email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Tree Removal

My back yard is semi-wild.  I like it that way.  I hate removing trees, though I have removed a lot of them over the years.  When I moved here 29 years ago, the backyard was mostly filled with too many junk trees, too closely spaced for their own health.  I thinned out the smaller junkiest ones (especially a type of locust tree with thorns like needles all around the trunk).

At the same time, I looked at the drainage easement along the property line.  For those of you not familiar with a "drainage easement", it is an artificial rainfall control channel that leads to a natural body of water (in my case a swamp across the street).  But the drainage easement wasn't the natural drainage.  There is a 3' deep ravine that cuts across the neighbor's back yard and used to cut across the side of my front yard.  The county-mandated artificial drainage easement that goes between our property lines cut my part off.

So I first just wanted to fill in my ravine, and I did so with a full dump trick load of average fill soil.  I spread it all out myself.  It was some bit of work, all with rake and shovel.  But there were 2 fully mature oak trees right next to the new drainage easement, and I realized that the roots had been entirely sheared away on one side.  I had them removed so they wouldn't fall over on the house.  I left the 3rd oak tree standing because it was farther from the drainage easement and I wanted the shade on the roof (passive cooling was a big idea at the time). 

Then I thinned out some that were just too shaded by larger trees to ever thrive.  That still left a complete deep shade canopy across most of the back yard.

But even the larger trees were still "youngish", and didn't stop growing.  10 years later, I had about half of them professionally removed.  Later, one of the larger trees leaned over enough to fall in a windstorm and the top half of another snapped off and a 3rd one was starting to lean, so they had to go.

But lately, I've become obsessed with the idea that the remaining massive oak will fall on the house.  The past 5 years, it has been dropping 6" diameter branches and I doubt its health. It's only 20' from the house, and the prevailing winds would push it in that direction.  Given the estimated weight of the tree is at least 3,000 lbs (6,600 kilos), it would pretty much crush the entire house (and likely myself as well).  I can imagine the newspaper headlines.  "Local man has tree fall on house, drowns in his own waterbed"...

I'm having it removed tomorrow along with a large sweetgum tree that has been leaning over slightly.  I talked to my home insurance agent about it.  He admitted that should the tree fall onto the house, I was 100% replacement-covered, but it could take months of reconstruction and I would probably need to move out during the reconstruction.

It seemed like a great property when I chose it 29 years ago.  But having lots of mature trees near your house is over-rated.

It will be an adventure watching this oak removed.  I wasn't at home to see it's 2 siblings removed ( I was supposed to, but they arrived a day early and when I got home from work that day, they were just GONE!  The other trees I've had removed have been nowhere near as large as this one.

The tree guy says that the upper branches will be removed first by a combination of a crane and tree-climbers, and lowered by rope for eliminating collateral damage to other trees (and the house and deck).  The massive trunk itself will be cut off (lowered) 8-10' at a time and will be carried off by some sort of "grabber" to a flatbed truck.  I hope that's not "hype".  I will be taking pictures all the way and will post them.

The good news is that they will be taking down the sweetgum tree first.  It's small than the oak, and I will see how carefully they do that job.  If they seem careless or find that tree difficult, I can tell them to stop before they start on the much larger oak tree.  They have a "A" rating on Angie's List, but not a LOT of reviews.  It's possible they got their "A" rating from smaller simpler jobs.  I'm being careful.

There is some deconstruction work involved at getting at the massive oak tree, too.  At the least, 2 sections of my 6' shadowbox wood fence have to be removed (the tree is just inside my fence), and it is possible a gate and a concrete-set fence post will have to be removed (they suspect not, but if so, their "grabber" can just pull the 6"x6" fence post right up out of the ground without even damaging it and it can be set back down into the hole afterwards as sturdy as before.

I actually believe that last part.  I've set enough posts into the ground without concrete myself to know how well clay soil hardens around any bare post in plain clay.  One with an 12" cylinder of concrete around it should settle in better.  And it might be an improvement.  That post leaned slightly after being installed 25 years ago and the connections to the fence sections are loose anyway.

For generally useful information for anyone considering this kind of work themselves, the quote is $5,500.  As I understand it in very general terms, $500 is just for bringing all their equipment (a crane, a "grabber", and 2 flatbed trucks) and crew from 15 miles away to the worksite, $4000 is for the massive oak tree, and $1000 is for the sweetgum tree.  The cost includes detailed cleaning of all debris, removal and replacement of fence, and grinding both stumps 2' below ground level.  It seems worth it...

So anyway, tomorrow is going to be VERY interesting.

I will be watching them through the entire process of course.  Partly for knowing what happened if there is some accident, partly just out of fascination for a process I can hardly imagine, and partly because it is a rare opportunity to take some really interesting pictures (for my scrapbook and for blogging - one never wants to miss a chance at great pictures to blog about, LOL!).

But one can't spend the entire day taking pictures and hoping no one falls out of the trees.  So I have saved some yardwork for myself to do while the tree guys are doing their thing.  It is all stuff I can do while keeping an eye of the tree-work while being safely out of the way.  I have the garden to water, some trellises and screen door supports to install in the garden enclosure, and if that takes less time than I expect, part of the far backyard is getting overgrown with blackberries, thistles, and  and I have a gas-powered weed-whacker with a steel blade I need to start using.

And after that is done, I have excavation work to be done in the backyard!  The ridge in the middle of the backyard is going away and the sunken area of the front yard (that gets flooded every thunderstorm) will be raised 18"!  That's to be scheduled after the trees are gone.


Megan said...

Sounds like a big job, Mark. I hope it all goes well. The costs you've quoted are in line with what I would expect to pay. We were very fortunate that we were able to have a large tree removed from our backyard several years ago without requiring cranes etc - the chap who did it climbs up the tree! Made it much less expensive AND, more importantly, he did a superb and very safe job. Looking forward to seeing the pics.

Sydney, Australia

Megan said...

PS. I meant to say - you've got your metric conversion back to front. 3000lb = about 1350kg. Not that it would safe even then! LOL

Sydney, Australia

Mark's Mews (Ayla, Iza, and Marley) said...

OOPSIE! Yeah, I should have DIVIDED by 2.2, LOL! And the top of the tree required a guy to actually climb the oak today. Even the bucket crane couldn't reach high enough! ~ MARK