Leaning Tree
November 20, 2004 12:56 PM   Subscribe

Leaning Tree Question: A large tree (silver maple...about 20 inch caliper) in my backyard has started to lean towards the house over the last few years. I am afraid that a thunderstorm with strong winds might topple the tree, but it would be a shame to completely cut it down. Anyone have suggestions to straighten it up, or at least make me comfortable that it won't fall?
posted by Benway to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
A couple of earth anchors on one side of the tree might do the trick, or you could rig it even stronger with a helical anchor. You can wrap the cable loop with rubber hose to keep it from cutting into the tree. And hug it frequently, of course.
posted by naomi at 1:29 PM on November 20, 2004

I don't think there's anything do-it-yourself you can do to keep a 20" caliper tree upright. A tree that size will weigh several tons. Most of that weight is many feet above ground. That means humongous amounts of torque at ground level.

The anchors that naomi mentions are really only suitable for newly planted trees, i.e. saplings. You'd need something much more substantial to work. There's roughly the same amount of tree below ground as above it and that isn't enough to hold the tree up. What could you do to support the tree that would be more substantial than that? Nothing.

What kind of damage would the tree do if it fell? If not much then I'd leave it to fall on its own. If it'd do lots of damage then unfortunately you'll probably need to cut it down.

But what do I know? You really need to talk to an experienced reputable arborist to get the final answer.
posted by TimeFactor at 1:43 PM on November 20, 2004

Yeah, the helical anchors are a much safer bet. We're talking humongous amounts of torque. But I'm sure the earth anchor retailers can also provide weight limits for their products, and they do come in very large sizes.
posted by naomi at 1:49 PM on November 20, 2004

Acer saccharinum is a fairly weak tree and one leaning towards the house is simply too dangerous. Even if you can keep it from uprooting, a large portion of the tree could still end up on the house in a severe storm.

Perhaps replace it with a much stronger sugar maple or (seeing that you are in Dallas) an even stronger live oak?
posted by bargle at 6:11 PM on November 20, 2004

Bargle brings up an important point. Depending on the trees distance to the house, I would say bring it down or prune heavily. Look for a good arborist in your area.

Don't think of a heavy pruning as abuse of the tree but more of a maintenance plan. It's hard to get one's head around it at the start but with some fine Japanese tree saws you might soon see yourself as something of a pruning artist. (Maybe not on this beast but one never knows.

Just this summer I saved a sugar maple from itself by heavily pruning from an adjacent roof-top with a long reach pole saw. The tree will eventually need to go but the roof is cleaner and I've extended the tree's current life.

I say current life because trees, in my thinking, have multiple lives. Life as a growing tree, life as a food source, life as a piece of furniture (and if one is lucky multiple times through re-use and re-adapting), life as a heat source or life as part of the forest floor, compost pile or mulch.

Sometime this winter I will be cutting an old apple tree down. The tree sufffered from years of neglect and bears fruit no longer but it will yield some fine wood for carving and burning. From some earlier pruning it is already giving up a wooden fork.
posted by Dick Paris at 3:30 AM on November 21, 2004

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