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Trees, Roots, and Branches

Dangerous Beauty

Trees can enhance your property value by about seven percent (7%) and save money on energy bills. Last year (2019), the average home selling price in the U.S. was $383,000. That means beautiful trees could add $26,800 to the home value. These figures are strong incentives for home sellers to maintain trees on their property or plant trees to increase the home value.

Trees also mean maintenance because roots, trees, and branches can impact your home’s structural soundness. Small incursions from trees can cause damage that may require expensive repairs. So, unattended tree work can impact your home and the selling value.

Your home inspector can help you identify any potential threats to your home and recommend the correct remediation or repair to maintain your home’s value and safety.

Branches

Tree branches from large trees extend out. When branches are over the roof, you need to be aware of three hazards to the home.

  • Leaves and twigs can fall on the roof, preventing the flow of water during rain. Backed up water can damage shingles and underlayment. Eventually, the water can seep through causing damage that is hard to see. Pools of water or evidence of standing water in the attic are cause for concern. Water can seep into interior walls and ceilings, causing structural damage if left unattended. Stains on the ceiling or walls and bubbling paint are an indication of water damage.
  • Falling branches can cause immediate structural damage to the roof and supporting rafters and trusses. Large branches can cause even further damage. 
  • Extended branches may look as though they clear the house but in heavy wind can rub the roof or soffits. They can loosen, break, or remove shingles. Constant agitation can tear off eave boards and siding.

If your inspector notices dead branches in the tree crown, they may recommend an arborist to not only remove the dead branches but check the entire tree for healthy growth. Cracked or dead branches are potential safety hazards because they can fall on your house, your vehicle, or you. 

When your inspector sees a problem or potential problem with tree branches, they may recommend an arborist to prune the tree, keeping it in balance but removing the hazards to the home.

Tree Symptoms

Your inspector is not an arborist. Their main concern is the safety and structural soundness of your home. But, your inspector may see signs that your tree is in danger and may recommend an arborist.

  • Falling or missing bark can indicate a tree is dying from the inside
  • A trunk that forks in a steep “V” shape may crack causing one half to fall
  • Evidence of decay like fungus. Trees decay from the inside out
  • Cracks of deep splits in the bark are evidence the tree is failing
  • The tree leans more than 15 degrees from the vertical. Large trees that have been pushed by the wind seldom recover 
  • Trees close to the house can be used by insects and rodents to enter the house
  • Evidence of insects from sawdust-like frass (excrement)
  • Old, damaged or otherwise weak trees may fall and endanger lives and property

Whenever your inspector notices a tree too close to the house or something unusual in tree growth, your inspection report may include recommendations for an arborist.

Roots

Roots feed trees. Underground they can be big or small and either way, they can cause problems for your home and even danger to people who live there. When you are selling your home, you want to make sure your buyers won’t be troubled with root problems that can come back to haunt you after the sale.

Your inspector knows how to spot potential hazards. And your home inspection report may give you recommendations to repair any potential hazards before you sell your home.

  • As they grow, tree roots can lift walkways and pavements, producing a trip hazard. These are not only hazardous to those who live in the house but can be the source of a potential lawsuit from visitors. Your home inspector may recommend working with an arborist for the root problem and repairing damaged surfaces. 
  • Tree roots can clog sewage drains causing slow drainage and backup. Or, they can damage pipes, exposing raw sewage to the soil.
  • Tree roots are persistent. They can grow through foundation cracks, weakening the overall support to the house. Or they burrow under the foundation, causing uplift. In either case, the home is at risk. 
  • Extensive root systems can leach water from soil under the foundation causing the structure to settle and sink unevenly.  

Your inspector is not an arborist. In fact, his standards of practice may not even obligate him to take a look at trees. So, if your inspector notices issues with your trees, consider it a bonus to your home inspection. 

What to Disclose About Your Trees

If you didn’t notice anything wrong, but your home inspector did, you may be tempted to not disclose any problems. Don’t be tempted. Any instability trees present now can come back to haunt you once the new owners move in. You have two considerations: legal and ethical.

The legalities vary depending on where you live. Some places say the trees are visible, and the buyer should be able to see any problems.

But, the real estate world wants you to disclose any potential problems. Real estate laws are consistent that sellers can’t engage in active concealment of known property defects. If your home inspector includes tree issues in the inspection report, you know about them. 

Ethically, the best practice for a seller is to disclose any known conditions, especially in the current litigious world. When you buy your new replacement house, you would want and expect the same courtesy.  If you’re looking for a qualified home inspection, we’d be honored to serve you, give us a call at 510-200-7555 or for fastest service please email jeff@inspect.net

 

  

 

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