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Large maple tree in my front yard...remove?

EricWww
10 years ago

Hello - I need some assistance. I have a large maple tree in my front yard that's probably as old as the house itself (1950s). It is heaving up the sidewalk (I started demolishing it). I should also mention there's a sewer line about 10 ft to the left of the picture, that's been replaced once already by the previous owners. So that could be a problem too, but so far so good.

I need to decide if I should keep it or get it cut down.

There's 2 other trees just as large in the side yards too.

I've been told by many (in the landscape and decorating forums) that they like the tree, adds character to the house. Although a few said it's outlived its usefulness. It does provide lots of shade in the summer time. It seems to be strong enough and healthy, it survived Hurricane Irene earlier this year. The cons- i think it's kind of ugly especially with its lop sided trunk.

Anyone know what species this maple is?

Any advice?

{{gwi:54128}}

{{gwi:54130}}

reverse shot while I was busting up the concrete:

{{gwi:493932}}

Comments (34)

  • wisconsitom
    10 years ago

    Eric, these are always tough decisions. The tree does provide benefits, as you've said. As far as your sewer line, if it's been replaced, I doubt you'll have new problems with that. The new materials typically used for these lines, mostly PVC around here, are not prone to breaking down and forming cracks where roots could start to get in.

    The tree, which looks like a Freeman-type maple to me, ie, a natural cross between silver and red maple (But I'm not certain of this), does appear to have a poor structure. There appears to be a crack where the two main halves of the crown diverge. In time, these can split out though as you said, the hurricane didn't cause any trouble. Some day........but that's what insurance is for. As far as your little walkway, yes, the roots will re-heave that up in time. Only you can say whether that's a big enough reason to remove the tree.

    +oM

  • brandon7 TN_zone7
    10 years ago

    I'm a tree hugger about as much as most people on here, but my vision for your landscape would definitely include removing that tree. Getting rid of it opens up a world of possibilities (including a few smaller-growing trees appropriately placed), at least to my eye.

    One thing I would suggest, before removing it, is to get a general idea of what YOU want to do with the place. The tree could be an asset in the right landscape design.

    I don't remember exactly how Ken usually says it on here, but getting rid of problem plants and left-overs from previous owners/designs and starting with a fresh, clean slate can be a huge relief and eliminate a lot of mental-drag when redesigning your landscape.

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  • Embothrium
    10 years ago

    Rest of place could either be planted to reinforce small-cottage-on-larger-estate effect produced by size relationship between tree and house, or tree could be removed and replaced by plantings all in scale with house. Since tree looks like octopus attacking house, the way it is structured might be best to remove it. Could be some actual structural issues within tree, apart from potentially unpleasant psychological effect - that last aspect depends on how you see it. Scene could also be interpreted as picturesque or romantic.

    Topped, forking tree behind and to the left may also be a candidate for removal, as both of those characteristics make it a possible hazard. Its structure is certainly not pleasant to look at.

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    10 years ago

    GET RID OF IT!!!!!

    a true landscape job will do much more for the front of your house.. than that over-grown monster ...

    and .. you wont have to fix the sidewalk again in 5 years ....

    based on the age of that house.. i am surprised you arent having sewer issues with invasive tree roots ... and even worse if there is a septic field within 50 feet of it ...

    and finally.. i dont know how you sleep at night.. with that thing hanging over your head.. do you have a death wish ...

    if you have a fireplace.. keep all the clear splittable wood ...

    have it take down in winter.. when it has no leaves .. and keep all the wood chips.. so you can add a 8 to 10 foot bed in front of the house.. no use in hauling away the tree .. and then going to buy mulch ... and firewood

    i would like to meet the peeps who want you to keep it.. and smack them upside the head and ask them what they are thinking.. and make them sleep under it in the next ice storm ... severe wind storm.. or severe thunderstorm .. idiots ...

    second pic.. looks like there is a giant fault line [weak part].. straight down the main trunk.. and that right side part.. is going to take out that corner of the house.. make sure your insurance is fully paid up ...

    hey!!! .. you asked what i thought.. lol

    ken

    ps: .. while creating the front bed.. 2 things..

    never forget.. foundation plantings HIDE THE FOUNDATION.. they are not planted on the foundation .. leave at a min.. 3 to 5 feet before you plant ...

    and before getting that far.. regrade the soil.. below the brick line... bricks are not really made for being under the soil ... in fact.. from the tree to the house.. water is running towards the house ... NOT GOOD ... it might not be that the brick fails.. but that it allows moisture behind the brick.. and that part is usually wood ...

  • Embothrium
    10 years ago

    This house has no exposed foundation to hide.

  • Toronado3800 Zone 6 St Louis
    10 years ago

    Eric if it is over your house inspect the tree for any structural problems. I like your home so if the tree has any and is overhanging it bring in the chainsaws!

    Of course if you have an angry woman who also sleeps under its fall zone....

    Or if the tree is out in the middle of the yard where it won't fall on you then it is totally up to what you prefer. Me, I like the look of old trees even those past their prime.

  • krnuttle
    10 years ago

    If you live in the south where it gets hellishly hot in the summer, and that tree is on the south side of the house, it significantly reduces the cost of the summer air conditioning. We had a long leaf pine in the front of our house in Wilmington NC. We lost the tree in a hurricane, and we had a noticeable increase in our cooling cost.

    If the tree were mine, I would reconsider my landscaping and use the tree as a focal point. Your house is like many southern houses, several feet out of the ground. By leaving the tree in you visually lower the house so it does not look like a monument on a golf courses. I would take out the sidewalk and put in shade plants and ground cover around the tree. Maybe some flowering plants, that flower all summer. I would then bring the sidewalk in and curve around the flower bed up to the front door. visually giving you a longer front yard.

    If those old trees were as prone to falling down as some would want you believe, none would be standing after all of the hurricanes and other storms they have lived through.

  • aspenacres
    10 years ago

    The tree definately has a bad structure so I agree it should be cut down. However, I disagree with the other comments about small trees and small houses. Personally, I like big trees next to small houses if they are trested well. They give character, shade and a sense of how old the house is. I don't like small houses with small trees because so many new developments are forced to have small trees because they have small yards. If you have a big yard in an older development IMO get big trees. Don't waste the space. But move the tree away from sidewalks etc. Not all species will lift sidewalks.

  • brandon7 TN_zone7
    10 years ago

    "If those old trees were as prone to falling down as some would want you believe, none would be standing after all of the hurricanes and other storms they have lived through."

    All trees eventually fall. Many trees do indeed crush homes, cars, and other personal property when they fall. Some even kill people as they crash through roofs. Trees with poor form are frequently more prone to falling unexpectedly than those with better form. It is not logical to believe that, because trees fall, none should be standing.

  • brandon7 TN_zone7
    10 years ago

    "Since tree looks like octopus attacking house..."

    Now that you mention it, it really does kinda look that way. LOL

  • wisconsitom
    10 years ago

    Yeah, I def. noticed that other tree's terrible structure. As far as the octopus-like structure of the tree in question, it is def. part of its charm, IMO.

    I lived with a 90 foot tall, eighty foot wide silver maple for almost thirty years. It overhung our house, and that of the neighbors on either side of us. During those years, there were some serious storms. We lost three main leads over the years, each time with luckily little damage below. But when I found someone willing to help take it down for a really good price, I did so. This was the largest single-stemmed silver in the city I live in. So taking it down was a somewhat unexpected thing to those that know me. But overall, I'm glad we did. I finally just couldn't live with the risk any more. I never would worry about structural damage in and of itself. Like I said, that's what insurance is for. It was the thought of a person being hurt or killed that helped me make up my mind. We purposely left the very large stump high-about waist level. I have started hollowing it out and will eventually plant stuff in it-flowers-until it rots down to nothing.

    Meanwhile, I've planted about one thousand trees up on my northern property.

    +oM

  • Toronado3800 Zone 6 St Louis
    10 years ago

    Eric, someone pointed out that large wound on the street side of the tree. Looks like it is actually being encapsulated decently but I can't see that well zooming with CTRL+.

    Is it mushy in there?

    Maybe it is best to have a real ISA Arborist take a look at the tree if it is over your home.

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5
    10 years ago

    i was and am.. simply playing devils advocate ...

    you need to pay a professional .. key word there.. for an on-site diagnosis of this specimen ...

    for reference.. hit the link.. they were all beautiful large trees at one time ...

    if there is any problem with it.. forget about tree huggin.. and take care of business. ...

    ken

    Here is a link that might be useful: link

  • ricksample
    10 years ago

    I would take it out... can you imagine the damage it could have done to the house or you if this fell when Irene came through? Within the last couple years I've seen a few trees that fell into a house... it's not pretty. Personally if it were me I would take both of those large trees out, the one in front and to the left. Then add a nice large mulch bed in front and have it curve out on the left corner around back. Then I would place a green weeping conifer on the curve and other smaller ones around front. It would look so much better (not to mention safer) than the two trees that are hugging the house.

  • EricWww
    Original Author
    10 years ago

    Thanks for all the advice. After careful consideration I think I am going to take it out. I'll start with this one, then perhaps do the side ones. It's a shame but dang that's an ugly tree lol. Now I'm almost ashamed I started busting up the path but I can replace it with something prettier :)

    I actually wasn't TOO worried about the tree collapsing, I mean, that's what insurance is for... But the other consideration is the sewer line. I drew a very rough line of where it is, and if those roots start heaving up the sewer line like they did the sidewalk, I'm gonna have one expensive (and possibly smelly) situation on my hands, esp if it causes the basement to flood with sewer water.. yuck!

    Now I need to get some quotes. Fortunately there are lots of tree companies around here. Perhaps the power company will help out, as it grows into a support wire but not actual lines. I can sure use the mulch it will generate though, so now all is lost :)

    {{gwi:493934}}

  • wisconsitom
    10 years ago

    Eric, do as you wish, but if its because of the sewer line getting heaved up.......uh......I really don't see that happening! An old jointed sewer line, as discussed earlier, could get invaded by roots, but yours is new and very likely of seamless pvc construction. And unless they do things very differently where you live, that line will be down and safely out of the way of being somehow pushed up by the tree's roots.

    Just saying. Do what you want with your tree, but don't do anything for unsound reason.

    +oM

  • whaas_5a
    10 years ago

    Thats going to be brutal grinding out that stump.

    Be prepared to get quotes around $1,000 to remove the tree and $250 to grind the stump. Get at least three quotes.

    If the figures are not attainable for you now I would inquire with the arborist about tree health to guage how long you can potentially leave it in order to save up. If you talk about taking it down up front they "might" infer you need to get it done "now" because they may not be as busy now.

    Although it may be great advice, beweary of those who offer design advice but have nothing to show for it.

  • EricWww
    Original Author
    10 years ago

    Tom, I think it's jointed PVC- you may not be able to see from the picture but there's 2 PVC cleanouts, one to the left of the tree, another right next to the house. My thinking is, wouldn't tree roots be able to heave the pipes over time, much like it's heaving the walkway?

    Whaas, good advice. I think the Town I live in has an arborist, hopefully he can come out at no charge (hey I pay enough extra town taxes ontop of county tax! lol). You're right I think it will be around $1000, my parents had a tree taken out for $800 and it was after it had fallen!

    Here's some other shots of the tree to show how tall they are, you can see the other pics in the 2nd shot.

    {{gwi:54140}}

    {{gwi:54138}}

  • j0nd03
    10 years ago

    The pvc should be buried down in the ground deep enough, heaving at least to any large extent shouldn't be a problem unlike surface roots heaving the soil up and disturbing things on top of the ground like a sidewalk.

    I love the look of the trees in your last post. As much as I like them, the one right in front of the house is a definite hazard and, as many others have stated, needs to be replaced. Just an opportunity to diversify, tinker around, and/or increase your property value and/or enjoyment :)

  • Embothrium
    10 years ago

    I may be seeing the fruits of a Norway maple in that last shot.

  • wisconsitom
    10 years ago

    Eric, I'm not sure what you're talking about when you say "sewers" then. Storm sewers from the gutters? In any case, sanitary sewer-that which is hooked up to your house's plumbing drains, would never be vulnerable to being heaved up by tree roots. That's a new one on me.

    That tree looks better all the time too! The shot from the house out to the street especially-looks like a pretty nice tree. Also, I said earlier that it looks to have a crack in the trunk. Not sure I think that anymore.

    Bottom line to me, you might wait a long time to get something else as nice as what's already there now. Unless there's a truly compelling reason to take it down, why do so?

    +oM

  • wisconsitom
    10 years ago

    BB, not sure what you meant by "fruits of..." but the tree in question, and it's mate in the most recent pic do look like Norway maples to me now that better pics have come in.

    They also look like reasonably decently shaped NMs, of a class that is utterly commonplace across N. U.S. towns. Not a bad thing, just two fairly decent trees that are undoubtedly doing a great job of providing shade.

    Eric, as long as we're still talking about this, can you give us either positive ID or a close-up shot displaying buds? May as well know what we're actually dealing with.

    And again, the more I see of this, and now, an apparent companion tree, the more I think I might well opt to leave them grow for some more years were they mine. I'd probably do some kind of curve-out or other re-routing of my walkway too.

    The tree with clearly very poor structure is the one in the first shot, left side, towards the back. That one is far more likely to split out in a storm.

    +oM

  • whaas_5a
    10 years ago

    Now that new pics are available I'm on board with the above two posts.

    How far is the tree from the house?...I didn't see that info after a quick scan.

    At the end of the day still have an arborist out to evaluate the health. If its looking good you could always do a trunk density test to ensure there isn't any rot you or the arborist can see. Any good arborist can perform this test.

    My vote...if the tree is healthy and far enough way from the house for comfort, I'd keep it. You'll be in a retirement home before that house gets shade again.

  • karinl
    10 years ago

    Whaas, he's in his 20s. He'll have shade in 5 years, depending on what tree he choses and where he plants it.

    For the record, I would suggest the following strategy: You plant something fast-growing quite close to the house, something cheap and junky, buy a big size if you can. A bit further out, you plant a nice tree, one that you want to leave to the generations that follow. Buy it small, let it get a good start. Once it gets bit enough to make some shade, you cut down the first one.

    Karin L

  • karinl
    10 years ago

    Umm, that's "big" not "bit."

    I'm reminded by the other thread... what is the direction of prevailing winds in your area? When trees do go down, which direction do they tend to fall? It might be kind of random in a hurricane. But in a normal storm? That's the kind of question you can ask a local arborist. Some of them think they work for the tree and not for you, so beware those.

    And Tom, I'm amazed you're duped by a photo that looks good from one direction. You've seen the ones that show that the main trunk has a substantial lean on it and that the upright part is a subservient branch that ended up growing upright, probably when the leader went rogue for some reason. And that crack is still there even though it doesn't show in the picture. You know trees keep growing and putting mass on at the top no matter how big they get.

    By the way... sewers: tree roots don't usually heave them up but rather infiltrate and plug them. They are after the water in them, so have no interest in going underneath. Similarly, roots go under sidewalks in part because moisture reliably accumulates under there, especially right on the underside of the concrete or stone - that's why they heave them rather than delving into the dirt under them. So you wouldn't have a sewer failure in the yard; you'd just need to rout it out. When we had a willow growing this close to our sewer line, we had to rent the rotorooter about once a year; sometimes got away with 18 months. This was with a new PVC pipe in place, but the junction to the city sewer was obviously vulnerable, because we always had to go that far to clear the blockage. So what is vulnerable is not the new pipe, but where it is connected, potentially to old clay pipe exiting the house, or at the connection to the city line. Be alert for drainage slow-downs on various fixtures in the house. Our first hint was always the downstairs toilet glugging when bath upstairs was being drained. Your tree is not as bad as a willow in this regard, but any tree that will heave a sidewalk like that IS a moisture-chaser.

    Anyway Eric I'll shut up now. Not stalking, really :-)

    Karin L

  • whaas_5a
    10 years ago

    In my area there is no such thing as prevailing wind. I searched for hours and watched the winds (at least the trees) and it always varied. So it can be tough to pinpoint this.

    Sorry, I did mean shade equivilant to what he has now. And I'm sorry but you can't get any decent shade in 5 years with any tree. I'd say 10 years miniumum with a fast grower like a freeman maple...even then its barely providing much shade to help cool a house.

  • wisconsitom
    10 years ago

    Hi Karin1. Well aware I am of a probable scenario that could result in that tree's structure. See lots just like it all the time. From the pics available though, I'm not convinced there is a crack in that trunk. OP could clear that bit up. The branch union looks sound to me........unless OP reports back that there is in fact a crack.

    I'd rate the bit about prevailing wind direction as nearly meaningless in this context. It's branch loading, whether coupled with wind or not, that can result in branch failure. Not saying wind alone can't do it. Just that even if a person had that aspect all figured out, winds, especially during violent storms, can and do come from every direction. Has nothing whatever to do with prevailing wind direction.

    The degree of lean is not at all out of the ordinary either. Trees, like this one for example, can exist like that for the durations of their natural lives. It simply does not look that bad to me.

    Now as to speed of tree growth, I'm the one always telling people to plant a tree. It will grow faster than they think it will. Still, the fact remains that if shade is deemed highly desirable in this case-not saying it is-then the existing tree is already providing what any new tree will take some time to provide.

    One thing I've noticed about this thread: It seems the OP is done here, leaving us to argue the merits of one idea or another!

    +oM

  • EricWww
    Original Author
    10 years ago

    I'm going to leave the tree for now... I was doing some looking, if the tree falls over the main branch *should* miss the house. there is one smaller branch that could take out the main electrical aerial feed though, I'll get those pruned. Thus far I've demolished the sidewalk and will redo something with a walk way.

    As for the sewer- well, funny that came up, the other day the toilet in the upper level started flushing real slow, so I thought it was the toilet. Wasted $30 on a toilet auger, as I used the basement BR and it did the same thing! Was worried I'd have to call a plumber or rent an auger to snake the main sewer line, but instead called the town. They came within 10 minutes of me calling and cleaned it out at no extra charge! It was full of roots and "other stuff." I'll spare the pictures.

  • wisconsitom
    10 years ago

    Surprised you had that much stuff in a newish PVC line. Glad you're taking a wait and see approach.

    +oM

  • brandon7 TN_zone7
    10 years ago

    Roots could not have been growing in recently installed PVC if properly installed. I think maybe Eric must be talking about roots in the sewer line his PVC line connects into. That might also explain why the city would do the work.

  • brandon7 TN_zone7
    10 years ago

    P.S. It's lucky that the upstairs toilet flush didn't overflow the basement toilet/drains. I know someone that has that issue every few years and am thankful, every time I hear the description, that it's not me. LOL

  • EricWww
    Original Author
    10 years ago

    Well- I'm not sure what the sewer line between my house and the town's sewer is made of. The 2 clean outs are both PVC though and I'm pretty sure those are PVC and were replaced before (this was my first house so I didn't ask the previous owners super detailed questions on the sewer line, 'cause at the time I didn't know any better). I didn't think I had a problem yet as the toilet did flush it was just very, slow and I didn't notice anything else having trouble like the drains or washing machine. You're right I'm happy it didn't back up, that would have been a very crappy situation. So far the town DPW has been great, they've hauled away my busted up sidewalk and the bushes.

    Snaking the line (the cleanout is clearly on my property even with the easement, but they do it anyway)

    {{gwi:493936}}

    haulin away rubble

    {{gwi:493937}}

    grinding up bushes

    {{gwi:493938}}

    heaved and cracked sidewalk gone!

    {{gwi:493939}}

    I did find something else though, I'll take a picture when it's lighter out- the tree where a branch was cut before has some holes in it, looks like something was boring into it.. hope it isn't serious...

  • karinl
    10 years ago

    Brandon, even PVC pipe has joints, and joints are where roots get in, whatever the pipe material. May have been the joint to the city, though, as I said above. Glad you caught the symptoms, Eric! And nice Christmas present from the city with all that help.

    Site looks better already without that old sidewalk. If you put in a new one, you could always begin with an overall plan; something like the Yardvisor sketch on the LD forum in your thread, and lay this part of it now with the rest to be done when convenient.

    Karin L

  • brandon7 TN_zone7
    10 years ago

    Karin said, "Brandon, even PVC pipe has joints, and joints are where roots get in..."

    Brandon previously wrote, "Roots could not have been growing in recently installed PVC if properly installed."

    Tree roots can't possibly magically punch their way through a properly glued PVC joint!!! If the joint was not glued and somehow became disconnected, you might have a problem, but otherwise, no way. I can even imagine some freak circumstance where an old PVC pipe could be crushed by a root, but that's highly unlikely and would not be the case with new work.