Tree Damage During Construction

Construction happens everywhere, all the time. And often, that construction involves the removal of trees or shrubs.

But many construction sites contain trees that are worthy of preservation. In order to minimize damage and retain valuable trees for the property owner, an arborist or professional tree care company should be involved in the project, from beginning to end.

Below are the most common types of injuries that occur to trees on construction sites:

  • Root-cutting or damage: Root systems of trees are extensive and often asymmetric, and can be damaged by:
    • Excavation equipment cutting roots during grade changes or other activities
    • Trenching equipment used for gas, water, sewer, electrical, cable TV, irrigation and other utility installations
    • Burning and/or burial of debris
    • Soil over roots and altered water tables
  • Soil compaction: Most soil compaction results from vehicle and equipment traffic. The severity of the compaction depends on the force, frequency, surface cover, soil texture, and soil moisture. Compacted soil permits less root growth and biological activity, as a result of reduced aeration, higher mechanical resistance to root penetration, and slowed water movement.
  • Mechanical injury to trunk, major roots, and crown: Damage to trunk, major roots, and crown is often caused by equipment for land clearing, grading, construction, material delivery, and landscaping. This type of injury results in bark, phloem, cambium, and/or xylem injury. When these conductive and protective tissues are damaged, the capacity of the tree to transport water, nutrients and carbohydrates is reduced.
  • Root collar covered by fill soil: In natural settings this area is free of soil and mulch. Often in construction areas, the trunk becomes buried by soil. This soil may facilitate infection by various fungi and encourage stem-girdling roots on younger trees. Depending on tree species, long-term decline and death may result from the burying of the root collar.

An arborist can help avoid these issues on a construction site by identifying tree resources and determining the appropriate size for tree protection zones, as well as monitoring tree health and site conditions before, during and after construction.

Encouraging developers to work with an arborist or professional tree care company early in the process will result in higher levels of tree survival, usually at a lower cost.

2 thoughts on “Tree Damage During Construction

  • September 19, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Our neighbor wants to cut roots on our 35+ year old white oak tree approx. 10 feet from the base of the tree that he thinks are growing under his driveway downhill from us. Will this damage the tree in any way or cause it to fall in the future.

  • July 13, 2020 at 8:49 am

    This can be prevented if you hire a well experienced Paving Contractor.


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