Removing a Hazardous Tree

Project: Basement Finishing and Family Space, Episode 6, Part 2

Bob is in Melrose, Massachusetts, where salvaged granite is cut, pieced, and set in trenches to create a granite curb that runs along the sidewalk. The old concrete walkway and stairs are replaced with granite steps and a fieldstone walk. Out back, stone walls are complemented with granite terracing and a fieldstone walk dry-set in a gravel base topped with stone dust and set with compacted pea stone. Ruth Foster joins Bob to recommend the removal of a “hazard tree” that is large, rotting, and threatening to the house. Cranes hoist tree cutters who cut the limbs and ready them for lifting over the ridge of the house to the chipper in the street. In back, a new triple-panel sliding door is installed after they remove the old windows and door, discover wood rot and insect damage, and rebuild the sill with pressure-treated lumber. In the basement, a borate solution is injected into the walls via plugs inserted every four feet to saturate the walls and sill and prevent damaging insects or fungus from attacking the home. Bob closes with custom trim that is replicated to match existing trim by copying the profile and creating a knife to custom mill the lumber.

Part 1: Building a Retaining Wall, Front Steps, and Backyard Patio With Stone
Part 2: Removing a Hazardous Tree
Bob talks with Ruth Foster, landscape designer and former Assistant Tree Warden for the City of Boston, about a problematic maple tree in the backyard. Foster explains the tree is a potential hazard as it is leaning and could fall on the house if there is a bad storm. The tree has a double trunk with a narrow crotch with rot in the middle, all of which make it highly unstable. The tree has also grown with a distinctive lean to better make its way towards the sunlight. The tree service company, Maltby & Co., was called in to take the tree down. A crane truck was jacked up and leveled and a police detail was called to direct traffic around the site. A man was attached to the crane's line and hoisted to the top of the tree. He then cut large branches from the tree and attached them to the crane's line to be lowered to the ground. Pieces of the branches were then fed into a wood chipper while larger sections were separated out for future use. Several smaller trees were also removed, bringing a lot of sunlight into the backyard.
Part 3: Replacing Sill, Repelling Insects and Rot, and Installing Sliding Doors With Custom Trim Molding
Bob Vila helps a young family with an old house create family and recreational space for their active kids. Projects include replacement window installation, innovative plumbing solutions, and smart storage to make indoor and outdoor spaces ideal for this growing family.

Also from Basement Finishing and Family Space

  • Episode 1 - Removing Unwanted Junk and Combatting Basement Moisture


    <p>In Melrose, MA, a family with two young sons needs extra room and looks to Bob and his team to repurpose their damp basement for expanded living space. Homeowner Sarah Monzon shows Bob the backyard of the 1921 gambrel with a stone retaining wall they created to manage the slope for the kids&rsquo; play yard. She explains how the exterior has water intrusion and moisture buildup problems. Inside, Cyrus Beasley rips out the under-stair closet and assesses the stair support required while the plumber disconnects the old soapstone sink. The Monzons then clear out years of junk and demolition waste before calling 1-800-Got-Junk to stack, sort, and dispose of everything to donation centers, recycling sites, and the dump for a set price. Larry Janesky of Basement Systems reviews the exterior drainage problems of the home with Bob and then explains how they will reduce moisture on the inside. The crew breaks up the concrete floor to create an interior drainage trench, applies Clean Walls to isolate the stone walls and send moisture runoff to the drainage trench and sump, installs Thermal Dry radiant barrier behind finished walls to prevent moisture transfer, and creates a hole for the sump.</p>
  • Episode 2 - Basement Waterproofing, New Plumbing, and On-Demand Hot Water


    <p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:DocumentProperties> <o:Template>Normal.dotm</o:Template> <o:Revision>0</o:Revision> <o:TotalTime>0</o:TotalTime> <o:Pages>1</o:Pages> <o:Words>221</o:Words> <o:Characters>1265</o:Characters> <o:Company>Blue Iceberg LLC</o:Company> <o:Lines>10</o:Lines> <o:Paragraphs>2</o:Paragraphs> <o:CharactersWithSpaces>1553</o:CharactersWithSpaces> <o:Version>12.0</o:Version> </o:DocumentProperties> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:TrackMoves>false</w:TrackMoves> <w:TrackFormatting /> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:DrawingGridHorizontalSpacing>18 pt</w:DrawingGridHorizontalSpacing> <w:DrawingGridVerticalSpacing>18 pt</w:DrawingGridVerticalSpacing> <w:DisplayHorizontalDrawingGridEvery>0</w:DisplayHorizontalDrawingGridEvery> <w:DisplayVerticalDrawingGridEvery>0</w:DisplayVerticalDrawingGridEvery> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> <w:DontAutofitConstrainedTables /> <w:DontVertAlignInTxbx /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]-->Bob and Larry Janesky of Basement Systems review the work being done to cut a drainage trench in the concrete around the perimeter of the basement floor. Water will be channeled through the trench to a sump &ndash; dug at the lowest spot in the basement &ndash; where it can be pumped out of the home. <span>&nbsp;</span>A triple safe power pump protects the home even if there is a loss of power.<span>&nbsp; </span>Bob reviews the work done on the existing plumbing once all the waterproofing and flood-prevention measures are put in place in the basement. Al Leone of Leone Plumbing Corp. first cut the pipes into sections for easy removal and demonstrates some of the specialized work he does to install the pipe, including using oakum, a joint runner, and poured hot lead to form a joint seal. Old brass water pipes are replaced with PEX tubing, creating more headroom in the basement and the sink and laundry lines can be easily relocated.<span>&nbsp; </span>Bob talks with Dan Driscoll of Rinnai about the new on-demand water heater being installed. The heater is a whole-house system sized for a three-bathroom household, laundry, and cleaning. An on-demand, tankless water heater saves basement space <span>&nbsp;</span>and is energy efficient because it does not store hot water. Driscoll opens up the water heater to show how the system works. Once the water is turned on, sensors detect the amount of water being used and the temperature of the incoming cold water. The on-demand system is about 40% more efficient than gas-fueled tank water heaters and 70% more efficient than electric tank water heaters.</p> <!--EndFragment--> <!--EndFragment--> <p>&nbsp;</p>
  • Episode 3 - Moving the Oil Tank for New Heating, Cooling, and Air Filtration


    <p>Bob is in Melrose where John Ambrosino of Total Temperature Control installs the new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Because of clearance issues, the unit is installed horizontally and tied to the joists with steel rods. Ambrosino explains how the unit pulls air in for exchange, to be heated or cooled, then pushes it through a fan and into the ducts for circulation. The 16 SEER unit is very big for maximum efficiency, quiet operation, and up to 45 percent savings over current energy costs. Mark Hagan shows Bob the Trane CleanEffects whole-house three-stage air-cleaning system that cleans the air of 99.98 percent of particulates, filtering first for large particles, then charging the small particles and capturing them in a collection filter for healthy indoor air. Don Adams of Bond-Tite Tank Service shows Bob how they move the oil tank, reattach it, set it in a trough to catch leaks and drips, and apply Tank-Guard to isolate condensing water and prevent tank corrosion. Bob talks to Howard Brickman about how to control squeaking floors either by drawing the wood floor tight against the subfloor with screws, connecting blocking to the joists and subfloor from below, or shimming the space between the subfloor and joists.</p>
  • Episode 4 - Basement Finishing System and Custom Windows

  • Episode 5 - Exterior Upgrades for 1921 Gambrel

  • Episode 7 - New Backyard Fence and Basement Half-Bath

  • Episode 8 - Basement Carpet, Storage, and Closet Design

  • Episode 9 - Low-Maintenance Landscaping, Gutters, and Pantry

  • Episode 10 - Stucco Painting, Exterior Repairs, Shutters, and High-End Decking

  • Episode 11 - Basement Moisture-Proofing, Home Audio, Blinds, and Appliances

  • Episode 12 - Exterior Lighting, Audio, Video, and D├ęcor for the Melrose Home

Hi, I'm Bob Vila. Welcome to the show here in the little town of Melrose, Massachusetts.

Our eighty-five year old house is getting some serious improvements to the lot today. We're gonna be looking at hard scape solutions to some of problems we had here. Including putting in a beautiful retaining wall, using salvaged granite.

And in the back yard removing an enormous tree that's a bit of a problem. And we found a little insect damage. Stick around, good to have you with us. OK, so there's a lot of landscaping work that we're doing to the house and part of it is what they call hard scape. Right, Nick?


Nick Christie is here from Atlantic View and they're installing a new, I guess you'd have to call a retainer wall.

Sure. Or we call it, in this case, it's almost a glorified curb.

Alright. Yeah, it's a glorified curb because it's granite. Tell me about the stone and where it comes from.

This is antique granite that we got out of the salvaged Damder State Hospital. They had dismantled a good portion of the hospital and now they're building condos up there, and when we showed up on the site, there was a mountain of this antique granite and we purchased it and hauled it back to our yard in East Freetown. It's about 40 trailer right on pulse.

Now what I love about it is the fact that it's all been done by hand. You can almost see the chisel marks and the split marks. From when they were working this material a hundred years ago.

Yeah, it's an old weathered granite and it was probably part of the foundation at one time. There was stairs, windowsills, window lentils. We have all kinds of chiseled and faced pieces. We have more rustic pieces, like you see here.

Now on the side of the house we used to have a concrete walk that was probably as old as the house, and the tree roots had broken it up and moved it all over the place. You've gotten rid of it.
Tell me what the plan is over there.

Well , we got rid of the walk and the stairs, and we brought the granite in to create the stairs, and then what we're going to do is, we are going to put a compacted stone dust, with about a half inch of a small pebble, either a half inch aggregate or a rice stone, bordered by a steel edging., and it'd be a little more relaxed walkway up to the back...

But you've also used other pieces of this granite back there, haven't you?

We have. We used it to terrace up the side of the house where they're gonna have some storage bins and that gives them some flat spaces to work with.

Great, that's gonna be very nice, because it's a rustic, it's not like a city treatment. It's more of a country treat.


Now, over here I noticed that you have repositioned the stones, I mean, it's so simple. It looks really beautiful to create the two steps. How do you work this stuff? I mean, do you have to, there's no cement that's been used, right?

No, we dry set it, we dug a trench and we put in about a foot of compacted aggregate. We set the.

How deep are these stones set? Am I looking at the bottom of them, or is there another half a foot in there?

These go about another six to eight inches below grade to sort of help anchor them. They were big pieces anyway and we didn't need that much rise here. So, that's a good idea to bury some portion of it.

We cut them with a diamond blade on a portable saw. Sometimes, well, when you cut, you get a smooth clean cut. We like to to flame that with a torch, and chisel the edges to make it look natural and antique again.

Okay, and you don't have to worry about the frost heaving these out of place?

No, they might lift a little, but they'll settle back down, and as you can see it's not, it's not an absolute perfect situation. They're sort of a little bit bumpy here and there and it's just the way that...just like a city curb.

So we've got two steps up to what was just a lawn that sloped down to the sidewalk.

Now, what we've created here is kind of a raised bed bordered by the old granite curb, and then we're gonna have a natural field stone pathway stepping through here to bring you around to the back.

So, you'll really be walking through a garden, right?


Let's look at what you have done in the back.

Okay, so in the back yard, we had an existing stone installation that the homeowners had put in, which is very attractive the way it's weathered. And what are you guys building in addition to that?

Trying to keep with the same relaxed feel as they started here. And what we're doing is we're outlining this French Patio with some natural field stones and consists of a compacted gravel base, layered with some stone dust.

And then finally about a half inch of small, aggregated pebbles again like our walkway. Just embedded into that surface.

Alright, so these big stones, these nice, flat stones are just laid loose?


You don't have to cement them.

They're gonna be laid in stone dust, dry, dry set.

I see. And you don't have to worry about that gravel or pea stone flying all over the place?

No, it's a very thin layer and we run the compactor over it. And we embed into the stone dust that's below.


And it's just a thin layer, it's not a very thick layer of it.

Sounds beautiful, I mean I know the look of European courtyards with the little gravel like that in France. It's very pretty. Now, what about flooding? We're kind of like the low man here. We've got a hill. side behind us and traditionally there's rain water that comes in this direction.

And taking that into consideration, in a flat site there is really nowhere for the water to pitch off and run without sloping the patio too much, so what we created underneath here was a sloped sub grade and we put in a perforated pipe crushed stone, wrap that in filter fabric, and that's below this center of this whole terrace here.

So that, technically, should handle all the runoff from the hillside.


And take it away down through towards the street, towards the city sewers.

So this is all pervious material and that and rainwater will all just perk in and it will run out through the side.

I think it's a great design because it's really a nice alternative to the traditional American backyard. It's going to be very, very pretty when it's done. Thanks, Nick.

Thank Before we could start any landscape work in the backyard, we had to decide what to do about a very big maple tree.

Landscape designer Ruth Foster was actually the first woman certified arborist in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and also the Assistant Tree Warden for the city of Austin.


So I figured you knew a little bit about trees.

I do.

And behind you, we have I guess a leaning tree, right?

Well, you have a hazard tree that it's going to fall on the house if there's a really bad storm. And one of the problems is that it's a double trunk with a very narrow crotch which is dangerous, and has rock in the middle.

There's rock in the crotch, and so that means that it could split apart there in a big wind storm.


And the fact that it's leaning. Why do you suppose it's leaning that way?

Towards the sun.

Of course.

That's south.

And unfortunately, our house is right underneath it. So I guess it

It would be okay to call the tree guys, right?

If it were my house, I would take it down because I think it's sort of a hazard tree and it doesn't really do any good.

There are beautiful trees behind. It doesn't help.

Thanks for the advice, Ruth.

So, we called in the professionals.

Maltby and Company has been in business since 1949. It's still a family owned tree service and they're real pioneers in the use of crane and heavy equipment for tree removal.

First, the crane truck has to be jacked up and leveled at the site and in this case we needed a police detail to be sure the traffic on the parkway was safely handled.

After suiting up and hooking to the crane, this daring young man cuts the limbs from the top down, attaching them with straps to the crane.

I don't know.

Once he gets down, the crane operator lifts the piece and brings it to the chipper, where more crew members are feeding in the smaller brush and saving the larger trunks for future use.

Then, they repeat the process, lifting out what seems like enormous pieces of the tree right over the ridge of the house and down to the street, over and over again. It's quite a sight.
Now this was a big tree, and once it was down, you could really see where the rot was going to cause problems eventually.

The Maltby crew also took care of several suckers and saplings that were overgrowing the yard and now that all of this is gone, the sun shines over the whole backyard. And there goes the header piece. Boy, this is gonna be a beautiful , beautiful finish job, you guys.

So, what we've got here is a three-panel sliding patio door and the makings of a nice back yard, a beautiful garden.

But when we started, what we had here was a typical 85 year old backside of a house with a little door, a little kitchen door and a couple of little windows and nothing much architecturally of any interest. And of course no view towards this back yard.

Well, after doing the demolition on this back wall, getting rid of a couple of windows and removing the old entry door, We found some very serious rot and insect damage behind the stucco down towards the bottom of the wall, right where the seal is.

Four by six fifteen sixteen footer.

And this takes a little bit of time to deal with, but it's very important to replace that rotted wood with pressure treated lumber so that the house remains structurally sound.

It's good on my end.



Item two.

Fill them cup one a peen. You know the.


I don't want to.


There you go.

That's where, I'm done.



With all this evidence of insect damage, we thought it made sense to get some help from George Alan, who started an innovative company close to here in Gloster, Massachusetts. After his own career as a builder, seeing lots of these problems in New England homes.

Bob, what we do is we have to remove the panels in the basement. and we exposed the wall area.

What we're doing to protect the seals, because we're so close to the ground here and you have a lot of exposure to termites, carpenter ants and whatever critter that wants to run into the wall. We're injecting, we're gonna insert into the wall one plug every four feet along the perimeter of the building.

And from that point, so we get great coverage. We're gonna go into each individual bay, and we're going to drill a quarter inch hole into each individual bay, and inject the Borakia into the wall. That's going to give us complete saturation of the seal.

That's gonna seep down between the sheathing, the inside of the sheathing and the sill in both the plaster wall and the sill, and it's gonna wrap right around, and it's gonna soak into that wood pretty close to the center of that wood with Borakia.

And it has the glycol in there and the glycol is going to kill any spores that's inside of the wood that's possibly rotting, it's going to kill the rot spore. And it's gonna prevent the mold and mildew.

OK. What we're using here, Bob, is a naturally occurring product called Boracare. It's made from borate. It grows a lot in Europe, out in the Midwest. It used in products like Visine, things like that for your eyes, for any kind of wash products.

With, it's something that , because it's naturally occurring the Nicest corporation has put this together with a product that we can use in the wall of a home to prevent termite s and decay and fungi.

Insects get them on them, they actually groom themselves, and then it's lights out.

We have an exterior plug that's designed to go into wood sheeting from three quarters of an inch to two inches. And this will go though anything from paper thin to up to two inches.

Masonry block, goes into steel panels, it'll go into anything that you need to put it in. Into a kitchen, commercial kitchen for behind your Prior lathers, where you have a big problem with, possibly cockroaches and different stuff, that's a natural, that comes into a restaurant.

You install these plugs in the backside of these areas.

You get and treat inside the walls where they live. They don't live in the middle of the floor they live behind the walls, underneath the cabinets, enclosed dark areas. Where it's damp, you have a constant problem. This thing is here for, you know, constant treatment.

I turned the pressure way down low for that other stuff.


So, Lou, this is not a stock molding that you can just buy at the lumber yard, right? You guys at Moynihan, had to make this for us.

Correct. What we did is we took a piece off the old trim.
made a template of it, and then what we did is we cut the knives in our shop to produce this moulding here.

So back at the shop, using a knife like this, the machine can actually mill as much of this moulding as we might need out of whatever lumber we might want.

Whatever species you need, whatever fits the bill. We can run fifty feet, we can run a thousand feet.

Yeah. The cost is really tied up in making the knife, right?

Correct, yeah, a set of knives are about $200.00 from start to finish.

So if you're doing a big remodeling project, it makes a lot of sense.


If you're doing just a smaller one, it might not make as much sense.

Correct. Yeah, the more, it seems the more you do , the less it gets. Perfect.
Alright, so this molding also had to be custom cut, right?

Yes, yes, it did. We also replicated that to match the rest of the trim in the kitchen.

And I'm gonna talk over the noise of the gun for a minute, but anyway, the interesting thing is that, Moynihan Lumber and many regional lumber yards often will offer this kind of service.
Yes. A lot of places is that have a custom mill workshop will replicate including an odd window. An odd size window like you've made for us here in this, in what was the little mud room, where we took the door out.

Correct, we took measurements of the windows that were existing, and we made a window to match.

Thanks, guys, this is a thing of beauty.

That's it for today. Next week we will be putting in a beautiful white cedar backyard fence, a rather small door on the side of the house, and also some radiant heat in the floor of the bathroom.

Until then, I'm Bob Vila. Thanks for joining us.



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