Quick Tip: Protecting Your Landscape

Don't ruin your yard while improving your house.

Tree Protection

If you’re planning on adding to your house, great care must be taken to protect the trees and their root systems from the heavy equipment that is used to excavate, pour concrete, and deliver supplies.

A good rule of thumb is that no truck should be allowed within 10 feet of a tree trunk, since the fragile root system at or near the surface can be badly damaged by just one crushing visit of a bulldozer track or even the tires of a heavy truck. A corollary is no trenches should be dug within 20 feet of a middle-sized tree, or 30 feet of a large one. Small trees and shrubs can be moved, but only with an adequate amount of soil in a root ball. And preferably by experts.

Look at the neighbors’ properties, too. Are there mature plantings along your property line or trees that you could use as a backdrop for your yard?

While there may be plantings you want to preserve, chances are that some will have to go. Overgrown shrubs may need only to be pruned; dead trees or bushes will have to be removed. Branches that overhang the roof are hazards, as are tree roots that are heaving up areas of your drive or walkways.

Note, too, a strictly practical consideration: Does the grade around the home slope away from the house at the rate of an inch per foot for 10 feet or more? While the precise pitch isn’t important, a noticeable slope away from the house is essential to keep water away. Are there any low spots in your yard that stay wet much of the year? What is the pattern of runoff after a heavy rain or as the snow melts? Water is the chief enemy of any house, whether the structure is stone, wood frame, or brick. An efficient system of gutters, down spouts, grading, and other drainage will prove valuable in any but the most arid climate. If the drainage isn’t adequate at your house, this is the time to correct the problem.