there is a good chance you can sue. I’m sure the damages will only include any damage caused to your home, but I think it is possible.
Can I revive a dead/ dying tree?
It is possible to revive a tree that is in the early stages of the decline. If you have noticed for example that there is some crown die-back you could reduce the tree’s foliage next winter buy a third (winter is the best time of year to prune) or even by half. This will give the tree more energy to put into the rest of the tree. This has been known to work wonders to revive sick trees.
If a tree is complete there is no real way of reviving it.
Is it possible to keep a dead tree?
You can keep a dead tree, but it is not advisable. Dead trees become more and more hazardous as time goes on and the likelihood of it falling and damaging or hurting persons or property increases also.
If your dead tree is on a large property and there is very little to no chance of it damage anything, then I guess you could in theory keep it.
It is always advisable, however, to remove dead trees as they attract unwanted termites that can eventually make their way to your home. Better to be safe than sorry.
Author: Ben McInerney – Ben is a qualified arborist with 15 plus years of industry experience in Arboriculture. He ran a successful tree service before turning to writing and publishing. Ben is dedicated to providing users with the most accurate up-to-date information on everything trees.
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