Tips on repairing storm-damaged trees

When assessing damage to trees in your yard, MSU Extension offers the following tips for homeowners about what to do with storm damaged trees and how to approach the repairs safely.

Recent high winds and severe thunderstorms have caused considerable damage to many trees in many areas of the lower peninsula of Michigan these past few weeks. Michigan State University (MSU) Extension offers the following tips and advice to homeowners who are faced with storm-damaged trees in their yard.

One of the prime considerations is safety. Felling damaged standing trees or pruning off large branches requires the right equipment, experience and knowledge to do it safely. Inexperience can put people and personal property at risk if a tree falls down in a different direction than the cutter thought it would fall. Some types of tree work needs to be left to professionals (i.e. arborists and tree services) who have the proper equipment and skill to do the job. Also, be skeptical of anyone who drops by your house offering to do tree work for you that is not employed by a reputable tree care business in the area.

When looking at a storm-damaged tree, a homeowner must first decide whether the tree is worth saving or not. It could be that a tree is so badly damaged that it’s not worth saving. If more than 50 percent of a tree’s crown is severely damaged, there might not be enough of the undamaged portion left behind to provide enough shade or add any real beauty or appeal to landscape around your home. If that’s the case, then it might be better to remove the tree and re-plant the area with a new tree.

If the decision is made to save the tree and repair the damage, the next consideration is whether the homeowner can do the work. Again, it’s a matter of safety, having the right equipment and having the knowledge about proper tree pruning and tree care practices to properly do the job.

For example, if a branch fork has split in half, but not totally broken off, then it is possible in some cases to pull the split portion back together. Usually such trees are braced with threaded metal screw rods through the split fork of the tree trunk. These trees are also cabled up above in the branch tops as well for added security. Metal strand cables are attached to screw eyes in the major branches on either side of the split fork to help keep the tree from splitting apart again. However, there is a real art in doing this properly and knowing exactly how much tension to put on the cables or in setting the screw rods in the tree. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be many tree care companies in northern Michigan that offer this type of arboricultural tree care.

Trees that are partially blown over with roots sticking out of the ground pose an especially tricky situation. Smaller trees can sometimes be pulled upright and re-planted. These trees should then be staked or guy-wired to help keep them upright. However, this is difficult to do safely with large trees. In addition, there may be so much root damage that the tree may not survive in the long run.

It’s usually very hard to predict how much permanent root damage has occurred and whether a large tree that is blown over is worth saving. A homeowner needs to evaluate the situation by looking at how badly the tree was damaged and how many roots were broken off and injured.

For more information, MSU Extension recommends the following Internet resources to help homeowners with storm-damaged trees:

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