5-questions to ask first that could save you from making an expensive mistake

23rd September 2019

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Most people have no idea just how much work goes into removing a tree, as if you could just pull it up, roots and all, like an errant weed from between your crazy paving. The reality is very different. There are permissions, timing, soil, ramifications, drop-zone, treatments, regrowth and fungi to consider – and that’s just the basics. Then there’s the impact on your property, on your neighbours and on the habitat you are removing from your garden.

This is not a piece on preservation, it is not designed to persuade you to keep or knock down your trees; it’s merely looking to give you the knowledge you’ll need to make an informed decision.

So, before you cut your tree down, consider these five important questions and the answers you’d give them.

  1. Why do you wish to remove that tree?

The reason you feel you need to remove that tree will often help to determine the best way forward.

If you are simply looking to let in more light then cutting the tree down to ground level may be good enough. Seek advice from your local friendly arborist to determine whether you need to treat the remaining stump to prevent fungal growth, as some tree species will not require this while others commonly suffer from this prolific post-life growth. When it comes to the possibility of fungus, most commonly the honey fungus, you’ve also got to think about whether this might spread to the other trees in your garden if left unchecked. Don’t leave this to chance: find out if, how and when to treat your stump from the outset.

If, however, you’re looking to lay grass over that area, dig out a new flower bed, put fencing up or build over it, then you may need to follow the felling with some grinding to take the tree stump well below ground level so it won’t interfere with those plans. An arborist will know the minimum viable height of a stump to prevent regrowth. Get it wrong and all your post-felling work could be undone/damaged.

  1. Is there an alternative to removal?

Once again this is linked to the reason why you need the tree gone. If you think that removing it could help you gain the planning permission you’re seeking for an extension, to give you a little more light in your back rooms, to allow the sun to stream onto your new decking for summertime sunbathing, or any number of other similar reasons, you may not need to fell that tree at all. Pruning, shaping, cutting back and crown reductions can all help you achieve this end goal without taking the drastic step of chopping down hundreds of years of growth.  A tree adds such personality to a property, so it’d be a shame to lose it if it wasn’t necessary.

  1. Should it be done all at once?

Different species of tree impact on their environments in different ways. Some act as virtual sponges, sucking up more moisture than others from the soil, so imagine what would happen if you were to remove such a tree one day – with the moisture regulation of the tree gone the garden could become waterlogged. If your tree is one of these then it would make sense to slowly lessen its impact on the soil by removing it in stages. And, if your thirsty tree’s roots have made their way under your property then its removal could result in ‘heave’ as the now excessive moisture in the soil pushes upwards: this could cause structural movement or subsidence, a very expensive problem to solve.

  1. Will this impact the value of your property?

The subsidence mentioned above would certainly have a property value impact, but simply from an aesthetic perspective, removing a tree can sometimes have a significant impact on property value. Have you considered the view this tree was obscuring, the privacy it offered from prying eyed neighbours, the shade it provided on a sweltering summer’s day, the swing that could have been hung from its thick limbs to help a buyer imagine their family playing in your garden? Make sure your trees are well maintained and this will add to the desirability of your home, should you look to sell.

  1. Are you allowed to cut your tree down?

You’d imagine that if a tree is on your land, in your garden, that you could do anything you like to it. I’m afraid that’s just not the case. While this only applies to relatively few garden trees, some will be protected – either with a TPO (a tree protection order) or because your home falls within a conservation area. In those circumstances you’ll need permission from your local council to do any work on the tree, let alone remove it. Always check first because fines can be issued to those who fell protected trees.

And so, to summarise:

Removal is not the only option   Depending on your goal, pruning, thinning, canopy elevation, canopy reduction could achieve it without removal.
Avoid a fungal problem   Honey fungus can quickly grow on the stumps of some tree species. Treat accordingly.
Avoid waterlogging and structural movement   Some trees keep your soil’s moisture in balance: remove the tree and it could cause problems.
Avoid a stinging fine   Trees under protection orders or in conservation areas cannot be worked on without the right permissions.
Cut down your tree and you may cut down your property value   Tree removal must always be done with the impact on privacy, outlook and aesthetics in mind.

To book a free survey and consultation with one of our ARB Approved arborists for advice on your trees or to book in our tree surgeons to prune/maintain or fell your tree(s), call us on 0208 292 8992.

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