By Carl Brahe, Commercial and Residential Real Estate Inspector
Trees add beauty and comfort to a Denver home for sale. Trees can increase enjoyment, ascetics and add value. Trees can cut down on energy use and provide a wonderful playground for children. Trees can be a big asset to a home or a big liability.
In many older neighborhoods large trees that add character to a home and can make up for shortcomings in the houses. Older trees, especially those subjected to the stresses of a suburban environment, may develop health problems that require special maintenance or even removal. In the Denver area many of the trees are failing from disease and/or old age.
Trees have a natural life cycle like any other living being. Some trees, like the bristlecone pine can live for thousands of years. Others, like aspens, have a life expectancy of less than 20 years. A trees life cycle and health are affected by weather, water, insects and other factors.
Trees have a natural life cycle
Trees dying from old age may exhibit a variety of symptoms. They may have receding leaf growth or spots where nothing grows. Bark can become brittle and might peal or fall off. Limbs may break off in jagged tears. The trunk and large limbs may become spongy, brittle or hollow.
A 71 year-old Denver woman was reading under her favorite old tree in her back yard earlier this year. A branch broke from the tree and killed her. When trees reach the final stage of life limbs begin to break off and can be dangerous to people and property. The final stage of life can last up to 50 years if the tree is properly cared for. These trees must be kept trimmed and disease free. Consult a qualified arborist to determine how to properly care for your aging trees. These trees will all need be removed when they become a hazard to health and/or home.
Trees planted next to or inside a house, or growing through a deck reach, can be appealing in many ways but these trees will grow roots reaching in all directions. Trunks can grow large enough to push houses off their foundations or uproot decks. A healthy tree will have as much growth below ground as it has above.
Branches are manageable by regular trimming but roots are much harder to control. Roots can upset sidewalks and driveways and penetrate foundations. Tree that send out roots that sprout into new trees, like aspens and sumacs, can spread into areas where they are unwanted. Roots can actually grow through a foundation and sprout inside the house. It is possible, but costly, to install an impenetrable root dam that prevents roots from growing in unwanted directions.
Tree removal is more expensive as access gets more difficult. The cost of removing a large tree in the city can be several thousand dollars. The closer it is to buildings or power lines the more it will cost to remove.
Older homes were built with sewer lines made of sections of clay tile. The sections were joined by pounding cord into the joints and sealing with molten lead on top. With earth movement over the years these joints can separate and begin to leak attracting tree roots to the moisture. The roots can grow inside the sewer pipes and completely clog or break them. A sewer scope done along with basic inspections before buying an older property will help prevent surprise expenses.
The current preferred fix is to pull a spitting wedge leading a new plastic pipe through the old tile pipe breaking apart the tile and allowing the new pipe to be pulled through. This is cheaper and less disruptive than digging up the old pipe and replacing it. Replacing a sewer line can add as much as $20,000 to the cost of buying a house.
Many trees In the Denver area are diseased and pose a hazard to buildings and occupants. Some diseases are not a threat to the tree but may cause unsightly bark, or oozing wounds. Other disease may cause large branches to break and fall as the strength of the tree fails. Trees that look diseased should be checked out by a qualified arborist.
Trees may require extra care for long and healthy life. Even with the best care all trees will reach the end of life. When the trees in your yard reach this stage be prepared to replace them.
Choose appropriate trees when you plant. A tree that grows to 100’ tall may not be the best choice for a small yard. Trees that sprout new trees from the roots and spread in all directions always need special considerations for control of growth to prevent future damage to structure and other landscaping elements .
Plant your trees for the future. If the environment is friendly they will grow. Trees should never be planted closer than 10’ from a foundation. Trunks can break or move anything they grow against, including houses. Branches growing into or over structures may look good but are sources of potential trouble. Trees planted too close to houses provide easy access for rodents, birds, reptiles and insects.
Keep your trees healthy. Deteriorating trees can harm people and structures as well as provide breeding ground for pests.
Before you buy a property look closely at the trees. Consider future growth and possible damage that may result, as well as present condition. Trees can add thousands of dollars to the cost of buying a home in the form of damage to foundations and concrete pads, damage to sewer lines, and cost to remove and replace them. Trees can make a property a sweet deal or a money pit.