University of Maryland Extension

Construction Damage

construction fill damages tree

Trees can be severely marred or even killed by certain construction practices, some of which are unavoidable. If you are aware of these situations before they occur, damage to trees may be kept to a minimum.

  • Site a new home carefully. Make use of existing trees and avoid excessive grading.
  • Protect desirable trees by using fencing and clearly marking them.
  • Consult a landscape professional to review your plans and assess your property before any clearing begins.

Once an area is disturbed look for the following problems:

  • Poor grading around trunks: If tree roots have been exposed, a 2- to 4- inch layer of fertile loam may be applied over them. If more than 4- inches of soil have been piled around the base, attempt to reduce it by using gravel or tree wells, if necessary. Otherwise, the tree may die from lack of oxygen to the roots.
  • Compaction by heavy equipment: Soil immediately around trees may be seriously compacted as trucks and equipment pass by. There are no mechanical corrections for this problem.
  • Damage to bark and limbs: Broken tree limbs should be cleanly cut at the branch "collar" on the trunk. If bark has been scraped, carefully remove ragged edges with a sharp knife.
  • Root damage from trenching: Any excavating may damage roots of nearby trees. If this cannot be avoided, thin out the tree to reduce water demands.

Regardless of the type of construction damage incurred, most trees will benefit from fertilization and added irrigation. Continue these practices, as recommended, until the tree recovers or it is evident the tree has lost vigor and requires removal.


(PDF) HG 201 - Homeowner Landscape Series: Common Cultural and Environmental Problems in Landscapes

(PDF) HG 86 - Common Abiotic Plant Problems

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