Chris' Corner: July 2011

Dead or Dying trees near your home?


Jay Maranich, an active rain blogger and home inspector from Bristow VA, posted this article regarding older, dying or dead trees near a home, and the damage that could be caused if proper attention is not paid...


On a recent inspection on a house surrounded by tall trees I noticed that one was very stressed.  Not dead, but obviously stressed.  It was droopy, had lost a lot of limbs and was not strong looking.

I suggested that the buyers cut it down right away.  To my thinking it was being attacked from the inside out.  And perhaps by termites. Remembering my 7th grade biology, I recalled that the xylem and phloem carry water and nutrients to the tree's body.  They are toward the outside of the tree.

On the diagram to the right, 4 is the phloem (carrying nutrients) and 3 is the xylem (carrying water).  If they are attacked, by disease or termites, the tree would die a slow death.  Water and nutrients would be carried less efficiently.

I thought this fellow was experiencing tree death from the inside out.

Old, large, tall trees are something you don't want to fool with near a house.  Their limbs can fall onto the house when they die, and limbs are very heavy.  Trees can blow over, and if they fall in the wrong direction that can be devastating, if not fatal.

Fortunately the tree was cut down!

It was a termite factory!

You can see that the xylem and phloem were being attacked, subsequent to the middle of the tree being eliminated!

There were termites, a large growth (that thing only looks like a rock) and even mushrooms growing inside the tree!

The mushrooms indicate that the tree was on its last legs roots.

What could that have meant for the house?

Notice the angle of the leaning of the tree?

It was leaning toward the house!  This was a large, old tree!

How strong was this tree?  Not very.

Could it have simply snapped and fallen in a high wind storm?  Yes.

How close was it to the house?  Very close!


It was good to see that the tree had been cut down.

Imagine the relief!  And imagine how they must have felt to see how very vulnerable the house was to this dying tree.

As a part of a home inspection, I always have a look at the trees.

Are they too close to the house?
Do the limbs rub on the roof?
Can the roots damage the foundation?
Can limbs fall onto, and damage, the house?
Are there a multiplicity of dead limbs?
Do the trees look healthy?
This is a big indicator - ARE THERE LOTS OF MUSHROOMS ON THE GROUND AROUND THE TREE?  If there are, it is attacked, rotting and/or dying.

Termites love to eat stressed trees.  A single colony of termites can have as many as 50 billion termites! 

Only one colony would live in a tree, but an acre of land can support as many as 400 colonies!  So in a wooded lot certainly there are more nearby!

Notice the "hot" spots on the tree to the left.  This is a live tree, slowly being decimated by termites.  Termite colonies generate heat!

They are eating away! 

That is a fascinating thermal image.  How many termites are there in that tree?  How many were living in the tree cut down above?

My recommendation:  as you walk around a house, have a look at the trees!  And see what you can see.  If something looks amiss, get a professional to evaluate it!  Your clients, and their house, might appreciate how circumspect you really are!



Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia

Chris Smith CSSBB
          Sales Representative

Interested in Buying or Selling Real Estate?

  ph: 1.866.936.3500

Chay Realty Inc.,

Comment balloon 1 commentChris Smith • July 18 2011 06:47PM
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