Home inspection findings by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck, Professional Real Estate Inspector TREC# 9073

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The State of Our Trees After Ike

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Have you noticed that since the hurricane we do not greet each other with “Hello, how are you?”, but with “Is your power on yet?”. When walking through some neighborhoods on Saturday, I engaged more people with the latter question, but Sunday morning at Hermann Park, the first greeting dominated. During my strolls and drives through town, I found one issue that concerns me; trees that can still cause harm.

As the autumn approaches, we do find ourselves in a traditional time to prune trees. My real concern is that I see large limbs dangling over homes, sidewalks, and streets, which are barely hanging onto their old branches. We may not see another massive storm soon, but a good thunderstorm could possibly knock these limbs down. Some people believe that the city will take care of these branches, or of trees that have fallen down in our yards. Unless it is posing a danger to a powerline, this pruning will be your responsibility. Why risk further damage or injury by leaving the trees in this state? The city is clearing branches which are in the right of way only. This means the debris between the sidewalk and the street.

When you do begin to prune, keep two basic ideas in mind: keep tree limbs away from the home; and create a path for air to flow through the tree. I have seen large limbs scrape off the sheathing and covering from a roof in storms which were not very strong, branches spear through roofs, and leaf debris clog vent or damage roof coverings. I have seen tree limbs also damage the walls of a home. There is no steadfast rule for the distance between the tree branch and the home, but I would say that ten feet should be the minimum. Also, just an odd fact, I noticed the most trees damaged where ash and pine in the areas where I travelled.

To maintain healthy plant, you have to give them the space that they need, but they also need the air to flow through them to create a healthy environment. Think of it this way: seal of your house from receiving fresh air and the environment begins to stagnate. Mold could grow, moisture which can destroy your framing builds up, and you create an unhealthy place to live. Now a bush or a tree does not fully cut off fresh air, but by preventing breezes to rustle through it limbs, you do allow fungus, algae, and moisture to build up. These will weaken the plant. If you have green stains on your walls, that area does not have enough air flow and sun light. Look at the shape while thinking of how the sun will shine through with the breeze flowing by. Whatever prevents this, needs to be pruned down to where it branches off from the trunk or another branch. Leaving a little collar will help the tree heal.

Hermann Park definitely has a different feel. The crews have worked hard to remove the debris and repair the damage. Mainly family where there, but the park had fewer visitors than usual. The train was running, and it was fairly full. The program for clearing tree debris from neighborhoods seems to be going rapidly. I have still heard two months as the total time needed for this project. Life returns to normal.

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© Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Home Inspector Houston, Texas
Frank Theodor Schulte-Ladbeck
home inspector, TREC# 9073
Houston , Texas , 77063 United States

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