Annually, hundreds of people die and many more suffer serious property damage due to “wind-related tree failures” that accompany extreme weather like thunderstorms, derechos, hurricanes and tornadoes. “Tree failures are particularly likely if strong wind follows a saturating storm,” comments Wayne Merlino, Owner, Paul Davis of Palatine, Illinois. “But it’s not unusual for wind alone to topple mature trees or break off large branches. In August of last year, a derecho storm downed thousands of trees in our state, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Indiana.”

While there’s no way to completely prevent damage from trees, there is one tried-and-true method for reducing the chances: trimming your trees regularly. Read on for frequently asked questions about this important precautionary step. 

Q. Why trim trees?

Pruning removes dead wood that can harbour disease or fall unexpectedly. It also shapes the tree to lean in the right direction, helps it weather storms and maintains a more symmetrical appearance. Properly trimmed trees look better, are less likely to break under stress and remain healthier over their lifetimes. Further, trimming often strengthens trees, allowing them to direct their nutrients to the proper branches.

Q. Which trees do I need to trim?

All trees on your property benefit from annual trimming but it’s particularly important to trim trees that overhang structures or could fall on structures if they break or topple. It’s also critical to schedule professional attention for an ailing tree or one that does not leaf out as expected.

Q. What’s the best way to trim trees? 

Arbourists are better choices than general contractors or DIY efforts. Arbourists are trained professionals who are well-versed in tree types, habits and specific pruning techniques for different species; untrained trimmers can harm or even kill a healthy tree by pruning it improperly. In general, it’s best to schedule deciduous tree trimming when they are dormant: about a month after they have dropped leaves and before they leaf out in the spring. Evergreen trimming is best completed in early spring or mid-summer.

Q. Will my homeowner’s insurance cover a tree falling on my home or my neighbour’s property?

That depends on your policy. Most insurers refuse to cover damage caused by diseased, dead or unstable trees. If a healthy, regularly trimmed tree falls on your roof, most insurers consider it an insured loss. 

Many insurers will not cover damages that a healthy tree causes to a neighbouring property; your neighbour will have to file a claim with their own carrier. You may, however, be liable if you neglected to remove or manage a dead or diseased tree that then harmed your neighbour’s property.

Q. Given tree maintenance expense and possible damage, should I remove all trees near my house?

Trees improve air quality, boost ecosystem diversity and lower your home’s cooling costs with shade and respiration (the exchange of moisture and gasses functions as evaporative cooling). Further, large specimens can raise property values from three to 15 percent. Soaring, majestic trees also add natural beauty to your surroundings. Caring regularly for trees and reducing the likelihood that they will fail is preferable to preemptively removing them.