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Construction Damage to Existing Trees


You know a lot of people wonder, "What happened to my tree after I moved in. It just seemed to decline." And they might think they have oak wilt or something.

Well really they don't have oak wilt what they have is builder abuse wilt I guess because if you'll look in a lot of area of San Antonio and in the building area where they're building new houses it's on solid rock. So the tree roots are right on top of the ground so when they come in here and make a driveway or compact it with equipment getting in to build a house they damage the roots on this side of the tree or either cut them off all together.

Now a lot of people say, "That's going to kill that tree!" No, it's not because when the homeowner moves in and starts watering, that tree will get more water and fertility than it's ever had in it's life. So this looks like massive damage to a root system of a tree, and it is, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the tree will die.

Now a lot of the times 4-5 years after you've moved into the house you start seeing one side of the tree maybe die back, maybe have some die-back in it. So if you want to avoid that, when you move into a new house if you see this kind of construction damage done then what you need to do is actually thin the tree. In other words balance the top with the bottom. Some of the bottom has been removed so we need to balance and cut off some of the top. That's best when done in January or February. It's not the builder's fault. He's got to get in there to build your house. So balance your trees and you won't have this die back that occurs after this damage.

This is Jerry Parsons, Vegetable Specialist for the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, the Weekend Gardener.

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