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Giant Zelkova Roots Lift and Destroy Homeowner’s Sidewalk

Giant Zelkova Roots Lift and Destroy Homeowner's SidewalkA large Zelkova Tree in Philadelphia has created big problems for one distraught homeowner. Fox 29’s Bruce Gordon reported on the story of Shirley Kelly’s tree problem and even contacted the city in an attempt to remedy the issue. 

Shirley Kelly’s beloved tree has beautiful branches that provide shade on a hot summer day.  Unfortunately, the tree was planted between the sidewalk and the road where it was destined to quickly outgrow the narrow space.  Now over 20 years later, the roots have caused the concrete to lift and buckle so badly that this homeowner can’t even use her driveway. As if that isn’t bad enough, the roots have grown into her pipes, leading to costly plumbing issues.

What should a homeowner do in this tricky situation?

The biggest issues with street trees are figuring out who is responsible for fixing the problem and who’s liable if there’s an accident.

Fox 29's Bruce Gordon Tweets about Giant Zelkova Roots Lift and Destroy Homeowners Sidewalk http://www.fox29.com/news/trees-to-large-for-location-create-issues-for-homeownerFirst, let’s look at who is responsible for the street tree.  Many homeowners think their township or city government is responsible for problems with street trees.  “Unfortunately, your city or township doesn’t always have an obligation to resolve these issues,” explains Lou Giroud, ISA Certified Arborist and Giroud President.  “Just like Shirley Kelley’s Zelkova tree, simply getting local government to give you an answer can be time consuming, frustrating and in the end give you no resolution.

Another big area of concern is who’s liable if there’s an accident.  Lou explains: “Street trees that lift or crack sidewalks can create a dangerous situation.  If a passerby trips on your hazardous walkway, you could be held liable for their injuries.”

According to Francesca A. Iacovangelo, a Philadelphia trial lawyer with McCann & Wall, LLC Attorneys at Law, via Twitter, “(The) Homeowner should pay to have it removed then try to recover from the City. Ultimately, the homeowner is responsible for their own sidewalk and the dangers that exist on it.”

Tree removal by a reputable tree service company may be the only way to fix the problem and avoid costly liability from someone getting hurt.

Finding the Right Tree Service for the Job

Finding a good tree service company to care for your trees can be a tough decision, especially when faced with such a tricky problem as this. To help you compare companies, Giroud has put together a “How to Hire a Qualified Tree Service Checklist” that covers the issues that can make or break your experience.  Use the Checklist and follow the 5 key steps below:

Step 1: Knowledge is golden—Use an ISA Certified Arborist.

Much like the human body, trees are a complex biological system.  An ISA Certified Arborist knows trees.  He will do a root to crown inspection, zero in on health or safety problems, and give you the best solutions. 

To be certified by the ISA, International Society of Arboriculture, requires several years of field experience and passing a rigorous exam on all aspects of tree care.  All Giroud Arborists are ISA Certified.  

You can check our credentials as well as other companies and get a wealth of information on tree care from the ISA at Trees Are Good or by calling 217-355-9411.

Step 2: Tap your resources.

Ask your friends, family and neighbors for recommendations. Check the reviews on sites such as Google.  Compare your findings with the list of ISA Certified Arborists and pick your top companies.

Step 3: How’s their Customer Service?

You can learn a lot about a company and the quality of its service from the first phone call or email.  The following questions can help you to evaluate each company’s customer service.

  • Does a real person answer the phone during office hours or do you get a machine?
  • If you leave a message, does someone return your phone call? 
  • When you send an email, do you get a prompt response?
  • Does the representative arrive on time for your appointment?
  • How does the company handle problems and ensure you’re happy?  

Step 4: Get the facts! 

Make the most of your meeting with the Arborist.  You need to discuss more than tree care.  You want to find out if  the company is solid, ethical and safe. 

  • Insurance: Ask for a certificate of insurance that is issued directly from the insurance carrier and check for liability coverage of at least $1 million.  A reputable arborist will have personal and property damage insurance as well as workers compensation insurance.  There are too many horror stories about homeowners who had to pay out large amounts of money for damages and injuries caused by uninsured tree companies.
  • Security: Does the company do criminal background checks and drug test their employees?
  • References: Ask for references and then don’t hesitate to check them. 
  • Memberships: Is the company involved in any professional organizations such as ISA or the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA)?  Such involvement demonstrates the company’s interest in staying up to date on the latest techniques, research and information.
  • Tree Care Practices: ISA Certified Arborists will only perform accepted tree care practices. For example, topping trees, removing an excessive amount of live wood or using climbing spikes on trees other than for complete tree removal are not acceptable practices.

Step 5: Select the right tree service company for you.

The lowest bid may not be the best deal.  Be sure to compare credentials and written specifications for the work and determine the best combination of:

  • Price
  • Ability to do the job
  • Track record
  • Customer reviews
  • Professional credentials 

All five of the these steps are boiled down into Giroud’s handy guide to help you find the tree service company that’s right for you.  Download our free guide now:  “How to Hire a Qualified Tree Service Checklist” 

Options for Fixing Tree Root Problems

Giroud Tree & Lawn is very familiar with the all too common issue of tree roots lifting concrete. Your Giroud Arborist will carefully evaluate your tree before giving you step by step recommendations to remedy the situation. They’ll even put you in touch with a great company to fix the concrete!

Zelcova tree at Giroud Tree and Lawn customer's property is planted in great location with room to grow

Your arborist may suggest one or more of these options, depending on your situation:

  • A small percentage of trees are candidates for root pruning. The roots can be air spaded and then pruned away from the concrete. However, if not done properly, this can cause damage to the tree.
  • In some cases, you may be able to break up the concrete and repave smoothly over the bulging roots. Another option is to repave the sidewalk to curve around the tree. However, these are both just short term fixes and you may see the concrete lift and buckle again as the tree continues to grow.
  • More often than not, the tree in question will have to be removed. In general, trees don’t fare well in the tight conditions between the sidewalk and the road.  

Plant the Right Tree in the Right Location

“Sidewalk Trees” are not the answer.  You may hear that they are slow growers and don’t get tall enough to interfere with overhead wires.  Steer clear!  Whether it’s between the sidewalk and the street or right next to the foundation of your house, trees are not meant to be planted in a confined space.  Eventually, those roots have to go somewhere.  Instead, consider planting a new tree in another location on your property. Your Giroud Arborist can help you find the best location and pick out a tree that will grow and thrive there.

Here’s how Giroud’s Tree Planting Service can help you transform your landscape:

  1. Decide What Your Landscape Needs: There are many reasons to plant new trees or shrubs. Your Giroud ISA Certified Arborist will talk with you about what you want to accomplish and help pick the best location. For example, many homeowners want to:
  • Replace a tree that has died or outgrown its current location and requires tree removal.
  • Build a privacy screen or sound barrier (pictured)
  • Provide shade for a patio, porch or other area
  • Add colorwith a tree that flowers or changes color with the seasons
  • Create a focal point with a plant that has unusual branch formation, interesting bark or other characteristics
  1. Select the best plants for the location: Once you decide where to plant, your Giroud Arborist can help you select the best plant for that special spot. It is extremely important to consider:
  • Space: How much room does the tree have to grow in height and spread?  The tree’s growth habit should match the space available.
  • Location: Is area sunny, shady or open to the wind and other weather?
  • Soil conditions: What type of soil will the tree grow in: loose, wet, rocky or compact?
  • Proximity to Other Structures: Will the tree be near a patio, walkway, other plantings or a window?
  1. Give it a strong start: Whatever tree you choose, give it good care from the start.
  • Water: Keep the soil moist, but not wet, through the first year.
  • Fertilize: Have Giroud inject fertilizer treatment that’s specially formulated to help young trees get established.
  • Pruning: To develop good branch structure, it’s important to have Giroud prune the young tree every one to three years.
  • Check its progress: Have your Giroud Arborist monitor the tree annually to ensure it maintains good health.

Whatever tree you choose, Giroud will ensure it adds value and beauty to your property without creating problems for the future!

 Inspections are always FREE! Call 215-682-7704 to schedule your appointment Today!


Author: Jeanne Hafner

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