Every year there are heart-wrenching stories across the country of people who were injured or killed by falling trees and branches. Most of the time these trees were weakened or damaged by storms. Though less devastating than injury or death, fallen trees and limbs can also damage (or even destroy) homes and property.
It’s a serious issue and one that should not be ignored. If you have large trees on your property then you’re probably interested in information on tree damage after a storm—both what you can do to prevent it as well as how to deal with it when it occurs.
As a tree service in Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton, PA, this is something that we get a tremendous number of questions about. That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the most common questions we receive on a regular basis and answered them for you here. We know that storm-damaged trees are serious business and we want to be sure that you are armed with important information on what to do if it’s something you’re concerned about.
What Defines Tree Damage After a Storm?
Most damage to a property following a storm is the result of trees. Of course, there are varying degrees of damage that can occur. For the sake of simplifying it, let’s group it into three categories: mild, moderate, and severe.
Mild Tree Damage
Mild or minimal damage to a tree following a storm would be the loss of some limbs, none being big enough that it posed a major concern. You might have some broken branches or torn bark as well. Overall, the tree is structurally intact.
Moderate Tree Damage
We would probably think of moderate tree damage after a storm as the loss of some significant limbs which may now have made the tree unstable. You might also have a limb hanging that could pose a future risk. Perhaps no major damage has occurred yet, but you're worried about it. It may be questionable whether the tree is still structurally sound.
Severe Tree Damage
Of course, severe damage would definitely include a tree that has been uprooted and already fallen—or even a tree that is leaning and seems incredibly risky. A huge limb that’s crashed through a structure would also be severe damage.
Is Storm Damage to Trees Covered by Insurance?
This is one of the most common questions that we receive from homeowners. While the answer can vary from insurance company to insurance company, here’s what is generally the case—if the tree falls on a structure, insurance will probably cover it. That can include a fence, a pool, a shed, a garage, or a house. However, if the tree falls into the street or does damage to your yard or something else on your property that is not a structure (such as a car) insurance is more than likely not going to cover the cost.
We also get questions in regard to limbs that are hanging. Unfortunately, insurance will probably not cover the removal of a limb that is hanging and has the potential to cause damage (but hasn’t yet). Insurance is generally only going to cover damage that’s already happened.
Again, the best course of action is to contact your insurance provider directly to get your specific answer on this situation.
How Do I Go About Repairing Storm Damage to Trees?
The exact way to address a damaged tree really comes down to how severe the damage is. Storms can cause damage in many different ways. Some of the signs to look for in a storm-damaged tree include:
- Cracks in the tree trunk or the limbs
- A significant root injury (like a big gash)
- Broken or hanging limbs
- Fallen limbs
Sometimes, repairing storm damage to trees can be addressed simply by removing the damaged limb (or limbs). This would mean cutting back to the next lateral or to the trunk of the tree if necessary. Pruning of any small, broken branches is also important. Disease and pests can begin to infest a tree that has open “wounds.” Proper pruning will help the tree to heal faster.
In some cases, that’s all that needs to be done if the damage is minimal.
Unfortunately, when large limbs get ripped from a tree they don’t break off in a way that is conducive to healing so the tree may require a lot of care. Large limbs can break away and even tear some of the trunk off with them. This will leave scars that you may need to have cared for years in order to make sure the tree does not succumb to disease or decay.
Of course, when it comes to moderate or severe damage, your tree must be thoroughly assessed to determine whether a more serious course of action is warranted. The truth is, hazards are not always obvious to the untrained eye. That’s why it’s important to have a professional closely inspect your tree. Sometimes, tree removal is the best option in order to prevent a future fall. And if a tree has already fallen, then removal is obviously the only option left.
How Much Does Tree Pruning or Removal Cost?
The cost to prune or remove a tree is largely based on its size. The average starting cost to prune a small tree is going to be somewhere in the $400 range. As you get into larger trees such as a mature oak that might be 80-foot tall, that cost is going to rise. Pruning a large tree would likely start around the $800 to $1,000+ range.
Surprising to some, removing a small tree might actually cost the same or less than pruning it. That’s because it’s relatively easy to take a small tree down where pruning a small tree can be quite laborious. It requires precise and strategic cuts and can definitely be more time-consuming than just removing it.
Removing a large tree, however, is a different story. Removing a tall oak is likely in the thousands range and is also a laborious task. We have removed some trees that started at $5,000 and would have been less expensive to prune had that been an option.
Is Repairing Storm Damage to Trees Something I Can Do Myself?
We never want to recommend anything that might be dangerous to our customers and we would absolutely advise if there’s any question in your mind as to whether you can handle the storm damage yourself that you should call a professional for an assessment.
We have literally met with customers in casts who were injured trying to repair a damaged tree. We’ve talked to spouses whose husband was in the hospital while they were meeting with us because they fell.
Tree pruning and removal is serious stuff. In fact, it’s been documented as one of the most dangerous professions.
The truth is, most people think about accidents occurring at the time of the storm. But that’s not always the case. In our experience, we’ve seen a lot of accidents happen after the storm, and it’s a result of people attempting DIY tree repair. It might be because they made a cut somewhere in the tree and it shifts and rolls a way they weren’t expecting and suddenly falls on a structure—or even worse, onto them. We’ve also heard horror stories from people who have tried to lean a ladder on a tree and fallen or tried to cut a limb while standing on their roof and fallen. These accidents really do happen.
Let us stress: it’s really not worth your risk.
Honestly, the only time we’d say a homeowner might be able to safely take care of removing a tree is when it’s already fallen and is on the ground. If it’s a small tree and you have the capability to haul it away, by all means, go for it. But if it’s any sort of risky situation where the tree (or most of it) is still standing, and could end up falling, it’s best to leave it to the professionals.
Who Should I Hire for Repairing Storm Damage to Trees?
There’s no doubt that there are a lot of tree care companies in Allentown, Bethlehem, or Easton, PA. But when it comes to assessing and taking action on a potentially hazardous tree, you don’t want to leave the work to just anyone.
A tree company that has Certified Arborists on staff will be able to properly assess your tree based on a wealth of knowledge and experience. When we have been out for storm damage assessments we have heard some concerning things from homeowners regarding other tree care “professionals” with a lack of thoroughness.
We might be out to look at a tree that has obvious damage, but while we’re there for a tree inspection, we’ll look at all the trees on your property. We have been on properties and informed homeowners that they have dead limbs in another tree they weren’t even calling us to look at and their response is often, “I’ve had other tree services companies here and nobody has pointed that out.”
The problem is that a lot of tree services in Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton, PA just don’t perform their due diligence. They do a quick assessment of the tree you’re concerned about, throw you a number, and move on to their next quote. But considering damage isn’t always obvious to an untrained eye, you want a tree service that is going to assess your entire property and provide you with a range of possible solutions.
How Can I Protect My Existing Trees from Future Damage?
When we’ve worked with someone who has been through storm damage to a tree, one of the questions they always ask is what they can do to protect the rest of their trees. While there is no 100-percent guaranteed way to protect trees from storms, there are definitely some steps you can take to make them less prone to damage.
For one, a thorough assessment of the trees on your property will point out which trees might be at the greatest risk for damage during a storm. Certain trees may be more likely to fall during a storm if they have one of the following problems:
- Dead wood
- Decaying areas
- Problems with the roots
- Weak or hanging limbs
Routine maintenance of your tree, which includes addressing any issues that may be found, will go a long way in protecting it. This might include a task like thinning out the canopy in order to let the wind go “through” the tree as opposed to hitting it like a wall during a storm. It would also include removing dead or damaged limbs, pruning, and potentially even installing cabling and bracing if it’s determined your tree could benefit from this service.
Your Wise Decision Counts
Every year trees cause millions of dollars in property damage from storms. They also create risks that can put you and your family in danger. That’s why your wise choice in tree services is so important.
Whether you already have a tree that has been damaged by a storm or you’re just looking to have your trees assessed for potential problems down the road, you want to choose a company that truly knows their stuff. Tree services that are not thorough in their assessments and don’t have the kind of knowledge that a Certified Arborist has may not be able to spot problems early on. But by choosing a company that you can rely on and truly trust, you’ll get the peace of mind that you crave.
If you’d like to have your storm-damaged tree assessed at your Allentown, Bethlehem, or Easton, PA home—or just talk about how you can protect your trees from future damage—then contact us for a free consultation. You deserve to have peace of mind when it comes to your own property.