Pining away
March 2, 2012 12:42 PM   Subscribe

Please help me deal with my fear of the giant pine tree out front falling on our apartment.

We rent a tiny little one-story house, and in the front yard is a massive, mature pine tree that is at least twice as tall as the house. It's also very close to the house--its lower branches are maybe 15-20 feet from the building. It's on the west side of us (where the wind comes from) and beyond it is a single, leafless tree, then a vast, flat open area (so no other windbreaks). Given the crazy amount of wind and storms we've been getting and seem likely to continue to get, I'm freaking out on a routine basis as to whether the tree will come crashing through the living room/bedroom ceiling. This worry of mine began when someone advised me that pine trees frequently snap in half during windstorms.

I know that without anyone seeing the tree, there's little you can tell me about how likely it is to come down and wreak havoc on our lives. I guess I'm looking for advice as to how I can get to sleep at night in spite of the wind howling around the house. We rent and have renter's insurance, so I'm less worried about the financial side of things than I am about having someone get hurt or killed. My searching here found this thread:, in which the OP was advised that large trees kill people every year by falling on their homes. So that went a long way towards chilling me out about this, ha ha. Unfortunately, our house is so tiny that there is really no way we can arrange our bed so it's far enough out of the path of the falling tree to ease my mind.

Anyone have experience with trees falling on their house? With trees falling on their rented house? Anyone have experience with dealing with ongoing fear of things that just might actually happen? (That is, rather than things that are highly unlikely to happen, which I can also worry about with aplomb.) Thanks!
posted by indognito to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
If it really is bothering you significantly, why not pay an arborist for a quick visit to tell you how healthy it's looking, how the roots are doing, etc.?
posted by Pomo at 12:54 PM on March 2, 2012 [6 favorites]

What kind of roof do you have? I take a lot of comfort from the fact that I have a zinc roof on my cabin. I feel like it would help deflect the tree better than some other type of roof.

Do you have any kind of attic or crawlspace? Because that will act as a crumple zone and help absorb the shock of the tree, hopefully slowing it before it comes through your actual ceiling.

Are you freaked out by this enough to buy a new bed? A sturdy four-poster bed with a solid top rail up there would definitely make me feel more secure, whether or not it's a rational belief.
posted by ErikaB at 12:54 PM on March 2, 2012

Is it straight up? Is it healthy? Even if it's not, it doesn't sound like it's far enough away to take a good whack at your building if it did fall. It'd damage the roof and slide off.

Trees don't just snap off and fall unless there's a tornado or something, and then you've got something else to worry about.

An average of 31 people per year are killed by trees blowing over. If those odds are too much for you, then you should never go near an automobile, body of water, or other human being again.

Calm down, man.
posted by cmoj at 12:55 PM on March 2, 2012 [10 favorites]

If you are actually worried about this enough to do something about it, open the yellow pages and look for an arborist. Get someone to come out an assess the tree. Make sure the arborist knows that if the tree is unsafe, you will not be contracting them and your landlord will be making their own arrangements.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:57 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, houses are pretty sturdy. I've seen some trees fallen on houses, and often they don't crash all the way through, they get hung up on the roof. Odd are it wouldn't slice through your house like a knife - it's more that the house would be a little smushed on the edge.

Also yes, if it is that worrying to you, you could ask the LL when the tree was last inspected/request that an arborist come look at it.
posted by annie o at 12:59 PM on March 2, 2012

Look at this way - the risks of having a healthy tree that close aren't so much that it'll fall over.

They're probably more related to having extra crap falling on the roof and into the gutters, harboring wildlife that may decide your dwelling looks more comfy, roots getting into buried pipes or the foundation, and perhaps attracting lightning.

My inlaws and parents both live in heavily wooded areas and both have had tree damage (big limbs in one case, half of a Bradford Pear in the other). The structural damage was pretty minimal, though new roofs, gutters and some minor siding repairs were required.
posted by jquinby at 1:02 PM on March 2, 2012

Anyone have experience with dealing with ongoing fear of things that just might actually happen?

This past year we had Hurricane Irene as well as a freak ice storm in October. Both of them brought limbs down in my yard and trees down in the neighborhood. We lost power for five days after Irene and three days after the October storm. The October storm was particularly bad because there was heavy wet snow and the trees still had their leaves. The weight of the snow combined with the wind did a lot of damage.

My wife and son were away during Irene so I weathered the storm alone. When I'm alone, my imagination gets the best of me and I tend to expect the worst. I heard a lot of cracks and watched a lot of limbs come down. What really worried me though were the large trees leaning towards the house.

After freaking out about them for a bit I finally remembered that those trees were maybe 100 years old (I actually don't know how old they are. I'll go cut them down and count the rings.. ha ha) and have survived countless other storms. They're still standing and they look healthy. They all survived the storm.

I know that's not actually assurance that they can't come down, but it helped me think about them rationally.

Any unhealthy looking trees should be looked at by a qualified tree person.
posted by bondcliff at 1:02 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have a very similar situation (huge pine tree/tiny house). Every time I wake up to the sound of the wind blowing and worry about it I think "Well, that huge tree has been there for a pretty long time without blowing down...." and somehow this calms me down enough to go back to sleep. YMMV.
posted by zem at 1:11 PM on March 2, 2012

Well to allay some fears, if the tree has grown its whole life in an isolated spot (which it sounds like it has) than it is well rooted to withstand the force of the wind. Here in Oregon there are frequent blowdowns on the edges of areas recently logged-but those trees grow without being exposed to strong winds and did not have the root or trunk structure to withstand it because the tree never needed it until its enviroment was radically changed. The kind of pine tree really matters too. Some pine trees are prone to snapping off halfway up in high winds (note its not actual pine trees but usually considered one by laymen) such as redwoods and douglas fir. This behauviour can make for some really neat crown structures btw. And lastly the only houses I have ever seen that were actually destroyed to the point were someone inside might be injured was either from very large hardwood trees or trees falling on mobile homes. And in most cases the trunk doesn't actually hit the ground but it is supported by the mass of branches and there is a lot of open space in that mass that protects whatever the windfall falls on. And lastly we live in a chaotic world with no garuntees. Here in the US we have structured our society to protect us from most of the vagaries of the world, this does not mean those vagaries don't exist or we are not subject to them. Sometimes the world just sucks and there is nothign we can do about it.
posted by bartonlong at 1:32 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

And lastly the only houses I have ever seen that were actually destroyed to the point were someone inside might be injured was either from very large hardwood trees or trees falling on mobile homes.

I was going to say something similar. Pine trees are relatively soft and springy. Compared to an oak or maple, getting hit with a pine is like taking a hit in a pillow fight.
posted by jon1270 at 1:36 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd go with the arborist consultation. You never know what could happen during a nasty storm, and if something happened, you'd be contacting an arborist anyway, so go with the cheaper option and get some peace of mind. What does your property manager think of all this?! Keep in mind I'm thinking of your situation/setting in terms of nasty NC hurricane season. I am also not an arborist.
posted by oceanjesse at 1:38 PM on March 2, 2012

I'm right there with you. I worry about this A LOT.

I've got 3 tall fir trees in my backyard. One that's super sturdy and two that are kind of spindly.

I had a certified arborist come out and put my mind at ease.

I still worry a little bit, but knowing that he said they look super healthy and the three trees grew up together and evolved with how the wind usually blows (meaning the tree in the south is bigger and stronger than the other two since it tends to take the brunt of the wind storms).

Anyways, I'm still probably going to bring at least, the two smaller guys down (I own my house) because I'm tired of all the damn cones they drop.

Good luck! Just know that you're not the only who worries about crap that's probably never going to happen.
posted by Zoyashka at 1:39 PM on March 2, 2012

I have seen very large mature pines in upstate NY crash through a roof. While there was significant damage to the roof of the one story structure, it ended up embedded in the roof and did not do any damage directly to anything below it. A guy with a huge chainsaw cut it out and then the roof needed extensive repairs. If this tree which was HUGE (could not even come close to wrapping my arms around it) did not crush anything inside this building, I highly doubt if your tree falling will either.

Last year, my neighbor here in the 'burbs had a huge tree fall on their garage. Again, only damage to the garage structure, not the cars in it or the bikes.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:15 PM on March 2, 2012

Thank you so much, everyone, for your extremely reassuring answers. I would mark favorites, but that would mean favoriting all those who advised me to call an arborist (which I plan to do on Monday) as well as everyone else who offered reassuring advice, which would be everyone.

Thanks again. I knew I could count on Metafilter! :)
posted by indognito at 2:24 PM on March 2, 2012

« Older The ballad of what's-her-name and what's-his-name   |   Brooklyn lush seeks cheap drinks Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.